A Lifetime of Secrets: a touching sort of biography

By Annie Lewine

Every Sunday for the past few years, I’ve looked forward to the new secrets posted on Frank Warren’s blog, PostSecret.A Lifetime of Secrets, his fourth compilation of secrets he’s received, was released Tuesday.

This compilation has a biographical theme. The book begins with secrets from ten year-olds and high-schoolers. It ends with postcards from people at the end of life, with secrets such as “I am afraid there are no secrets left,” and the very last in the book, “it all passed so quickly.”

To me, the beauty of PostSecret is that there is no “type” of secret that is chosen.

Secrets chosen for the website don’t have to be profound-I remember one on the blog that read, “I still pee in the shower.” The postcards chosen for the site and for the books are creative in design and often express sentiments with which many may feel a connection.

In A Lifetime of Secrets, Frank Warren attempts to cover emotions felt over the range of a lifetime (hence the title).

Some secrets talk about teenage high-school angst, such as the secret saying, “I hate knowing I’m going to look back at my high school years and say, ‘I missed out,'” or “I wasted my childhood trying to be grown-up.Now I’m a teenager and it SUCKS.”

Later in the book, several of the secrets relate to coming out and being rejected for being gay.

“I’m scared to death my son will grow up to realize I’m gay and won’t love me anymore,” one reads.

Others are attempts to come out to parents, “Mom-I hope you remember buying these postcards. I don’t know any other way to tell you that I’m a lesbian.I hope you see this.”

Even more secrets relate to suicide. Warren has publicly supported and worked with Hope Line, a 24-hour phone bank which offers support to people who are suicidal.

In the past, the website-a stark black background with modest white print showing the secrets with no commentary-featured a picture of a young woman who had found help in Hope Line, and expressed gratitude to it and to Warren.

Other secrets express similar gratitude: “I’m glad I didn’t kill myself and hurt my children.” Less explicit: “Every day I thank myself for giving myself another chance.”

Not all the secrets are that deep or intensely personal. Some are lighthearted, such as those of childhood misperceptions about overhead projectors being x-ray machines or secret desires to be a spy.

The beauty of PostSecret is its variety. In the same book or on the same website, you can read about someone’s most embarrassing moment or their most defining one, their brightest moment or their darkest.