“To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful | Shane Koyczan

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast There’s so many of you. (Laughter) When I was a kid, I hid my heart under the bed,
because my mother said, “If you’re not careful,
someday someone’s going to break it.” Take it from me: Under the bed
is not a good hiding spot. I know because I’ve been
shot down so many times, I get altitude sickness
just from standing up for myself. But that’s what we were told. “Stand up for yourself.” And that’s hard to do
if you don’t know who you are. We were expected to define ourselves
at such an early age, and if we didn’t do it,
others did it for us. Geek. Fatty. Slut. Fag. And at the same time we were
being told what we were, we were being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always thought
that was an unfair question. It presupposes that we can’t be
what we already are. We were kids. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a man. I wanted a registered
retirement savings plan that would keep me in candy
long enough to make old age sweet. (Laughter) When I was a kid, I wanted to shave. Now, not so much. (Laughter) When I was eight,
I wanted to be a marine biologist. When I was nine, I saw the movie “Jaws,” and thought to myself, “No, thank you.” (Laughter) And when I was 10, I was told that my parents left
because they didn’t want me. When I was 11, I wanted to be left alone. When I was 12, I wanted to die.
When I was 13, I wanted to kill a kid. When I was 14, I was asked
to seriously consider a career path. I said, “I’d like to be a writer.” And they said,
“Choose something realistic.” So I said, “Professional wrestler.” And they said, “Don’t be stupid.” See, they asked me what I wanted to be, then told me what not to be. And I wasn’t the only one. We were being told
that we somehow must become what we are not, sacrificing what we are to inherit the masquerade
of what we will be. I was being told to accept the identity
that others will give me. And I wondered, what made
my dreams so easy to dismiss? Granted, my dreams are shy, because they’re Canadian. (Laughter) My dreams are self-conscious
and overly apologetic. They’re standing alone
at the high school dance, and they’ve never been kissed. See, my dreams got called names too. Silly. Foolish. Impossible. But I kept dreaming. I was going to be a wrestler.
I had it all figured out. I was going to be The Garbage Man. (Laughter) My finishing move was going
to be The Trash Compactor. My saying was going to be,
“I’m taking out the trash!” (Laughter) (Applause) And then this guy,
Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, stole my entire shtick. (Laughter) I was crushed, as if by a trash compactor. (Laughter) I thought to myself,
“What now? Where do I turn?” Poetry. (Laughter) Like a boomerang,
the thing I loved came back to me. One of the first lines of poetry
I can remember writing was in response to a world
that demanded I hate myself. From age 15 to 18, I hated myself for becoming the thing that I loathed: a bully. When I was 19, I wrote, “I will love myself
despite the ease with which I lean toward the opposite.” Standing up for yourself
doesn’t have to mean embracing violence. When I was a kid, I traded in homework
assignments for friendship, then gave each friend a late slip
for never showing up on time, and in most cases, not at all. I gave myself a hall pass
to get through each broken promise. And I remember this plan,
born out of frustration from a kid who kept calling me “Yogi,” then pointed at my tummy and said,
“Too many picnic baskets.” Turns out it’s not that hard
to trick someone, and one day before class, I said, “Yeah, you can copy my homework,” and I gave him all the wrong answers
that I’d written down the night before. He got his paper back
expecting a near-perfect score, and couldn’t believe it when he looked
across the room at me and held up a zero. I knew I didn’t have to hold up
my paper of 28 out of 30, but my satisfaction was complete
when he looked at me, puzzled, and I thought to myself, “Smarter
than the average bear, motherfucker.” (Laughter) (Applause) This is who I am. This is how I stand up for myself. 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. My grandmother thought it was cute, and because they were my favorite,
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 because I was scared I’d get in trouble for playing somewhere
I shouldn’t have been. 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. (Laughter) 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: Porkchop. 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 toolshed. So broken heartstrings bled the blues, and we tried to empty ourselves
so we’d 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 class so we would stop
getting bombarded by spitballs. But the school halls were a battleground. 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 the front of 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 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, because she’s only ever
always been amazing. He was a broken branch grafted
onto a different family tree, adopted, 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 eighth 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 antidepressants, and an adolescent being called “Popper,” one part because of the pills, 99 parts because of the cruelty. He tried to kill himself in grade 10 when a kid who could still
go home to Mom and Dad had the audacity to tell him,
“Get over it.” As if depression is something
that could 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 moment 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 being 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 every 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 background noise
from 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 miles ahead of who we were. We were freaks — lobster-claw boys and bearded ladies, oddities 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 yes, some of us fell. But I want to tell them that all of this is just debris left over 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, “They were wrong.” Because maybe you didn’t belong
to a group or a clique. 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 some 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 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. (Applause)

About the author


  1. I'm still here because society won't accept me, not that I won't accept society.
    I still have people who care, though I don't care for people, because I am just so used to the hurt they caused me everyday of my life.
    Only a few understand that the ones who accept need to be accepted as well.

