By Devin Ruiz, 16, Ramona Convent (Alhambra)
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Devin says to experience the website yourself, visit www.postsecret.

Last year while searching through Google Images for flower pictures to set as my MySpace background, I saw one that caught my eye. It seemed to be just a regular rose pasted onto a newspaper, but as I clicked to view larger, written across the rose was, “I thought I was in love with him.” When I think of love and roses what comes to mind is romance, but this image showed the reality, that not all love is like a fairytale.

I wanted to know where this image came from so I clicked the link and was directed to a blog with more pictures. I scrolled down the 20 or so images, each one a picture with messages about topics like rape, insecurity, religion and fear of what the future holds. This blog was called PostSecret. I read on the blog that the pictures were postcards that held secrets sent in by anonymous people. Knowing that these were people’s secrets made me want to read more and more. Photobucket, Flickr, Yahoo and Google, I searched them all. I spent hours that first night reading them. I even neglected my six-page English paper to look for more postcards. At 11 p.m. I couldn’t find any more, so I thought, “OK, I guess I should write for English now.”

Their private thoughts felt like mine, too

After that I started checking the blog every Sunday when it’s updated. There were postcards in which people came clean about being beaten, being made fun of or falling in love. One person even found Hitler sexy, but swore she wasn’t a bigot.

When Devin saw the rainbow image above on the PostSecret website, it reminded her of her boyfriend, Josh.
Images courtesy of PostSecret

After several months I wasn’t just being nosey reading other people’s secrets, I felt like I could relate. The postcards put how I felt into words, like when people admitted their insecurities and crushes. There was one about someone obsessively cleaning their ears, and I thought, “Hey, me too, I clean mine twice a day.” One postcard was a black and white image of two young girls sitting side by side and smiling at one another. In a silver pen it said, “the best secrets I ever kept … were hers.” It reminded me so much of my best friend, Gaby, that I immediately sent it to her.
When I saw one that I really liked or related to, I would drag the image into my photo library, or set the image as my desktop background. My iPhoto became packed with PostSecret images, and my desktop background would change at least a few times a week, or even every day. I was totally obsessed.

I came across one PostSecret, colored in a messy rainbow with a block of white and the sentence, “I don’t know if it will last but for now, he makes me feel like I can do anything I ever dreamed.” This PostSecret said it all. I had been with my boyfriend Josh for a year and four months, and he made me feel better than most people could. When I was with him, I could be myself, however weird I was, and he liked it. He pushed me to get better grades and try things I was afraid to do before, like run for class council.

Then that spring I found a PostSecret that really hit home. It was a picture of what I interpreted to be a father and a young daughter, holding hands, with black bars across their eyes to conceal their identities. In small red letters at the corner of the postcard were the words, “I forgive him, and most importantly I forgive myself.” It made me think about the problems I had been having with my dad. I never thought I wouldn’t be speaking to him.

My problems with my dad had begun at the end of my freshman year, when I received my report card. I had two Cs—in Spanish and math—and a “needs improvement” in English because I talked a lot. My dad got really mad and pulled me out of my school, Ramona Convent, without telling my mom. He didn’t have the right to do this because my parents have joint custody of me. I told my mom and she was angrier than I was. She filed court papers asking that I stay at Ramona, and they went to court at the end of that summer. The judge ruled that I could stay at Ramona. I sensed my dad and stepmom felt like I had betrayed them.

After that, my stepmom stopped talking to me, and living at my dad’s house was almost unbearable. When I came home from school, I went straight to my room. I did my homework and got more sleep than I ever had before. I didn’t even have my cell phone because my dad took it away on Tuesdays when I got there, not giving it back until Friday mornings, when I left to spend the weekend at my mom’s house. He said that I talked too much and it affected my grades.

Every morning when my dad would drive me to the bus stop we would fight. He would tell me to apologize to my stepmom. I would cry and tell him that it was her decision not to talk to me and that I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. Then one night we had another fight and he told me to have my mom pick me up from his house because he wasn’t taking me to school anymore. I got as many of my belongings as I could and left in tears, knowing that I wouldn’t be back.

I blamed myself for the problems with my dad

After leaving his house everything seemed to remind me of being there—seeing fathers and daughters and the father-daughter dinner dance at my school. I would become sad and blame myself—for not trying harder in school and for fighting with my dad, thinking I should have gone to whatever school he wanted me to. I was even madder at myself for not just sucking it up and apologizing to my stepmom.

