Whether you are one of the 8.5 milion people who have seen the video “To This Day,” or one of the 700,000 people who tuned in to the poet Shane Kocyzan’s recent TED Talk, you were undoubtedly moved by the anti-bullying message. “To This Day,” the music video for a track on his first full-length album, spoke about bullying in a personal and powerful way, pushing the conversation into the mainstream. As a seasoned performer and published author and poet, Shane Kocyzan has been spreading his message of uplift and inspiration through books, poetry collections, performances and his band, Shane Kocyzan and the Short Story Long. We had an opportunity to speak with Shane about the video, his work and his advice for young people who might be facing discouraging circumstances.
KIND: How did you develop your voice and decide that poetry would be the best vehicle for your message?
Shane Kocyzan: My voice is comprised of all the other writers that I like. I treat it like a salad bar, I use the aspects that I love from those authors and I leave the rest. As much a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, I felt that poetry is the most direct route to an emotion for me.
What was your inspiration for writing the poem, “To This Day”?
I saw it as a way to redeem the faults I have made in my life and also to reach out to those who feel alone in their suffering. There is an extreme isolation that comes with bullying and a lot of the time a simple sense of camaraderie can get you through a tough day. I saw “To This Day” as a way to put an arm around the shoulder of those who feel outcast.
How did the “To This Day” video project come about?
It was a project that I always wanted to do. Many people had asked if my band (Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long) would make a video for our album that came out in 2012, but I wanted to make sure we put out something that would speak to people on a personal level. The team at Giant Ant were fantastic and produced the video by sending a call out to animators around the world. We were overwhelmed by the response. There were so many submissions and Giant Ant did a tremendous job threading the pieces together.
What were your hopes for the project when it started? Did you expect for it to have such a global impact?
My hopes were simple. I hoped it would reach the people who needed to hear it and they would pass it on to the people in their lives—giving each other a starting point to have a conversation about bullying. I never expected it to have such an impact but I think that the number of people it has reached speaks to the size of the issue and its importance.
What words of advice do you have for young people who might be dealing with bullying or discouraging adults around them?
My advice is to seek out others who are going through something similar. There will always be those who can understand what you are going through because they live it themselves. A sense of kinship can often lend an individual a sense of strength or endurance. Pain is temporary as much as happiness is temporary. The hope is that we find a balance between the two. If the people around you are conditioning you to failure it’s because they, themselves, were never daring enough to try.