“Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint Exupery
The Campus Secret was a school version of a unique online project called “Post Secret”, wherein anyone from around the world can send in their secrets via a postcard. Secrets vary from the most common to the weirdest to the deepest and darkest. What makes it gripping is the fact that it can be anyone around the globe, and it then becomes harder to identify the person. Thus, critics say the online project is a therapeutic way of releasing one’s self from several masks a person has been collecting all his/her life.
Campus Secret, likewise, operates by anonymously sending in students’ secrets. This time, however, it is done through drop boxes in each class and is only for students of the University of Washington. Its main advantage, according to Heidi Williams, aside from it being liberating, is that it allows a sense of community with the secrets known to be from people in the school only. It makes students relate with each other in a deeper level.
At first, hearing about the project made me a bit skeptical as I am sure most students did. The mere fact of trying to share my secrets with the school is terrifying. What if they found out it was me? What if I gave away much information in one of my sharing? What if my friends realized I made that confession? Secrets are kept for a number of reasons and they are intended to stay that way. I mean, that is the meaning of “secret” after all, right? Furthermore, it already takes a lot of guts for me to open up with family and friends, let alone with the whole student body. Needless to say, I was doubtful.
The renewed feelings toward the project came gradually. While I find myself searching and carefully picking out the secret that I was going to share, that is “hypothetically” speaking, it became easier with each transcribed secret when I was making the actual writing of the secret in papers. It was like my brain slowly adjusted to the idea of my secrets which was previously under lock and key being out there in the open.
What they say, however, is true. It is actually liberating and sometimes a little exciting. I now find myself joyfully thinking about whether my friends can and will recognize what I wrote. Also, I feel that a heavy burden has been lifted out of me, as what might be expected with the practice of sharing secrets with people.
It was even more liberating when we were presented with sample secrets from the original Post Secret project through PostSecret.com. They really are secrets from both extremes – the most common and the most special ones, such as “I try to leave my car in places where I can watch sunsets” and “When I wrote on your hand I should have written ‘I love you’”. They also are about a variety of topics from family matters to trivial ones. For instance, “No matter how many therapists you send me to, it’s never going to change the fact that you fucked up.” (PostSecret.com)
The wide range of secrets that can be given allows more option for students to be open both with themselves and with their community. What I saw in most of them is the seriousness of the secrets they share. There was also clearly a certain amount of emotion that was given to each confession. By the way people have written it, you can tell they have poured heart and soul into the secrets they are trying to share and let out of their system. This kind of sincerity from the participants made it more meaningful to do and practice as well.
Compared with the Six-Memoir Project, I feel that this project required us more to search our inner selves deeper for things that we sometimes want forgotten. It touches a special spot in our hearts that might have never been reached if the Six-Memoir Project was done. This was more personal in a different level. On the other hand, both projects act as ways of being true to oneself and knowing one’s self better than before. However, I must admit that the previous project is still easier to share and let out to everybody than this project.
The projects that are entitled Lost & Found and Mortified Essay, on the other hand, I believe is the same with this project in the way that it is different from the first one. For the last three projects, we were sharing a bit of ourselves that most probably other people, even our friends, do not know about. With each project, however, we also share more of ourselves with topics going a little deeper and people getting to know us bit by bit. This project is very different from the other two projects and maybe the very first one as well, in terms of the anonymity and curiosity it brings to the table. Because secrets are most sensitive to deal with but are, at the same time, much more rewarding if done properly, the anonymity, I feel, is just right to achieve the success it desires.
The presence of these projects in the course made it even more worthwhile to take. At first, I thought the course will be just a simple English writing class with the goal of teaching students how to format and write an essay. I thought it will be very structured and formal judging from the same nature of the course. English writing classes usually make the students submit too many papers to help them practice their writing skills, because that was and is the main objective of the course, to the point that such papers can become dragging and forced at times. Without a doubt, I was glad when my expectations were proved wrong.
The projects have developed in students a great interest in writing instead of forcing the students into liking the practice. As such, the projects are well-thought and well-made and very fun to do. Sometimes, I did not even feel like the essays I was writing serve as requirements for passing the course. Most of the time, it became a way for me to express and explain myself, be it formal and informal. The only difference now is that the essays have more structure and connectivity than my previous works.
All in all, I feel that the three projects helped us not only to learn how to write essays but also to learn more about ourselves and others. It made us see each other in a new light and connect with each other even more. I am definitely glad to have taken this course. Required or not, I feel that this course is worth taking and experiencing any time. There is one sudden insight, however, that I just want to say. I do hope that, if I do and will experience it again, it is not because I was forced to it but because of the sheer joy of it. I do hope.
McBride, Sonia. “What’s your secret? CHID focus group aims to acquire students’ most private thoughts.” The Daily. University of Washington, 22 January 2008. Web. 11 December 2012.
PostSecret.com, n.d. Web. 11 December 2012.