In March 2018, I launched a simple Google Form for people to share their stories, secrets, or fears anonymously. We all want our stories told and heard. I firmly believed that having an outlet to tell those untold stories and having them heard can be a tool for collectively healing and for opening many doors to better communication.
It takes a lot of courage to defy everything we’ve been taught – to never let your guard down, to think that we are not worthy of love because we’re not perfect, to believe that there is no place in this world for heavy secrets – yet to my surprise, I’ve gotten an overwhelming number of responses the minute I posted the form on my Instagram. I’ve read every single one of them and posted them on my account. To all the submitters, thank you again to the brave souls who shared such intimate thoughts. I hear you. I see you. Thank you for doing this with me.
Here are just a few of the submissions.
By a 20-year-old person who finds home in Malaysia:
“I’m what anybody would consider a high-achiever. Top grades, actively participates in outside activities, church-going, multi-talented from a supportive family with supportive friends. And yet I am fragile – even with so many people looking up to me, all it takes is for someone to be better at the smallest thing or do something I want to do and I start to doubt myself; it doesn’t last long, but it happens often. Despite all the achievements, the person I am who can list out things she’s done to be proud of, why is it so hard to be happy with who I am, what I’ve done, what I can do, what I have yet to accomplish simply because it’s not time yet – why does doubt hit so often when I have more things to be happy about than sad?”
By someone completely anonymous:
“I can’t feel anything most of the time, not happiness, not sadness. Nothing except anger, hurt and guilt. It feels like no one cares even though I know that no matter how close they are to me and how much they actually care they can’t compensate for the lack of security I feel. I still get so hurt when they are not able to, especially if they said they would be there for me and protect me from everything. Logically I know it’s not true but it still hurts.”
By a 17-year-old someone who finds home in Malaysia:
“Saying goodbye and letting go are both very difficult for me. How is it possible for a person to actually completely let go? Whenever I see someone whom I’ve created memories with, all I can think of is everything that we’ve been through and done together, no matter how minor of a matter it was. I’ve never experienced anything like what I experienced with him. It had been awhile since I’ve last felt genuinely happy. I miss him so much and I can’t seem to picture myself with anyone else other than him or him with another girl. He has told me before that he wants the best for me and thinks that there are people who can treat me better than he did but little does he know that he’s the only one who’s made me feel so comfortable and made me feel like I was home. I feel happy when I’m with him and I thank god that I had the opportunity of even meeting him. It’s been almost a year since we’ve called it quits, but he’s still stuck in my head with this little voice echoing “Does he still care about me?”, over and over again. All I can honestly think of is him, heck I even dream of him. There’s so much that I want him to know but it doesn’t seem like he will because (even if I had the chance) I blank out the moment I see him and it honestly just sucks so much.”
By someone who finds home in Boston, the U.S.:
“I want to be loved. I want to be loved honestly. I want to be loved whole heartedly. I want someone to want to get to know me. To ask me how my day was and actually hold an ear open for the answer. I want someone to be interested in learning my favorite color. Not in a 20 Questions type of way. I want them to ask me why it’s my favorite color, what shade I prefer, I want someone to be curious. I take the people I bring into my life very seriously. I want someone to care for me the way I do others. If I disappeared into the jungle today I wouldn’t have a search party of friends out there. I have old friends but their love isn’t genuine. Not one person outside of my family to really care if I came home. But strangely that doesn’t bother me. I don’t need a dozen friends. I don’t want them. I just want one. One person to feel for me the way I would them. I’d listen for hours if you gave me your time. I’d sit with you until sunrise if you wanted to open your mind to me. Tell me about your day dreams. Tell me about your birthday rituals. Tell me your conspiracies, your feelings, your secrets. Do you believe in religion? Do you prefer your drinks with or without ice? Imagine a world with me. Would you rather write a book or make a movie ? What would you do with a million dollars? If you could live the world in black and white would you? Would you travel back in time or into the past? If you could spend the day with anybody, who would it be? I’ll remember it all. I’ll hold it. I’ll be there. I’ll watch you cry. I’ll laugh with you. I’ll sit and stare at wet paint if you needed the company . When I get to know someone I want to know them. I care with all of my heart. I want to love someone who will let me love them, all of them. We don’t have to be IN love. I just want to be somebody’s person.”
By an 18-year-old person who finds home in Malaysia:
“For the past week or so, I’ve been having thoughts of this one person in my head. I didn’t know what to make of it. They were taking so much space in my mind lately, for no apparent reason. I was confused at first. Last Wednesday, I had trouble sleeping. I was up til 4am, tossing and turning before I decided to write in my diary to help clear things out. That’s when I decided to send that person a text, starting with “I’m sorry. I know it’s an insanely weird and very inappropriate time to be texting you,” followed by explaining that I’ve been thinking about them + telling them some other things I’d been meaning to say. I switched off my phone and slept soundly after. Next morning I’d completely forgotten about it, and it was only on my commute later on that I was able to go through my phone. This is where it gets insane: they said that they coincidentally had a dream about me last night. That same night. Despite not knowing of my text until much later after waking up. Then they also sent me a link to a song titled with my name. I was smiling like an idiot for the rest of my commute. And I’ve been listening to songs with my name as their titles everyday since. How crazy is that? We’d both been on each other’s minds so strongly, so powerfully, so genuinely, that it manifested into something real. The thought of it still baffles me. I always knew we had somewhat of a special connection. I still think about it with a big grin on my face.”
