This week I received an email from a student telling me to check out a poem called “To This Day,” written by Shane Koyczan. Any time a student cares enough to recommend a piece of literature to me, I try to care enough to read it, but this recommendation was a little different. The poem was about bullying … about scars … and about realizing that sometimes, most times, our lives are built on the words that others have thrown at us, casting longer shadows for us than were meant to have. I was struck especially hard by this work, because of the girl who asked me to read it. Beautiful. Bright. Quiet. She didn’t strike me as the type to carry the weight of the impact bullying could have, but then again, you never know.
No one escapes childhood unscathed, but I think we need to stop acting like cruelty and intentional negative attention are some “right of passage.” There is something we can do … listen. Hear the words that aren’t spoken between the daily claims of “I’m Fine.” Did you ever realize that no one who says they’re “fine” actually is? There is always a better or worse slide of the emotional scale going on, but we rarely take the extra minute out of our day to ask for a clarifying definition.
I know not everyone has a child in their life, but since when has harrassment been age-specific? Not everyone has to watch the whispered battle of bullying commence on a daily basis … but we are all victims of shadowed words that still haunt us … and we can pay more to those who say they’re “fine.” I wrote the following poem years ago, when I witnessed the undercurrent presence of oppression in middle school, and the numbing reality of surrender setting in. Well, all these years later, I’m still not “fine,” and I do not believe that coping and caring are the same thing. As Aeschylus once said, “I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope.” So share your time, your heart and your intention with those who are anything but fine. Whether fresh scars or healed … everyone’s shadow can be lessened with the dignity of being heard, seen, and cared about – so care.
You ask me how Iʼm doing,
and Iʼll always say, “Iʼm fine.” But you have to know the truth of what is weighing on my mind.
In truth Iʼm bruised and broken.
I am tired and distressed.
Iʼve been bullied, Iʼve been beaten, Iʼve been crying and Iʼm stressed.
Tears are tearing up my inside while Iʼm busy looking out. Others pass me without knowing of my fear, and grief and doubt.
I am past the point of hoping
for a change to come my way. Because though the truth is spoken, nothing changes what they say.
Itʼs okay to deal with sometimes, itʼs just something we go through. But I wish that being just myself were just enough for you.
I have dreams and goals and visions. I have talent, and I care.
Though you never seem to notice,
I am sadly much aware.
But thatʼs just a part of growing, right? Just keep your head down low?
Keep your thoughts in, numb your feelings play it tough – put on a show.
Soon I know things get better,
I know things will be alright.
But not now or here, this moment. Looks like one more lonely night.
So youʼll see me in the morning, as I pass you in the line,
and youʼll ask me how Iʼm doing and Iʼll lie and say, “Just fine.”
Praying for healing,