(This is a long one to read, but please just listen because it is so beautiful.)
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.
My grandmother thought it was cute so she let me keep doing it because, you know, they were my favorite.
It wasn't a big deal. Until I was seven years old,
and a bad fall caused me to bruise my upper arm and shoulder rather severely.
I didn't want to tell my grandmother what happened because I was afraid I'd get in trouble,
because I was playing somewhere I shouldn't have been.
One day in gym class the teacher noticed the bruise and I was sent to the principal's office.
Not long after that, I ended up in another small room with a really lady
who asked me all sorts of questions about my life at home.
I saw no reason to lie, it was pretty good as far as I was concerned.
So I told her 'whenever I'm sad, my grandmother gives me karate chops'.
This lead to a full-scale investigation and I was removed from my grandparents house for three days,
and then returned when they finally asked me how I got the bruises.
News of this silly little story eventually spread through the school,
and when the students got wind of it, I earned my first name:
To this day, I fucking 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 that no one would ever fall in love with us,
That we would be lonely forever,
That we would never meet someone that would make us feel
Like the sun was something they built for us in their tool shed.
So from broken heart strings bled the blues
And 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
But 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 spit balls
But the school halls were a battle ground where we found ourselves
Outnumbered day after day.
We used to stay inside for recess because outside was worse.
Outside we would have to rehearse running away
Or learn to stay still like statues giving no clues that we were there.
In grade 5, 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 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
and she’s only ever always been amazing.
He was a broken branch grafted onto a different family tree,
Not because his parents opted for a different destiny,
He was three when he became a mixed drink,
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 anti-depressants and an adolescence 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 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 and 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 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 it
Do they make a sound?
Are they just background noise to a soundtrack stuck on repeat
When people say things like “kids can be cruel”?
Every school was a big top circus tent
Where 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.
Juggling depression and loneliness,
Playing solitaire, spin the bottle to try to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves to 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 this shit 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.
You signed it, “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 every class was a boxing ring.
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 stemmed 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 to get gas.
We are graduating members from the class of Fuck Off, We Made It.
Not the faded echoes of the voices crying out, ‘Names will never hurt me.”
Of course they did.
But our lives will always ever always continue to be
A balancing act that has less to do with pain, and more to do with beauty.