Please watch this video!
"To This Day," by Shane Koyczan
Like most good poetry, this video made me realize that I had known this truth, "They were wrong," but didn't have words for it until the poet uttered them for me. Instinctually, the other day when Emi came home in tears because a boy in her class said her pig drawing was ugly, the first thing I asked her was, "Do you believe him? Do you think your drawing was ugly?" And when she said no, her pig was fabulous, I knew deep down she would be fine, for now at least.
Three words form the key to taking all power away from a bully, to know in your gut that they're full of shit. Or at the very least, to briefly entertain the notion: what if they were wrong? What if they were lying just to make you feel bad, and make themselves feel better because of it?
I remember the what if, that infinitesimal possibility that maybe I wasn't a crybaby, or a freak, or a "retard," or a fat walrus (or was it elephant seal?). Most of the time I definitely believed their words. I remember walking on my tiptoes everywhere because a boy once told me I made the windows rattle with every step I took. I remember the day my so-called friend printed and distributed a newsletter about me to everyone in my class, pointing out all of my imperfections, from my belly to my laugh.
But somehow, my soul must have asked at the right times, "Wouldn't it be totally funny if they were wrong?" because I survived all that.
I also remember a time when I lost my what if, when I lost that quirky, naive Julie with the obnoxious laugh.
Quirky Julie became angry Julie in college, because I was scared to be away from my friends and family but I wouldn't admit it, I hated being around so many seemingly-perfect people, and I mistook anger for toughness. And because angry Julie often played with self-destructive Julie, she got into a bit of trouble.
All the belittling voices came back to me en masse when I was stressed out, and because Stanford was a stressful place, I became crippled with hateful thoughts and fear of failure. The girl who tried out and was rejected from pep squad 5 years in a row, but never gave up, lost her resilience. The what if they were wrong became they were always right. I always was stupid, useless, a child, wasting my parents' money, fat, lazy, clumsy, undesirable, boring, unoriginal, charmless, mannerless, ungrateful, didn't belong here, didn't belong anywhere.
I tried to kill myself when I was a college student, first slowly with cigarettes and alcohol and cutting class and picking fights, and then more efficiently one summer afternoon when I decided to give the slow way a bit of a boost.
I viewed it as a failure then, a cruel display of irony, the girl who was such a failure, she couldn't even get herself to die. When my friends visited me at the mental ward, I told them how I felt like my life should have been over by then, that the buzzer rang, the game is over, and now I'm in this weird overtime period. I wasn't supposed to still be there, to see how the world still turned without me, to be a ghost, and I urged them to forget about me because I might as well be dead.
And then Kevin, the most mild-mannered of my friends, rejected those words with some of his own.. "Don't you say that, how dare you say that," he yelled, with such ferocity and such love, that even I in my faux-post-mortem, self-pitiful, depressive haze heard him, and my soul stirred from her hibernation. His display of grief was spiritual CPR, and from that day forward, I never questioned my right to be here again.