PostSecret live event challenges students to share their struggles

Michael Bragg

Founder of PostSecret Frank Warren called himself “the most trusted stranger in America” to a full house at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night as part of PostSecret Live, his multimedia talking tour.

PostSecret started in 2005 when Warren left blank postcards in public spaces with an invitation for strangers to anonymously mail it back to his personal home address, decorated and revealing a secret about themselves.

“It felt as weird as it sounds,” Warren said on stage.

The night’s events began with Warren reading some secrets that were submitted on Appalachian State University’s campus, using the submissions as a springboard to some personal anecdotes about the start of the project.

Warren showed images of postcards that never made it to print and elaborated on the publisher’s reasoning and the importance of those individual pieces to the project as a whole. He also played submitted audio recordings of saved voice mails from loved ones who had passed away.

Throughout the night, themes of suicidal thoughts and childhood abuse were addressed in multiple ways, some of which submitters had used to deal with their personal demons.

“The children most broken by the world become the adults most likely to change it,” Warren said.

A common theme of the discussion was the distinction that there are two kinds of secrets, the secrets that we keep from others, and those that we hide from ourselves. The prevailing message to students was that of the importance of community support for everyone, no matter their private struggle.

“I think I recently realized that I have secrets that I was keeping from myself, and I think that’s probably the thing I’m taking away from this the most – that it’s not just me, other people do that too,” senior public relations major Shady Kimzey said after the talk. “Even when I thought I didn’t have any secrets, I still do sometimes.”

The audience showed public support when at one point in the night, audience members were invited to approach microphones and share their personal secrets. Secrets shared spanned the range of rape stories, love confessions, embarrassing admissions and childhood misconceptions. The purging event had a cathartic effect on audience members, bringing some to tears while encouraging others to cheer during other’s secrets.

“For me, I always really think that sometimes I do things that nobody else does, and recently I’ve been a lot more open with my friends and they’ve been a lot more open with me,” junior social work major Maddy Burns said. “I feel like a lot of people here have the same experience.”

Warren noted at the end of the night that of all the personal struggles that were shared, each one played a key role in forming and transforming the individual who shared it.

“On the other side, you’ll be transformed,” Warren said. “You’ll be closer to the person you’re supposed to be, doing the work only you can do.”

Warren’s closing words included a recount of his personal struggles with abuse, mental illness and homelessness, and left students with a positive message.

“If I could go back in time, if I could go back to the worst parts of my life, where I felt the most alone, the most humiliated, like the biggest failure – if I could avoid each one of those episodes, I wouldn’t,” Warren said. “From where I sit now, looking back on my life, I can see how each one of those struggles brought me to this place, this moment, sharing this story with you now.”

Story: LOVEY COOPER, Senior A&E Reporter