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  • There's so many of you.

  • When I was a kid,

  • I hid my heart under the bed, because my mother said,

  • "If you're not careful, someday someone's going to break it."

  • Take it from me. Under the bed is not a good hiding spot.

  • I know because I've been shot down so many times

  • I get altitude sickness just from standing up for myself.

  • But that's what we were told.

  • Stand up for yourself.

  • And that's hard to do if you don't know who you are.

  • We were expected to define ourselves at such an early age,

  • and if we didn't do it, others did it for us.

  • Geek. Fatty. Slut. Fag.

  • And at the same time we were being told what we were,

  • we were being asked,

  • "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

  • I always thought that was an unfair question.

  • It presupposes that we can't be what we already are.

  • We were kids.

  • When I was a kid, I wanted to be a man.

  • I wanted a registered retirement savings plan

  • that would keep me in candy long enough to make old age sweet.

  • When I was a kid, I wanted to shave.

  • Now, not so much.

  • When I was eight, I wanted to be a marine biologist.

  • When I was nine, I saw the movie "Jaws,"

  • and thought to myself, "No, thank you."

  • And when I was 10, I was told that my parents left because they didn't want me.

  • When I was 11, I wanted to be left alone.

  • When I was 12, I wanted to die. When I was 13, I wanted to kill a kid.

  • When I was 14, I was asked to seriously consider a career path.

  • I said, "I'd like to be a writer."

  • And they said, "Choose something realistic."

  • So I said, "Professional wrestler."

  • And they said, "Don't be stupid."

  • See, they asked me what I wanted to be,

  • then told me what not to be.

  • And I wasn't the only one.

  • We were being told that we somehow must become

  • what we are not, sacrificing what we are

  • to inherit the masquerade of what we will be.

  • I was being told to accept the identity

  • that others will give me.

  • And I wondered, what made my dreams so easy to dismiss?

  • Granted, my dreams are shy,

  • because they're Canadian. (Laughter)

  • My dreams are self-conscious and overly apologetic.

  • They're standing alone at the high school dance,

  • and they've never been kissed.

  • See, my dreams got called names too.

  • Silly. Foolish. Impossible.

  • But I kept dreaming.

  • I was going to be a wrestler. I had it all figured out.

  • I was going to be The Garbage Man.

  • My finishing move was going to be The Trash Compactor.

  • My saying was going to be, "I'm taking out the trash!"

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • And then this guy, Duke "The Dumpster" Droese,

  • stole my entire shtick.

  • I was crushed, as if by a trash compactor.

  • I thought to myself, "What now? Where do I turn?"

  • Poetry.

  • Like a boomerang, the thing I loved came back to me.

  • One of the first lines of poetry I can remember writing

  • was in response to a world that demanded I hate myself.

  • From age 15 to 18, I hated myself

  • for becoming the thing that I loathed: a bully.

  • When I was 19, I wrote,

  • "I will love myself despite the ease with which

  • I lean toward the opposite."

  • Standing up for yourself doesn't have to mean

  • embracing violence.

  • When I was a kid,

  • I traded in homework assignments for friendship,

  • then gave each friend a late slip for never showing up on time,

  • and in most cases not at all.

  • I gave myself a hall pass to get through each broken promise.

  • And I remember this plan, born out of frustration

  • from a kid who kept calling me "Yogi,"

  • then pointed at my tummy and said, "Too many picnic baskets."

  • Turns out it's not that hard to trick someone,

  • and one day before class, I said,

  • "Yeah, you can copy my homework,"

  • and I gave him all the wrong answers

  • that I'd written down the night before.

  • He got his paper back expecting a near-perfect score,

  • and couldn't believe it when he looked across the room at me and held up a zero.

  • I knew I didn't have to hold up my paper of 28 out of 30,

  • but my satisfaction was complete when he looked at me, puzzled,

  • and I thought to myself, "Smarter than the average bear, motherfucker."

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • This is who I am.

  • This is how I stand up for myself.

  • When I was a kid,

  • I used to think that pork chops and karate chops were the same thing.

  • I thought they were both pork chops.

  • And because my grandmother thought it was cute,

  • and because they were my favorite, she let me keep doing it.

  • Not really a big deal.

  • One day, before I realized fat kids are not designed to climb trees,

  • I fell out of a tree and bruised the right side of my body.

  • I didn't want to tell my grandmother about it

  • because I was scared I'd get in trouble for playing somewhere I shouldn't have been.

  • A few days later, the gym teacher noticed the bruise,

  • and I got sent to the principal's office.

  • From there, I was sent to another small room

  • with a really nice lady who asked me all kinds of questions about my life at home.

  • I saw no reason to lie.

  • As far as I was concerned, life was pretty good.

  • I told her, whenever I'm sad, my grandmother gives me karate chops.

  • (Laughter)

  • This led to a full-scale investigation,

  • and I was removed from the house for three days,

  • until they finally decided to ask how I got the bruises.

  • News of this silly little story quickly spread through the school,

  • and I earned my first nickname:

  • Porkchop.

  • To this day, I hate pork chops.

  • I'm not the only kid who grew up this way,

  • surrounded by people who used to say that rhyme

  • about sticks and stones,

  • as if broken bones hurt more than the names we got called,

  • and we got called them all.

  • So we grew up believing no one would ever fall in love with us,

  • that we'd be lonely forever,

  • that we'd never meet someone to make us feel like the sun

  • was something they built for us in their toolshed.

  • So broken heartstrings bled the blues, and we tried to empty ourselves so we'd feel nothing.

  • Don't tell me that hurt less than a broken bone,

  • that an ingrown life is something surgeons can cut away,

  • that there's no way for it to metastasize; it does.

  • She was eight years old,

  • our first day of grade three when she got called ugly.

  • We both got moved to the back of class

  • so we would stop getting bombarded by spitballs.

  • But the school halls were a battleground.

  • We found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day.

  • We used to stay inside for recess, because outside was worse.

  • Outside, we'd have to rehearse running away,

  • or learn to stay still like statues, giving no clues that we were there.

  • In grade five, they taped a sign to the front of her desk

  • that read, "Beware of dog."

  • To this day, despite a loving husband, she doesn't think she's beautiful

  • because of a birthmark that takes up a little less than half her face.

  • Kids used to say, "She looks like a wrong answer

  • that someone tried to erase, but couldn't quite get the job done."

  • And they'll never understand that she's raising two kids

  • whose definition of beauty begins with the word "Mom,"

  • because they see her heart before they see her skin,

  • because she's only ever always been amazing.

  • He was a broken branch grafted onto a different family tree,

  • adopted,

  • not because his parents opted for a different destiny.

  • He was three when he became a mixed drink

  • of one part left alone and two parts tragedy,

  • started therapy in eighth grade,

  • had a personality made up of tests and pills,

  • lived like the uphills were mountains and the downhills were cliffs,

  • four fifths suicidal, a tidal wave of antidepressants,

  • and an adolescence being called "Popper,"

  • one part because of the pills,

  • 99 parts because of the cruelty.

  • He tried to kill himself in grade 10

  • when a kid who could still go home to Mom and Dad

  • had the audacity to tell him, "Get over it."

  • As if depression is something that could be remedied

  • by any of the contents found in a first aid kit.

  • To this day, he is a stick of TNT lit from both ends,

  • could describe to you in detail the way the sky bends

  • in the moment before it's about to fall,

  • and despite an army of friends who all call him an inspiration,

  • he remains a conversation piece between people who can't understand

  • sometimes being drug-free has less to do with addiction

  • and more to do with sanity.