What’s YOUR Secret?

Everyone has secrets, even those who claim they are open books.

Often secrets are things of which people are ashamed, or are scared to admit for one reason or another. Perhaps one person has a deep desire to be a writer, while another secretly despises their best friend.

Everyone–at one point or another–has loved and lived in secret. Almost every high schooler has experienced a “secret crush,” and every day people go about their lives wearing masks.

Secrets can be painful, and can make you feel like you’re alone. It’s very easy to feel as if no one else has ever felt the way you do — that you are separated from “normal” people because of your secret.

What if there was a way to share your secrets? And what if there was a way for you to see others’ secrets? What if there was a way to share secrets with the world?

A flash of inspiration

In December 2003, a man named Frank Warren went to Paris. He purchased some postcards, as many tourists do.

That night, Warren dreamed that his postcards had changed. One of them now read, “unrecognized evidence, from forgotten journeys, unknowingly discovered.” And the second postcard mentioned a “reluctant oracle” postcard project.

Early the next year, the PostSecret project began.

The way it works

The idea is simple: create a postcard, write your secret on it, and send it to Warren. Each Sunday, Warren updates the PostSecret website with a handful of secrets.

What started as a small experiment has exploded into a national and international phenomenon. Warren has received thousands of postcards, and receives more every day.

So many secrets have made their way to Warren’s mailbox that five PostSecret books have been published, the most recent one last year.

Warren gives talks at PostSecret events across the country, and raises thousands of dollars for the Kristin Brooks Hope Center (often known as Hopeline or by its phone number, 1-800-SUICIDE).

Sharing secrets

I think that almost everyone — even Warren — was surprised when PostSecret became the international hit it is. In retrospect, though, I don’t find it surprising at all.

Secrets have a way of separating people. Many of us are terrified of the idea of our secrets’ getting out, and so we keep them to ourselves. We stifle our sharing and honesty, and so feel isolated.

What PostSecret gives us the opportunity to do is see each other’s secrets; by doing so, we discover that perhaps we are not so different after all.

I’ve never sent one in, but every time I read PostSecret, I find one of my secrets. That’s comforting, because it means I’m not alone. People love, loathe, fear, and laugh at the same things I do.

These days we are constantly reminded of how different we are: Republican or Democrat; Muslim or Christian; believer or non-believer; gay or straight. But once a week on PostSecret, I am reminded of how similar, how human, we really are.

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