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The Secret Life of Strangers

Hidden amongst the social media platforms, etsy stores & movie-sharing hubs that is the Internet, there exists a not-so-secret collection of secrets. Post Secrets, to be specific. The blog is only one page long, and every few weeks or so, Frank Warren releases a new series of 30 or so handwritten postcards by strangers all across the world, each revealing a poignant, painful or pointless secret that they’ve hung onto for years. It all started back in the November of 2004 when Frank printed 3,000 postcards and left them to the public, inviting everyone to share their secrets.

PostSecret invites you to participate

PostSecret invites you to participate

In the November of 2010, I discovered a lovely, hard cover book at my local bookshop. The first page read: PostSecret, extraordinary confessions from ordinary lives. And that was it, I was hooked. I read the whole book that afternoon, flipping through the pages and systematically imagining and misimagining the stories behind each secret. You always read about how therapeutic it is to finally let go of a secret, but no one ever tells you how cathartic it can be to read a secret and thank the Gods that you are not alone in your freakhood. I believe that this remains the whole point of Post Secret:

“Secrets have stories; they can also offer truths. After seeing thousands of secrets, I understand that sometimes when we believe we are keeping a secret, that secret is actually keeping us…The things that make us feel so abnormal are actually the things that make us all the same.” -Frank

Here’s the thing about PostSecret, most of what is published isn’t that astounding. If anything, it’s familiar. But amid the “I hate my job”s and “I will always love you”s, there is a collection of secrets that seek to horrify; secrets that are so overwhelmingly secretive, reading them feels like an invasion, knowing them makes you uncomfortable. These secret-bombs, as I’ve grown to call them, knock the wind out of my lungs. I stare at the page and wondering how in the world someone could be so cruel/gross/selfish. I am ashamed for them, I am humiliated for them. At once, it becomes so intimate, as though the space between you and the stranger has collapsed, and you are standing face to face as she rips out a story you know has been buried inside her for too long and holds it out to you, begging you to take it and hide it somewhere far away so it may never find her again.

A bookmarked PostSecret that horrified me

A bookmarked PostSecret that terrified me

Most of the things we say to each other are nothing new. We can go days saying the same things, doing the same things, telling one another the same things. Reading PostSecret reminds us that there are moments in our lives that we will regret, moments we will hate ourselves for, judge ourselves for, lie in bed at night kicking our legs and thrashing our arms in humiliation over. There are secrets you don’t even want to admit to yourself let alone others, secrets that make you weep in shame, that you want to deny forever. It takes so such bravery to reveal them. And you can read these PostSecrets and judge those who’ve done horrific things, or you can gasp a little, nod and then forgive them. Whoever the hell they are, forgive them. And then, slowly, you forgive yourself.    

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