Above is the rose image that Devin discovered online that got her obsessed with PostSecret.

At the same time, I knew that blaming myself wasn’t right. I had tried to explain my side of the story, but he wouldn’t listen. He should have wanted the best for me and kept me in Ramona. He should have talked to my stepmom about apologizing to me. I tried to be nice to my stepmom. Why was I the one who had to make the first move, why couldn’t she do it?

But then I came across that PostSecret and it showed me that my dad and I were both the cause of these problems, and that I shouldn’t dwell on who’s to blame, but forgive—forgive my dad and forgive myself. That PostSecret said it better than anyone I knew could. My friends, my mom and my grandma had been telling me it wasn’t my fault. But seeing it on the postcard, and knowing that someone else had problems with a father figure in their life and was able to forgive, showed me it was possible.

After finding the postcard, I wasn’t as stressed and could focus on my homework again. I even considered getting back in touch with my dad, who I hadn’t talked to in eight months. But I was afraid that he would still be angry with me. Would he yell at me?

I missed my brothers so one day I decided to call my dad’s house. No one answered so I left a voicemail. A half hour later my phone rang and across the screen flashed “Dad’s House.” I was too scared to answer. My heart was beating fast as I waited for the ringer to stop. All these thoughts ran through my mind. “Oh my god he just called. Do I call back? Or is he going to call back?” Then I looked at the screen and saw the symbol indicating I had a voicemail. When I listened to it, my mouth hung open. It wasn’t my dad who called, it was my STEPMOM!! In her message she asked if everything was all right. I was so nervous to call back, but I did five minutes later. What I had been afraid of—that they would yell at me—didn’t come true. There were pauses, prolonged “uhmmmsss” and nervous laughs. She told me how my brothers’ basketball and baseball teams had won their championships. I told her about going to prom with Josh, and my plans for the summer. After an hour my mom told me I should go to sleep, so we hung up. I let out a sigh of relief. I was proud of myself because by talking to her, I had started the healing process.

Since then I have talked to them a few more times. Last month I visited my dad’s house for the first time since I had moved out. Seeing my brothers, and how they had grown, made me cry, but I felt like I had never left. When I saw my dad, he walked over to me and gave me one of the huge hugs he used to give me, the ones that I would always complain were too tight. Standing there hugging him, both of us teary eyed, made me happy that I had forgiven him, and I thought that this was how I wanted things to be.

PostSecret helped me reconnect with my dad and build a relationship with him again. It also made me feel not so alone because I knew someone else had experienced problems like mine. All this thanks to one man.

According to the PostSecret book (there are three books of postcards in addition to the website), a man named Frank Warren wanted to start a community art project, so in November 2004 he printed out 3,000 postcards that were blank on one side, and on the other side gave instructions:

“Steps: Take a postcard, or two.
Tell your secret anonymously.
Stamp and mail the postcard.
Tips: Be Brief—the fewer words the better.
Be legible—use big, clear and bold lettering.
Be creative—let the postcard be your canvas.”

The power of sharing

The PostSecret book said that Warren gave away these postcards at subway stations, left them in art galleries and even placed them in the pages of books at local libraries. Soon after handing these postcards out, they arrived in his mailbox. In a video posted recently on the website, he said that what amazed him was the soulful artwork on the postcards, the thousands of secrets sent to him and the heroism in the secrets sent by everyday people. After he ran out of the 3,000 he printed, handmade postcards started arriving and he continues to get 100 to 200 postcards a day. He started the website in January 2005. Later that year, the band The All-American Rejects asked Warren if they could use the PostSecrets in the video for their single “Dirty Little Secret.” They offered him $1,000, but Warren suggested a $2,000 donation to the Suicide Helpline. They donated the money and Warren gave them 100 postcards to use in their video.

Going to the PostSecret site has help me realize that everyone has secrets, no matter how strange, hilarious, sad, touching or even shocking. But most people keep their secrets hidden, their own “dirty little secret.” I think it’s because people are afraid of how others will react. But they shouldn’t be afraid because secrets are a part of being human. Looking at these postcards made me unashamed that I had secrets, too. It made me more open to admitting them to myself. It also showed me that sharing my problems could help others, just like that person sharing her secret helped me. I hope that writing this article can help others who are having problems with people they care about. Every Sunday as I read through the new postcards, I think about how grateful I am for the PostSecret website.