"To This Day" had a very small beginning. The poem itself was written in 2009 after rereading a series of notebooks I had written in as a child.
I'm fortunate enough to have a grandmother who never throws anything away, and one day, she returned a series of journals I had kept. I didn't pay any attention to them at first. I wondered what possible value could come from revisiting what I had already managed to survive.
One day, out of boredom, I picked up a journal and began reading it.
I was amazed to discover that in midst of all the darkness surrounding my childhood, there was a still a young boy with a sense of humor. After quickly consuming all of the other texts, I realized that I had been completely neglecting a large chapter of my life simply because I wanted to be done with the pain that I had associated with it.
I wrote a series of pieces, all exploring my early life, and was not surprised to find that so many people were relating to the material.
There was a tremendous sense of agony as I prepared to perform the poems for the first time. I remember wondering why I was willfully about to put myself through these experiences again. It has been such a rewarding journey to rediscover a part of myself that I thought I had long discarded.
My band, Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long, ended up rerecording "To This Day" for our 2011 album Remembrance Year. The poem quickly became a requested piece from our catalog at live performances, and each time there seemed to be a special silence from the audience.
Fans have often remarked that we were telling their story back to them with that piece. I get a lot of mail regarding poems that I've written, but the letters I get in response to this piece are easily the most heartrending.
There are people in the world whose endurance staggers me. There are stories that test our hearts. They stretch us out into empathy, and all we can do is feel for these strangers who in an instant feel like family.
In 2012, I lent my voice to a project developed by Giant Ant studio for the Dalai Lama Center and their Educate the Heart campaign. The team at Giant Ant were great work partners, and they offered to lend me their services for a project down the road. It didn't take long to pick a project: "To This Day" was a piece I was wanting to do something special with for a long time.
Giant Ant put together an animated video call out to other animators and the response we got was overwhelming.
The team did an incredible job of threading the animations together to create the finished video. Language fails me in my gratitude for everyone who helped bring this project to life.
From "To This Day":
... if you can't see anything beautiful about yourself
get a better mirror
look a little closer
stare a little longer
because there's something inside you
that made you keep trying
despite everyone who told you to quit
you built a cast around your broken heart
and signed it yourself
you signed it
"they were wrong"
because maybe you didn't belong to a group or a click