"The bruises on my knees are from masturbating all weekend."
"Sometimes I hope to be hit by a drunk driver, just to teach my alcoholic father a lesson."
"I wish I had more reasons to get on Facebook than just to play Farmville."
"I want to make a difference in the world."
Those sad, quirky and hopeful messages are just a small sampling of the more than half a million secrets people have sent anonymously to a man named Frank Warren, who began a project in 2004 called PostSecret.
It was a little over five years ago when Warren, often called "the most trusted stranger in America," had an idea for an art-meets-psychology experiment, which lead him to print off 3,000 postcards that had simple, yet specific, instructions:
"You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything -- as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before."
Warren put the postcards in various places like art galleries, inside the pages of library books and at subway stations around Maryland and Washington, D.C.. The result has been nothing short of extraordinary. He has received enough secrets to spawn art exhibits, various documentary-like videos, a Website, Facebook and Twitter pages, five books and now a national university tour, which visits USF on Feb. 23.
The secrets are sent to Warren on everything from artfully decorated postcards to wedding invitations, parking tickets and old photos. Secrets have been written in various languages like Portuguese and even in Braille. I came across one the other day which was a white postcard that had a pair of Victoria Secret thong underwear taped to it. It read "I am a straight guy who enjoys wearing panties. I wore these at a PostSecret event."
In his first book, PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives, Dr. Anne C. Fisher, clinical psychologist and art gallery owner, writes the forward and states that PostSecret is a type of psychotherapy inviting people to, "express what is deepest inside and not have it be the end of the world." Fisher goes on to say, "Frank has tapped into the universal stuff of being human -- the collective, often unconscious level of existence that defies age, culture, gender, economics and so on ... from this universal level comes direct access to healing and personal transformation."
Frank's project also shows that truth and real life experiences are often more entertaining than anything fiction can produce.
I have had Warren's first book on my coffee table for about four years and every few months I cannot help picking it up and getting lost in the secrets. Wondering about the people who wrote them and where they are now, laughing at the ridiculous and catching my breath when I find secrets I share with the postcard senders.
It is amazing to me how just a few words on a postcard can affect the people who read them on so many different emotional levels.
In a talk Warren gave recently he said, "the last thing I learned putting this book together was all of us have a secret that would break your heart if you just knew what it was."
Warren's USF appearance will include postcards that were banned from his books by the publisher, the inspiring stories behind some of the postcards and an opportunity for audience members to share secrets live. The event is open to the public, tickets go on sale Feb. 9 and the event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in USF's Grand Ballroom.
The video below provides more info.