The Secret Lives of AALEAD Youth

By Keo Xiong, MD Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of Keo Xiong, MD Programs Manager

“Sometimes when we think we are keeping a secret, the secret is actually keeping us.”

― Frank Warren

Friendship. Insecurity. Love. Loss. Fear. Expectations.

These are just some of the common threads among the secrets shared anonymously by AALEAD youth for a PostSecret project at school. PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people from all over the world mail in anonymous secrets on postcards to Frank Warren, PostSecret creator. Since the project began, Warren has received over half a million postcard secrets, published 6 compilation books, and posts a new collection of secrets on the project’s website weekly.

As AALEAD youth were introduced to the project, some were hesitant to talk about or share their secrets, even anonymously. One youth remarked that he did not have any secrets to tell. The fact of the matter is, however, that we all have secrets. Our secrets vary in topics and tones, and may be a significant factor in our lives, or not at all. To get youth thinking, I shared a secret I had kept for a long time:

All throughout grade school, I pretended to love eating pizza because everyone else did. Secretly, I hated pizza.

As a first generation Hmong American whose cultural cuisine did not include cheese, I did did not have a taste for it, so, naturally, cheesy pizza was not a food favorite. With the overwhelming presence of pizza as a daily public school lunch option and my peers’ excitement over the many classroom pizza parties throughout my childhood, I spent years pretending to love pizza, somehow associating pizza to an American identity while shunning my own family’s food. Although it seemed silly, that secret brought about a group discussion with youth about cultural appreciation, peer acceptance, and fitting in to society.

As youth began reflecting on their own lives and the secrets they each keep, however big or small, their postcards starting piling up. Through learning about the far reaches of the PostSecret community, seeing the common topics that surface over and over again, and sharing their own secrets within a safe space, youth connected their own lives and lived experiences to their peers and strangers near and far. To quote Warren, “Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world.” By sharing secrets anonymously, youth learned that they shared similar experiences, discovered new things about each other, and cared more about the joys, fears, feelings, and lives of those around them.

Youth secrets ranged from silly to serious and heartbreaking to humorous. Below are a few of the secrets submitted by AALEAD youth.

2016-05-11 10.35.18 2016-05-11 10.35.44 2016-05-11 10.36.21 2016-05-11 10.36.41 2016-05-11 10.36.57 2016-05-11 10.37.12 2016-05-11 10.37.22 2016-05-11 10.37.36 2016-05-11 10.38.21 2016-05-11 10.38.40 2016-05-11 10.38.49 2016-05-11 10.39.39 2016-05-11 10.39.52

What’s your secret?

To read more secrets from the entire PostSecret community, check out PostSecret‘s website, which features a different collection of secrets each Sunday.

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