An Evening with Frank Warren

Frank Warren, the guy behind PostSecret, visited Ann Arbor on Friday. He travels and gives talks on PostSecret, and having followed that blog for over two years now, I thought I would go and listen to him speak.

This is the first time I've been to any sort of ticketed event. I've never been to concerts (except free ones), or improv theaters (at least not by myself).

If people are not familiar with PostSecret, it's an online social art project. People from all over the world send postcards to Frank. Sometimes the postcards are hand made, other times they're bought, but they share one feature: the sender has written a secret on the postcard. Frank then chooses 20 or so each week (he gets hundreds) to put on the blog, as well as some email responses people have had.

For his talks, he spends some time talking about the origins of the project, then sharing some secrets which were never posted or published in his books, and talks more about the appeal of human connection. At the end, people from the audience are encouraged to share their secrets on the spot.

Personally, I thought the two hours spent was well spent, although the event overall could be better. Although I applaud Frank from coming up with the idea, when people read PostSecret it's really for what people have poured their heart out on. The catharsis is from reading the secrets, and knowing that other people have the same thoughts, feelings, and fears that you do. Knowing that, I wish Frank would have allotted more time for the audience to contribute, to build the conversation in the moment, as opposed to talking about how PostSecret came to be. He's not a bad speaker - he has done this hundreds of times before, and gets the audience to laugh when he wants them to - but it's also missing the heart of why his project is so successful.

Nothing that Frank said had much affect on me. I was more affected by a secret that someone in the audience shared, which made me feel warm and euphoric, as though I had been drinking. It was a girl, who told the story of answering the phone one day and talking to the stranger on the other end for hours. At the end, as they were about to hang up, the stranger told her, "thankyou for talking to me. I was going to kill myself before I dialed a random number..." While telling the story, the girl's voice cracked and started sobbing, no doubt reliving the powerful effect that experience had on her. As Frank pointed out, people are just looking for someone to listen, to show that they care.

Since I haven't had a complete post on PostSecret before, I thought I would also share some of the secrets which resonated with me from the blog. My old dorm did do a similar event, and you can read some of what my (really) immediate neighbors wrote. These are from the official site:
  • "I want to tell you that i love you, but I'm afraid of the silence that might follow."
  • "I am afraid that the person I would love and myself will never meet, since we would both be too introverted to introduce ourselves."
  • "Today I realized I could no longer remember what you were like when you still loved me."
  • "I am a virgin. I've had three girls offer me free, easy, no-commitment sex. But I turned them all down, because I'm in love with a beautiful girl who just wants to be friends."
These next two were displayed in the same post. I thought it showed something about humans and love.
  • "I lost my virginity last night to a boy who doesn't love me... And all I care about is how I'm going to have to lie to people when they ask me if I'm still a virgin."
  • "You thought you lost your /virginity/ that night. I never had the heart to tell you... /It was only my hand/."
This one I thought a little strange, because it implied that love doesn't require respect:
  • "I love my wife, but I don't respect her, because she's not very smart."
Some more:
  • "Whenever a stranger stands by me, or passes, I wonder what's on their mind and when they walk away, I secretly miss them."
  • "Everywhere I look people have found someone to share their lives with. I don't think anyone is looking for me."
I do this too, and more than just near Valentine's:
  • "Every Valentine's Day, I go to Papyrus to rip off their card ideas."
And even more:
  • "I didn't take your virginity because I felt it was going to end and I love you so much I wanted it to be special for you."
  • "If I could go back in time, I'd go back to all the times we almost kissed... and I'd kiss you."
  • "I have pretended to be happy for so long. I don't know if I'm still pretending."
  • "I love you and I know you are going to hurt me. I resent that you will hurt me, but I don't know what to do."
  • "The best decision I ever made was letting you love me."
And my personal favorite:
  • "We accept the love we think we deserve."