Pinky Promise: The Adult’s Guide to Keeping and Telling Secrets

Growing up, there were few secrets to keep from my parents. When they asked how my day had been, the answer was simple and honest. After all, my days were consistently uneventful: school from 8 to 2:30, the occasional after-school hangout in a park or a neighborhood Starbucks, and then coming home and sitting at my desk where, in plain sight, I could be seen fooling around on the Internet under the guise of doing my homework until I was called for dinner.

When college started things changed. I was busier. School started and ended at a different time each day. I started working. I would come home past dinnertime not to a pair of curious parents but a group of rather indifferent roommates who had no interest in my whereabouts.

I was confused by the sheer lack of attention. How come nobody cared what I was doing after dark? Or who I ate dinner with? Sharing of information became an optional, voluntary act, one that 3,000 miles slowly turned into a hassle. Time was hard to find, and in the waiting, important stories got buried under others, to be forever forgotten, never shared.

Of course, stories about school and friends covered only a fraction of the experience I was having in New York City. The classroom was one place for learning, but there was plenty of potential to learn everywhere: Washington Square Park, where some days I would be inspired by a small jazz band, and other days I would be the target of racial slurs; my bed after the lights went out, where for hours I would tightrope walk back and forth between anxiety and sleep; friendships that made me laugh, cry, and rip my hair out; internships that made it clear which industries I would not be stepping foot into ever again.

It may be premature to arrive at this conclusion at my young age, but I feel as though the more we live, the more secrets we have. These secrets are different from the ones we grew up dealing with. These are not the secrets that our parents can tell we are keeping when we sneak into the house past curfew, or the ones our friends beg us to reveal—or not reveal. These are secrets that we know we all have: those things that are too complex or heavy or even messed up to share, but crucial to who we are and what lives we are leading.

What I learned in these past three years were those kinds of secrets—tidbits of strength and wisdom I carried around quietly in my pocket. They were my treasures, stored away not because I wanted to hide them but because they were so intimately mine, so deeply personal that nobody else would understand. When I came through the front door of my California home two months ago, I brought these treasures with me. My parents and my sister have their own too. We will not ask about them the same way we ask each other how our day was, but we will remember that they make each of us who we so irreversibly are. Sometimes, the weight of our treasures will be too great to bear alone, and I can only hope that my arms will grow stronger so I can put them to good use when I am called to help carry another’s.