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A senior spills her secrets

At Duke, you’ll find secrets everywhere you look: in the faces of gargoyles hiding beneath Gothic arches, whispered between students on the bus, buried in the Chapel crypt. 

These days, it seems like every college student is looking for a way to get something off their chest. We practically carry around billboard-sized canvases to print our secrets on, in the form of a Me Too monologue, a Twitter thread, or a Chronicle column. 

What makes these platforms so easy to share on, though, is their relative anonymity.  They allow you to broadcast your hurt online without letting those closest to you know the sh*t that you’re stumbling through in person. 

To be vulnerable costs something. 

Over four years of college I’ve learned that to bear pain alone costs something, too. 

I read this somewhere, I can't remember where: Secrets are the currency of intimacy. How we choose to share them—and who we share them with—are how we form bonds with one another that go deeper than the surface. 

The secrets that have been trusted to me in college have often been a one-sided intimacy—asking for other people’s stories while not ever fully sharing ones of my own. 

I’ve been wondering if by writing a column about secrets, I should be required to tell a few. 

Maybe. Maybe not. But anyone who has read this far deserves some small token, so here goes. 

There are the secrets you wouldn’t know about me just by looking, like that I’m self-conscious about the number of freckles I have, or that my voice gets higher right before I’m about to cry. That I am superstitious about Chinese take-out fortunes I find littered on the ground, or that I am very, very ticklish. That I think more about having children than I do about climate change, or that I can tell a lie with more ease than you’d expect. 

You’ll learn these secrets slowly as you get to know me, assembling them like pieces of a puzzle I’ve scattered around the room for you to find.

But then there are secrets that I keep tightly bound to my chest. I’ve accumulated a whole list of them that, as a senior, I wish I had whispered aloud to the right person when the time came: 

To my freshman year roommate: I’m not as happy as I seem. 

To my sisters: I was wrong. 

To my parents: I’ve thought about giving up. 

To a certain boy: I think I love you.

To a different one: I definitely loved you. 

To my friends: I’m terrified of leaving here without you. 

These silences at times when it mattered start to add up. And, over time, their weight can feel unbearable, marking all of the million little ways we are quiet about our feelings to the people we love. 

I’m here to say: let’s stop this cycle. Let’s learn how to say the quiet thing out loud. 

A friend once stopped me before we walked into his apartment and said: “It’s a mess. I’m not doing great right now.” And he was right: cups and shoes and pizza boxes littered on every surface, trash spilling out of the garbage can. 

But there was something honest about how he said it as he opened the door: This is me. I’m imperfect. Do you still want to be let in? 

He was letting me in on a secret. 

I can only hope for the same kind of honesty in relationships down the line: this is me. These are the parts of me that are hidden, and messed up, and a mess. And can you still love me? 

I’ll tell you another secret: the answer will probably be yes. 

Janie Booth is a Trinity senior who would love to hear all of your secrets, if you’ll let her. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays. 


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