By an 18-year-old person who finds home in Cape Town, South Africa:
“As a woman of colour, I notice that some other women of colour don’t enjoy their natural hair. I know I don’t and I haven’t accepted it even at this age. I’ve been taught that it’s undesirable and dirty and it’s what I think everytime I see my natural hair or any afro hairstyle. It’s not something I’m proud of as a black woman. I get asked, “Why use fake hair?” Or “Who’s hair did you steal this time?” Whenever I use weaves or wigs to make myself prettier to feel good about my outward appearance. I think to myself, no one makes fun of the white kids at school who decide on adopting an African hairstyle or look down on them for even having a different hairstyle, for them it’s encouraged even. But for a black woman or anyone who isn’t white that does this we’re trying too hard or why are we so ashamed of who we are? I see jokes being made on our type of hair and it hurts so much. And to see a culture that rightfully belongs to its people only be given praise when its a fashion statement to a white woman that doesn’t want the history associated with it. I don’t know what’s undesirable about kinky hair other than the fact it’s not silky smooth or it flows in the wind and some bullshit like that. But as a black girl who lives in a society where my dark skin is fetishized and my culture misappropriated it’s really hard to find and have my own identity.”
Content warning: Self-harm
By a 17-year-old person who finds home in Denmark:
“I am not very open to other people. I often keep my thoughts to myself and therefore, people around me don’t know me that well. I know that it’s not a very good thing, but I don’t feel comfortable with sharing personal stuff. So everyone around me think that I am the happiest girl alive and that I’m generally good. But that’s not quite true. I don’t feel good all the time, and I’m not that happy. I find it very hard to deal with my own thoughts, they are so confusing and irritating. Last year I cut myself, not anything big or dangerous, but I still did it. And I feel so embarrassed about it. So, so embarrassed. But even though I feel so embarrassed, I still ended up doing it again. And aging… I haven’t told or shown anyone, I can’t do that. But I think I need some help, I need someone to talk to. I often cry myself to sleep and I’m suddenly very unmotivated. Stuff I loved to do now just seem unimportant. I’m always tired and don’t have any energy. I either eat a lot (like very much) at the same time or nothing at all. I just feel like I can’t control my life at all. But I feel embarrassed about all of this. I feel like, I’m not allowed to feel bad, because I have a good life. I have a great family and some sweets friends. I get good grades and live in a small but good house. So I just feel so selfish, when I feel bad about myself. Like I only care about myself. Because there is so many people out there that have it way worse than me… I think that’s a part of why, I don’t share anything personal to anyone. I just don’t know, what to do. I can’t keep on living like this. And I don’t want to live like this. I’m sorry about all of this mess, it’s just so so difficult to explain, especially in English. I hope you all take care of yourself, because that’s important. I will try to do it too, even though it’s difficult. Thanks for listening!”
Content warning: Physical abuse, domestic violence
By a 17-year-old person:
“there is someone in my family that is really abusive and i just need to let this out so one time she was slapping me repetitively across the face and i just put my hands over my face so it wouldn’t hurt as much and i closed my eyes and she just wouldn’t stop and kept on shouting at me to open my eyes and put my hands down and even after she wouldn’t stop and like i cant even remember how it ended i’m not even sure if i passed out or not and i don’t even know if it happened more than once or not and that is how fucked up my memory is.”
Content warning: Depression
By an 18-year-old person who finds home in Malaysia:
“Depression is tough to navigate through, from all perspectives of it. Over the past year or so, I’ve become more intimately exposed to it, not as someone who suffers from it but as someone who cares for someone who does. It’s hard in ways that are different. In those few hesitant seconds between my “Can I give you a hug?” and your “Yeah ok,” I instantly regret letting those words leave me as I realise it would have taken all your energy to let alone just open your door a jar. Your initial hesitation is obvious and it reeks of pain and discomfort. I’m sorry for being insensitive, I think to myself as I rub your back twice. I hear a quiet sigh of relief from another mouth that isn’t ours, just behind us. Your mother watches our exchange with sadness and ease at the same time. This moment is painful and quick. It lasts a few seconds before your door closes again and she and I look at each other without much to say. There isn’t much to turn to in this time. Not much to do or to say. But I’m here. We are here and present. Even when it’s dark out, you are still deserving of the light. You always are.”
It is so fascinating to realize that I can’t guess any one of these people are, though it is highly probable that I know them since most of my followers are my friends. It was a reminder to constantly challenge myself to never assume I understand people 100%, to take the time to truly discover others’ experiences and lives, and to always work on my empathy skills.