    Thank you Shane, for this beautiful poem.
    I'm sure it speaks to a lot of us.

  2. I remember watching this back in middle school. and feeling this so hard. but now looking back. I am aware of a light that I have now arrived to that was at the end of the tunnel I was in. just. everyone reading this in tough times. hope is coming.

  3. I was in the kitchen one day i was about to cut my wrists again but until my sister seen me about to cut my wrists she took the knife away and showed me this video and it touched my heart and hope has been risen thank u so much for this help u really helped me out

  4. I can relate with this I'm bullied in school I tell my dad and mom they say hit or punch then kids try to pick fight with me…..I've told the teachers BUT THEY DO NOTHING! my dad calls me names like the bullies do…. I'm still here I want to live but I have no one to go to I'm lost this video help thank you so much!

  5. I held my breath, holding back tears, face red, just to keep my divorced father from hearing my crying. He knows I’m depressed… crippled. But I wasn’t only crying out of self pity, I cried because it’s true— the words they told me aren’t true because I am still here.

  6. Word to the wise, watch beforehand. This came up under talks students should hear yet he cusses. Be warned. Loved his message but not appropriate for a classroom

  7. I've been taught that my emotions are unfounded. That I deserved the mistreatment from my peers. In a traditional setting there isn't a single person who could contest that.. or who would care to. So my education as a young adult, a child, was to believe that the reason I was being mistreated was because I was inferior. Weird.

  8. This came out the day before I started being bullied, I just wish I could of seen this sooner, I actually cut myself from the depression I have, my parents say I don’t have any kind of depression, I think I have psychotic depression, I make myself see things that aren’t there, I know that it’s not real but I keep telling myself that it is, I just moved to high school and it’s a bully free one too, but still, im being called ugly, a mutt, a crybaby a whiner, it just keeps happening, and then I get in trouble for not doing work? I’m not doing work because I’ve started to HATE my life, this video only somewhat helped me, I still feel anger and sadness, I question why people do this to me, I used to be called blockhead, acne face, stupid and much more, my online friend made me feel just a little better by showing me this video, and the more I watch it, the more I cry, because I feel like I’m NEVER going to find someone who loves me I feel like I’m NEVER going find someone who truly CARES, I’m just a mess…..I hope that whoever has this same problem, gets it all fixed, there may still be scars from your past, but they’ll never show… keep smiling! 😊

  9. I heard this for the first time when I was eleven and it's been six years. I still cry every time I listen to it

  10. All those dislikes are from the people who were the bullies and don’t want to think that’s they were wrong

  11. Shane was the one who originally got me into spoken word poetry. I have listened to everyone of his poems, I have looked in many different places because sometimes there’s an old one I hadn’t heard before.. he is amazing. I’ve listened to his poems for a long time, I probably started in grade five. My mother had been dead and I was in the process of figuring out how to leave my father. I did. But, Shane helped me through it. Through all the poems I have listened to, each one isn’t so hard to wrap my mind around, despite it being so complex. Shane is an anomaly. There is absolutely no one else like him. I have searched for other spoken word poets, there aren’t any like him. None that can tackle any sort of topic in the way he can. His voice makes you feel more, and the words? The words make it almost unreal. I can’t explain to you the admiration I feel for this man. I write poems now. I have won public speaking competitions. Shane is my role model, and I won’t let my dreams be crushed.

  12. I've been called scar since the fourth grade because I have a scar along my back from child hood everyone saw it in third grade while swimming the teachers gasped the girls laughed and pointed the boys whispered and pushed there is no escape…

  13. Run yourself a nice hot bath, light 3 candles, turn off the lights, and immerse yourself in this, and at 7:54………let those years fall…..and smile…..knowing…..that there is such beauty in this world. ❤️

  14. My teacher showed the class this… I cried because I'm 12 it's sad I transferd and now i still get bullied 😔 its inspiring..

  15. Also the thing about kids if a kid is trying to ignore or not respond as usual to a kid calling them something they're seen as unstable the unusual type and in today's school system you don't wanna be seen as the unstable one so there's not much choice these days be ridiculed and not say anything or do anything about it or talk back and do something and be seen as the one everyone should watch out for?

  16. omg… reading these reviews makes me now know what the world is really like. i’ve been anti social lately. i’m glad i have been. this world can be horrible. it can also be inspiring. i love this. i am going to be watching this a lot more. thank you TED. this world can be amazing. this world can be cruel. this world can be… horrible. i’ve delt with so many thing i can’t explain! but i’m lucky to have my channel and my friends and family. i love you all so much!!

  17. Summary: …
    Well, nothing said means…
    Because dodgeball and 99 luftballoons.
    Go play in traffic, bitchboy. But, before you blame me, blame your parents. They did you most wrong.

  18. I just wstched this yesterday in school. This video hit my heart just right. I have been called all the names especially fatty, and its never nice, especially when its your family, my grandma especially does it more so than other. She is constantly telling me to do better and to lose more weight and "your too fat to be wearing shorts" the sad part is i try to tell my family but they never take me seriously. This ted talk is now my favorite, it pings all the right heartstrings.

