2.25.2013

Shane Koyczan's To This Day

If you're a parent of a school age child, this might be one of the most important videos you'll watch today.



I see much of myself in this video. In fact, the first time I watched it I cried. (Which was rather awkward since that first viewing was during a break at work.) I got home and watched it again, and I cried again. I've seen it a few times since then and I have not yet finished it tear free. Each time, I was reminded of the pain of growing up.

It started with cruel names. I heard them all. From fag to loser to uglier words that I'd rather not repeat here. The movie Dick Tracy came out the summer after fifth grade, and the jump from Nic Casey to Dick Tracy wasn't that difficult for my eleven year old classmates. Since Nic sounds like Dick, it wasn't long after that until kids found another play on the word "dick" that sounded like Nicholas. I was left out, an underdog, the last one picked, picked on, the punch line to many jokes, and often a punching bag.

I also heard the excuses. The "get over it" and the "kids can be cruel." WE can't forget the "boys will be boys" defense.

My greatest fear for Christian is that he'll have to endure the same crap that I went through, yet I know there's a new level of cruelty awaiting him because of his Asperger diagnosis. My son is a mini me. A clone with a few of the better parts of his genetic makeup handed down from his mamma. My other two kids are brown skinned beauties growing up in a white world. And our town has an unfortunate history with some of the ugliest of Caucasian culture. I worry about their place in this world filled with vicious school kids.

I'm not sure how my kids will cope with the inevitable taunting and teasing that comes with adolescence. But I do know how I handled it and I didn't handle it well. I retaliated. I got in fights that I usually lost. I occasionally came home with a bruised body, and frequently came home with a bruised spirit. I was defeated. I was ashamed. I developed a tape in my head that's stuck on replay with words like "I'm not good enough" and "I'm a freak." I carried those words into adulthood and it's taken me most of my adult life to realize that the tape in my head is a lie.

My parents tried to help. They probably didn't do their best, but they did the best that they knew how. I'm not sure if my folks ever knew or understood the extent to which I was bullied; I don't remember how much I admitted or revealed.

But it got better. By my freshman year, I had discovered that my reactions contributed to the continued harassment. The brutal teasing stopped by the end of my sophomore year. I was never accepted by the cool kids, but by graduations day I had their respect. However, the wounds I gathered in my school days took much longer to heal than those caused by sticks and stones.

Looking back, I wish that I had learned some of my lessons sooner. I wish my parents, teachers, and school administrators had done more to end bullying. I wish kids weren't so cruel. All things considered, I grew up into a mostly functioning human being.

We can't change the past, but maybe we can change the future.

Sincerely,

A graduating member from the class of We Made It.

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