• To This Day – Shane Koyczan

    To This Day
    When I was a kid
    I used to think that pork chops and karate chops
    were the same thing
    I thought they were both pork chops
    and because my grandmother thought it was cute
    and because they were my favourite
    she let me keep doing it
    not really a big deal
    one day
    before I realized fat kids are not designed to climb trees
    I fell out of a tree
    and bruised the right side of my body
    I didn’t want to tell my grandmother about it
    because I was afraid I’d get in trouble
    for playing somewhere that I shouldn’t have been
    a few days later the gym teacher noticed the bruise
    and I got sent to the principal’s office
    from there I was sent to another small room
    with a really nice lady
    who asked me all kinds of questions
    about my life at home
    I saw no reason to lie
    as far as I was concerned
    life was pretty good
    I told her “whenever I’m sad
    my grandmother gives me karate chops”
    this led to a full scale investigation
    and I was removed from the house for three days
    until they finally decided to ask how I got the bruises
    news of this silly little story quickly spread through the school
    and I earned my first nickname
    pork chop
    to this day
    I hate pork chops
    I’m not the only kid
    who grew up this way
    surrounded by people who used to say
    that rhyme about sticks and stones
    as if broken bones
    hurt more than the names we got called
    and we got called them all
    so we grew up believing no one
    would ever fall in love with us
    that we’d be lonely forever
    that we’d never meet someone
    to make us feel like the sun
    was something they built for us
    in their tool shed
    so broken heart strings bled the blues
    as we tried to empty ourselves
    so we would feel nothing
    don’t tell me that hurts less than a broken bone
    that an ingrown life
    is something surgeons can cut away
    that there’s no way for it to metastasize
    it does
    she was eight years old
    our first day of grade three
    when she got called ugly
    we both got moved to the back of the class
    so we would stop get bombarded by spit balls
    but the school halls were a battleground
    where we found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day
    we used to stay inside for recess
    because outside was worse
    outside we’d have to rehearse running away
    or learn to stay still like statues giving no clues that we were there
    in grade five they taped a sign to her desk
    that read beware of dog
    to this day
    despite a loving husband
    she doesn’t think she’s beautiful
    because of a birthmark
    that takes up a little less than half of her face
    kids used to say she looks like a wrong answer
    that someone tried to erase
    but couldn’t quite get the job done
    and they’ll never understand
    that she’s raising two kids
    whose definition of beauty
    begins with the word mom
    because they see her heart
    before they see her skin
    that she’s only ever always been amazing
    was a broken branch
    grafted onto a different family tree
    but not because his parents opted for a different destiny
    he was three when he became a mixed drink
    of one part left alone
    and two parts tragedy
    started therapy in 8th grade
    had a personality made up of tests and pills
    lived like the uphills were mountains
    and the downhills were cliffs
    four fifths suicidal
    a tidal wave of anti depressants
    and an adolescence of being called popper
    one part because of the pills
    and ninety nine parts because of the cruelty
    he tried to kill himself in grade ten
    when a kid who still had his mom and dad
    had the audacity to tell him “get over it” as if depression
    is something that can be remedied
    by any of the contents found in a first aid kit
    to this day
    he is a stick of TNT lit from both ends
    could describe to you in detail the way the sky bends
    in the moments before it’s about to fall
    and despite an army of friends
    who all call him an inspiration
    he remains a conversation piece between people
    who can’t understand
    sometimes becoming drug free
    has less to do with addiction
    and more to do with sanity
    we weren’t the only kids who grew up this way
    to this day
    kids are still being called names
    the classics were
    hey stupid
    hey spaz
    seems like each school has an arsenal of names
    getting updated every year
    and if a kid breaks in a school
    and no one around chooses to hear
    do they make a sound?
    are they just the background noise
    of a soundtrack stuck on repeat
    when people say things like
    kids can be cruel?
    every school was a big top circus tent
    and the pecking order went
    from acrobats to lion tamers
    from clowns to carnies
    all of these were miles ahead of who we were
    we were freaks
    lobster claw boys and bearded ladies
    juggling depression and loneliness playing solitaire spin the bottle
    trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal
    but at night
    while the others slept
    we kept walking the tightrope
    it was practice
    and yeah
    some of us fell
    but I want to tell them
    that all of this shit
    is just debris
    leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we thought
    we used to be
    and if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself
    get a better mirror
    look a little closer
    stare a little longer
    because there’s something inside you
    that made you keep trying
    despite everyone who told you to quit
    you built a cast around your broken heart
    and signed it yourself
    you signed it
    “they were wrong”
    because maybe you didn’t belong to a group or a click
    maybe they decided to pick you last for basketball or everything
    maybe you used to bring bruises and broken teeth
    to show and tell but never told
    because how can you hold your ground
    if everyone around you wants to bury you beneath it
    you have to believe that they were wrong
    they have to be wrong
    why else would we still be here?
    we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
    because we see ourselves in them
    we stem from a root planted in the belief
    that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
    and if in some way we are
    don’t worry
    we only got out to walk and get gas
    we are graduating members from the class of
    fuck off we made it
    not the faded echoes of voices crying out
    names will never hurt me
    of course
    they did
    but our lives will only ever always
    continue to be
    a balancing act
    that has less to do with pain
    and more to do with beauty.

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