“Don’t let your luggage define your travels. Each life unravels differently.” ~ Shane Koyczan

Reblogged from TED’s* blog website:


Shane Koyczan has a way with words.

“I’ve been shot down so many times I get altitude sickness just from standing up for myself,” he says, beginning today’s talk. “That’s what we were told—stand up for yourself. But that’s hard to do if you don’t know who you are.”

Koyczan appeared on the TED2013 stage just a week after his spoken-word poem, “To This Day,” went viral as a crowd-animated video. Live onstage, mixing poetry and prose, Koyczan explains to the audience what prompted to him to write the poem, an ode to anyone who felt bullied or left out as a child, and have it animated by people around the world. Koyczan says it wasn’t just overt bullying he was reacting to — but the subtle discouragement kids receive along the path to adulthood, as they’re required to define themselves in narrower and narrower ways.

“At the same time as we were being told who we were, we were being asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Koyczan’s answers were: a writer, then a professional wrestler. Both ideas were shot down.

“What made my dreams so easy to dismiss?” he asks. “Granted my dreams are shy, because they’re Canadian. 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.”

To hear more of Koyczan’s motivation, and to hear a beautiful live rendition of “To This Day,” watch this talk. For more of Koyczan’s poems, read on.

Shane Koyczan: To This Day … for the bullied and beautiful

Shane Koyczan’s “Instructions for a Bad Day”

Koyczan got some help in sharing these “Instructions for a Bad Day” from a group of students at G.P. Vanier secondary school in British Columbia. They wrote the storyboard for the video, handled the cameras, did the acting and collected the props. The piece was created for Pink Shirt Day — a national day devoted to the discussion of bullying.

*If you are unfamiliar with TED (ideas worth spreading), here is a link to their about page. They are awesome.


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

~Shane Koyczan

4 thoughts on ““Don’t let your luggage define your travels. Each life unravels differently.” ~ Shane Koyczan

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. It made me cry and I remembered my live between classes 5 and 8.
    I’m still here, the other girl is not. We were too afraid to do something about the bullying.

    Today I am ashamed that I never had the courage to tell the other girls to shut up whenever they called her names. Or said “I’m sorry” when I met her for the last time ever. We were 18 and I didn’t even say “Bye” or gave her my number.
    She drove her car against a tree three months later.

    1. Carolin,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. Unfortunately, bullying is one of those insidious things that so many people suffer in silence.

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