  19. I got bullied savagely in school. And later in life. I was in places much darker, yet I still believe school was the worst for how young and unprepared I was for the horror that awaited there.
    I think I still believe them. Most of my friends got on with their lifes and turned back on me, or stopped even answering my calls. I don't think I want to be here.

  20. We just watched this today in out first day of school and everyone started laughing when he said "Smarter than the average bear motherfucker"

  21. Why are people so mean when there is someone they bully but the person they bully is just like them why are some brothers and sisters bulling there own siblings and that…that hurts more than anything that the person you trusted the most turns there back on you or your best friend your parents every body around you remember this.Anything that is beautiful people try to break and you are beautiful.Also remember this…

    U-Ur Awesome
    Y-Your Beautiful

    and this is someone else's saying so if you see any body else say it then ask them if they made it up and if they say yes tell them they are awesome

  22. “Despite a loving husband she doesn’t think she’s beautiful. Because of a birthmark that takes up a little less than half her face. And they’ll never understand that she’s raising two kids, whose definition begins with the word ‘mom’”


  23. I watched this is school this morning and I cried because of the sticks and stones part. My other classmates laughed and pointed. I don’t want to have to go to school and be afraid but I try to ignore them and get things done. After all I’m just the purple haired Barney as they call me. I’m just the loser that nobody can stand. I have a few friends but if I have to get their attention over and over, are they even real friends? I can’t live with this anymore! I can’t live in the knowledge that when I have to go back to school everyday I will get called these things. I’m scared. If you read this all than thank you. I really appreciate you. Please tell me how to not be scared.

  24. I listen to this just to make me feel atleast alitte bit cared about becuase I kinda am growing up how he said in the speech I have the most loveing friends and family that anyone would want to live with but I still feel like no matter what I say no one will hear me and I have depression only because my forth grade teachers plus my first grade teacher made me hate myself and basically lose emotion in struggle so bad with memory wich makes it hard for me to do my work and I thought I was stupid ugly useless and I ended up telling all my friends what's going through my mind every single day and they help and support me and it makes me feel like I'm not just like a lifeless runt of a litter even though I'm tall and im more something good

  25. I can relate to this because I have been called name all the way from my very first day ever at school to the start of high school I was called all kinds of names from weirdo to monster and an animal because I have a short temper and because I was different and did not see pleasure in making fun of people buy how they looked or spoke. I wanted to kill myself because of what this world has become. I do not put myself out there for people to notice me because I want someone to be my friend or love me because of who I am not what they want me to be.

  26. I watched this in 8th grade, I have now since graduated from high school and am attending university, and I can still remember the words like the day I first heard them. My teacher was crying by the end and I knew in that moment that he had not only shared this with the class to fulfill a curriculum, but to share something about himself to us. He later told us that that poem had saved him from suicide only a few weeks before school started that semester. Before that, I never realized that adults had the same feelings as kids like me. That they had depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts just like I did. I thought it was something that people grew out of and that's why they never talked about it. This taught me more than any class I have ever taken as of yet in my entire life. I hope that others will see this and hear this and remember this whenever they are feeling anything less than alive.

  27. I am more than inspired, I've been touched, moved. Taken to a part of myself I never knew I had. The part I had forgotten. The exact same part that would cry out "words may never hurt me".

    I am glad I was shown this today. Although it was shown in my speech class as a random video. It hit me on so many levels. I feel every ounce of emotion he pours out into every word, and all of this.. can only be described as.. Beautiful ❤️

    There won't be a day where I won't listen to this and have my eyes tear up.

  28. Chose to recite this for my poetry class. I ended up moving people to tears and getting an 100%. This song not only impacted me by listening, but others by telling.

  29. This is so inspiring to me because once in my life I thought… that, I didn’t belong here, that I was not worth it that I… was “UGLY”

  30. “There’s something inside of you that made you keep trying… you put a cast around your broken heart and signed it yourself they were wrong… you have to believe they were wrong, they have to be wrong”
    That one hits close to home. I love this video and spoken poetry a lot.

  31. I have a very suicidal friend, he almost killed himself the other week..me and my friend tried to help him but he wouldn't listen. He stopped talking to us and we cried for hours, only to get a message from him 3 hours later saying "I'm alright.." we were so happy, but just because he didn't do it that time doesn't mean he won't try and do it again.
    To all those people suffering with depression or suicidal thoughts, talk to someone you trust, talk to someone you love or care for, talk to someone you know will always be there for you. Never, NEVER, try and fight it alone, because it'll only get worse. Tell someone. Even if it is one person, THEY can make a difference, that one person can be your saviour. They can be your light at the end of the tunnel.
    Please don't do something stupid and think about the people who care about you, the people who LOVE you.
    Thank you x.

  32. “She’s raising two kids whose definition of the word beauty begin with the word mom” The best part of this talk. He is amazing. I love my mother

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