Book Review: A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren
I have secrets. So do you and everyone else. We keep secrets out of embarrassment, fear of hurting others or importantly hurting ourselves. But a lot of times we keep secrets because we just do not know how to express our feelings – elation, hurt, sadness, love. The liberating effect of letting a secret out is the focus of the community powered and supported PostSecret project.
In 2004 Frank Warren launched a social experiment in community art, inviting strangers to mail him anonymous homemade postcards with their secrets written on them. The only rule is that it has to be a true secret that you have never before shared. Be creative he told the masses. The response he received was overwhelming.
The PostSecret idea is to ask the community to send their deepest secrets anonymously, written on postcards, decorated (usually as a collage) however the sender wants. Of these, Frank, as the editor of the PostSecret project selects the ones that touch him, and posts them on the blog, in a book (four books so far) or on the traveling exhibit. Warren doesn’t select for any particular theme just those which touch – some are happy, some sad; some are humorous, some morbid and some just of desolation. Almost all secrets are personal, many times an incident from the sender’s life, while some are just how they feel towards the world and life. Most times, those that connect the most with readers are the simplest (like “I still love you” or “I am stuck in my marriage”) and the most profound.
Each Sunday the PostSecret blog is updated with all new secrets sent by readers from all over the world. Each week it’s different set of secrets, which make the blogs readers laugh or cry, feel happy or sad and almost always empathize with the sender. PostSecret has become a social phenomenon in such a short time that it is one of the most widely visited blog on the Internet. The popularity of PostSecret can be explained by its therapeutic effect on the reader, the connection they make with the sender and most importantly the realization that others have deep, dark secrets too and hence they are not alone. Over time, the project has gained a cult following of readers of all ages – angst ridden teens, mid-life crisis affected women to the aged who miss their lost loved ones.
Over the course of the project, Frank has released four books containing a selection of the postcards sent to him over the years. The latest book, “A Lifetime of Secrets” is the most different. In A Lifetime of Secrets, Frank says “I’ve selected postcards that show how secrets can reveal a momentary impulse or haunt us for decades and arranged them by age to follow the common journey we all take through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, maturity. Stretched over a full lifespan, the secrets expose the meaningful ways we change over time, and the surprising ways we don’t.”
This fourth PostSecret volume, like the blog, is a collection of postcards. “A Lifetime of Secrets”, however, approaches the secrets a little differently, in that they are arranged chronologically, approximating the stages in one’s life. While the previous books were arranged thematically, this book is literally an attempt to present a progressive story — of life, a lifetime of secrets. Starting from childhood, the book span a child’s fear in the kindergarten, to the teen who wants to spill their love, to the elderly who “Just wants to die happy” The predominant feeling, while reading this book, is like taking a journey through life, and simultaneously going through the changing experiences as we grow older.
I have been following PostSecret since 2005 and have always found it to be thought provoking and on many occasions therapeutic. The connection that I made with many of the PostSecret writers, the feeling of “I feel the same as you” when reading any of the cards is sometimes just overwhelming. When I received this book, I lent it to a cousin who had just gone through a traumatic experience in life. As she read it, she found comfort in reading the secrets and a little peace of mind connecting with the others. I heartily recommend this book to any and everyone, of any age!
While I have not written any secrets myself, if you have a secret, Share it! Let it go, write to the project and I’m sure there will be someone out there who will identify with your secret, or come to the realization that they are not alone nor life as unforgiving as it seems. Liberate yourself and send your own secret to
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