This is a story of something that happened almost five years ago. That is both incredible and odd, to think of memories in units of decades, or portions of such. Secrets, feeling free and sharing, that is the story’s theme and message.
What is PostSecret? It is a website that has updates every Sunday, where anyone can submit a postcard with a personal secret that they want to share. Many of the images are shared on the website, some on gallery exhibits, and some in books. What I appreciated about the website is how the ‘secrets’ share in the postcard can be many things – it can be as simple as a pet peeve that is odd or common. Some of the secrets, feel like a heavy burden, where its weight is so palpable even though all I can glimpse is the handwriting or the sticker letters on the card. I cannot imagine the horror of carrying a secret of the family, that can unravel relationships if revealed. And some are so relatable – like peeing while taking a shower.
I discovered that my university had an event when the founder is coming for a talk on November 2012. That was a stressful time because it was my last semester of university, and in a few short months I will be vising my country of origin for the first time since immigrating.
I was really excited. I asked for my boyfriend and my brother to come with me but neither seem interested. I struggled with explaining to them what this event was about, why I was interested in it, and why I wanted to go so badly.
So I attended the event alone – both excited and very nervous, maybe especially of the crowd. I really do not know much what to expect. And much like going to a concert or the movies, it was not usual to go to events like these alone. All I knew at the time are four things, that I will learn how PostSecret started, he will share some postcards that are banned from the books, there will be an opportunity to make a live ‘confession’ in front of the audience, and there will be a book signing afterwards.
I sat in my seat, wriggled out of my winter coat and listened with close attention to the introduction. Frank started a weird project where he gave blank postcards with a stamp and his address at the back and gave it to strangers, encouraging them to write their innermost secrets. So many postcards came, they started being shared online and it resulted to this raw and open way to share these human experiences, while acknowledging human flaws and vulnerability.
I was fascinated and at the same time still anxious in my seat. Frank said that the blog had been heavily involved in suicide prevention as this anonymous revelation seems to help people move on. When the cue for public secrets to be shared live came up, it came to me. I knew what I need to do. I must share, I have to somehow give hope in my own way. Maybe, just maybe I’ll share a little motivation to people that life does get better, that we will survive and come out stronger from those painful things that happen to us.
The secret that I shared was “I’ll be visiting my home country in a few months. I will see again this certain cousin of mine, who had sexually assaulted me and managed to get everyone blame me for it. I felt like THE criminal. This time, when he does something untoward, my boyfriend and I will kick his crazy ass!” It roused out laughter, cheers and applause from the crowd.
At the time, I just felt really lucky that I actually finished my statement, instead of bursting out crying. There were folks who went to the mic before me and afterwards as well. There were a few who did tear up as they were sharing their stories. These are stories and thoughts of death, and struggles, and healing, and battles that are still ongoing. That was a heavy, solemn period of time.
Frank gave responses right after each person shared their story. And this is how he responded to mime. “That was a painful thing to go through and I’m glad you are all right, but what I like most about your speech is how collected you sound, and so strong, surviving through this part of your life. I think we all need to hear that tonight.”
I stayed afterwards for the book signing. I left the Horowitz theater clutching those books in my heart, the biting winter cold refreshing to my face, and feeling seemingly lighter from the inside.
Everyone goes through bad things in life. As much as it feels like the situation is so unique and shameful as a result, many people have gone through the same things. In order to heal, first, we need to acknowledge that it did happen, either we made a mistake or someone else did and we got hurt by it, and just like cutting the heavy ball and chain that has been keeping us from moving on with our lives with peace and optimism, we free ourselves of guilt and shame continue on with our lives.