Dirty Little Secret

Secrets. Everyone has them. It’s that one thing that you’re afraid to tell. It’s that one thing that separates you from your family or friends. It’s that one thing that no one can see by just looking at you. It’s that one thing that only you know. Only now, you’re assignment is to post it on the wall at school.

For the past six years Mr. Gatewood has been assigning his Junior Honors English class to confess their secrets.

“I first got idea for the project by hearing about it on the radio. NPR featured a story on PostSecrets.com. It coincidentally happened when we were reading The Scarlet Letter, the story about the affect of keeping secrets hidden. It seemed to be a natural connection with the text,” he said.

The issues of secrets, guilt, and conscience have also been a topic in other books the class reads, such as Macbeth and Yellow Raft in Blue Water.

“These works are all an example of what happens when people bottle up hidden actions, and the negative psychological consequences of that,” Gatewood said.

Many people feel don’t feel like they can share their secrets with someone. So a guy organized PostSecret.com and he collects secrets people send to him and then publishes them on the website anonymously.

“It’s just a bare bones website. He post them online as a way for people more or less to confess and get something off their chest,” Gatewood said. “It’s the same thing with the assignment in class. I collect the secrets anonymously, and the students are checked off that they’ve turned them in. After that point I have no idea who’s secrets are who’s. It keeps that level of anonymity, which makes the assignment interesting and fun.The beauty of it is, there is no right answer. People can take what ever approach they want to with it.”

The students overall seemed enthusiastic when they first heard about their new assignment.

“I was a little surprised and kind of excited. I’ve been reading about it. So it was cool to have the chance to do it our selves,” Mikaela Carson said. “I considered it an opportunity, I didn’t want to squander it.”

For other students it was a difficult task. Many had a hard time thinking of something to confess that no one else already knows.

“To be honest, I think of my life as an open book. I thought to myself, what secret do I have to write? So it took a lot of work to do,” Will Cockriel said.

Some students didn’t even recognize that they had such a deep secret.

“It was hard to think of because to me it’s so obvious, its something I consciously think about every day- so to me it wasn’t a secret. But then finally I realized it’s something I bottle up inside,” Kenzie Weachter said.

Considering it’s anonymous, this assignment allows the students complete freedom to say anything they want.

“When you look at the wall, some are more serious than others. Some seem to be something that has truly been on someones mind for a long time. Some of them have the feel of last minute confessions, or light and fun in nature,” Gatewood said.

Some of the secrets that were posted alarmed students. For Molly Litzler, she was surprised at how prevalent drugs were. Several students openly admitted to smoking weed or wanting to try it. Austin Feathers said he had expected secrets like these.

“But looking at the people in our class…makes me think, who could it be?” he said.

Other secrets just made students crack up. Many of them agreed that they all liked the secret that said, ‘I do naughty things when I’m home alone… Like drink milk straight from the carton!’
“Cause we all know we do that sometimes! It’s nice to finally hear somebody admit it,” Molly said.

Mr. Gatewood believes that this assignment is helpful for two reasons.

“One, for some people it is sort of a cathartic experience. It’s a vehicle for them to get something off their chest that they feel like they can’t tell anybody,” he said. “Secondly, I think it is interesting for other students to see what’s going on in peoples minds and souls. I think that it makes you feel a little bit more relaxed about yourself and realize that there is not just one way of being. That you’re not necessarily strange or odd for having a certain thought, or have done a certain something because you are able to see the range of experiences people have had.”

For being such a simple project, the affects on the students were more complex.

“My secret was one of the things that I didn’t realized bothered me until I put it on paper. It made me come to terms and really think about it. So I in that way, it did really help,” Mikaela Carson said.

There is a wide range of secrets up on the wall. Austin said the secrets people are confessing to are not all acceptable actions we should support, but they are there so we all can have a sense of solitude.

“It put me in my place. Whatever I might be going through, this made me realize, it could be worse,” he said.

While it is helpful, some confessions can also be concerning.

“On occasion you have someone reveal something that is pretty dark or emotional. Your heart goes out to that person and you hope that they are getting the support or help that they need,” Gatewood said.

Molly and Austin are both concerned about the girls who worry about their weight. Molly wishes they could they could get help with it.

“I’m sorry that some people I know feel that way because it is really sad. I wish that they wouldn’t have to keep it a secret,” she said.

Austin recognizes that it can be a really big struggle for people.

“You want to know who they are so you know who to direct your compliments towards,” he said.

As a result of the postings, the students have found themselves more conscious of their peers around them. They now all know each other’s deepest, darkest secrets.

“Since it’s anonymous there is still separation from everyone else, but you know people know,” Weatcher said. “They just don’t know it’s you.”

By Elise Haas

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