A few weeks ago, I received a card in my GW mail box labeled “Andover PostSecret.” At the time, I completely ignored it. In fact—as I’m embarrassed to admit—I threw my gum out in it. I wasn’t skeptical about the site, and I wasn’t being critical of the idea—I was simply uninterested. I only felt an urge to visit Andover PostSecret after hearing that its creators had temporarily suspended it. The controversy drew me in, but, as I explored the site a little, I realized that the site had other deeply compelling aspects as well.
The first thing I noticed was the striking aesthetic quality of the posts: many of the secrets are written on beautifully designed cards, with illustrations and magazine clippings further adding to their visual impact. The diversity on the website is immense. Some of the secrets are light and witty, but most are raw and painful read. I found myself not just sympathizing with the writers, but on several occasions feeling absurdly indignant because some of the secrets could have been mine. These people whom I do not know have stolen my anonymous thunder, but it made me realize how similar we all really are.
We are all here in the same place, enduring, enjoying and existing on one small campus. Yet to be completely honest, I don’t know many of the people I go to school with on a daily basis. It is easy for me to divide the students in this place into the categories ‘us’ and ‘them’—‘us’ being my small group of friends and me, and ‘them’ being the droves of other students I have not, and probably never will, form any kind of relationship with. But knowing that there are other people at this school with whom I share similar experiences makes the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ a little harder to draw.
I also found myself feeling a strange and, frankly, unprecedented compassion for the rest of Andover’s student body. Some of these secrets are harrowing. Some of them I cannot relate to at all. And yet, they are opening my eyes to the reality of my peers’ hardships. Consumed with my own problems and absorbed in my own tiny world, I usually think of the ‘student body’ as all those people who walk too slowly on the paths when I’m trying to get to class. I don’t stop to consider the complexities of their lives; I just want them to move faster so I won’t be late to French for the third time in a row. Maybe Andover PostSecret can change my way of looking at the rest of the student body. Maybe it will help to foster a closeness between the students of Phillips Academy—even those who may never meet each other personally. And even if it can’t achieve these goals, who doesn’t love a little teenage angst?
Leah Shrestinian is a three-year Upper from Andover, MA.