Post Secret began as a tiny and unambitious art project. It has since transformed into a successful website, book series, online community and event tour. And surprisingly enough, that transformation went about as smoothly and naturally as the nature of the project itself.
On Wednesday, Oct. 27, over 1,000 people gathered in Rochester Institute of Technology’s Clark Gymnasium to listen to Post Secret founder Frank Warren tell his story of how and why his art project has caused such a stir online and in the literary community. In the simplest terms, the participants of Post Secret mail a postcard or electronically send a secret to Warren, who then posts them on his blog (postsecret.blogspot.com), publishes them in his books and uses them as pieces to discuss on his speaking tours.
Post Secret has become a movement that seeks to uncover the invisible bonds that link each and every person and to make all of its participants aware of those bonds. Unsurprisingly, Warren presented himself as an incredibly caring, understanding and uplifting personality during his talk. The majority of his speech was spent working through a slide show of secrets — some already published, some never published — and commenting on them. He happily told the story of the man who proposed to his girlfriend using a secret on Warren’s blog and showed the comical postcards featuring images of their cat and engagement ring.
As he spoke very personally yet briefly about his unhappy childhood, some of the more serious secrets people have sent flashed behind him, delving the talk into themes of suicide, depression, hopelessness and broken homes.
“My first memory of [my] mom was keeping secrets from her and learning to be deceptive,” Warren said. To illustrate that their dysfunctional relationship has not changed very much even now, he played a voicemail from his mother for everyone to listen to where she explained flatly that she had no interest in reading Warren’s books. He explained that everything he missed out on during his childhood is exactly what motivated him to start Post Secret. Warren also provided sound advice and encouraging words. He announced that he wanted to make a testimonial like the ones made at his childhood church encouraged every audience member to use their secrets to their advantage, regardless of the nature of the secret.
“Struggles are necessary to get where we are,” Warren said. “Become the person who can share your gifts.”
Warren also shared some of the less happy emails he has received over the years. One very angry reader begged him to remove the white postage sticker on many of the secret-containing postcards he receives in the mail because they usually cover part of the message. Warren explained that he likes to keep them there because, although they seem accidental, they must be there for a reason, and they add ambiguity.
The session ended in an emotional open microphone session in which audience members were invited to share any secrets, stories or comments. Secrets resided on the heavier side of things, surrounding heavy guilt, revenge, suicidal thoughts, socio-phobia, divorce and confessional testimonies. Warren spoke to the participants, sending acceptance and encouragement their way.
Warren stayed to sign books and connect to audience members until the extremely long line had completely diminished. Warren’s talk was intensely emotional, but in the best way possible. Audience members who can laugh together, cry together and share intimate parts of themselves with one another experience a unique and powerful sense of bonding and belonging that can be hard to find otherwise.
Kullman is a member of the class of 2014.