Nariswari Dita Yudianti
For something with no physical form, a secret can carry a lot of weight and do a lot of damage.
Lawyer Arif Abdillah says he has unlocked one of life’s secrets: Don’t let yourself be consumed by your own hidden secrets (and don’t judge others harshly for theirs). To help people unburden themselves, Arif started The Secrets Project, a place where people can share their secrets without sharing their identity.
It has become so popular that Arif spoke about his site and the burden of secrets at the TEDx event held in Jakarta in August.
Arif recently moved to Amsterdam to pursue a master’s law degree, but spent some time just beforehand with MyJakarta to talk about the project — and shared one of his own personal secrets.
You were a speaker at TEDx Jakarta. How did that happen?
I learned about TED earlier this year. I enjoyed watching the speaker videos on their Web site, they’re really inspiring. I thought it would be cool to a speaker but I didn’t really try to find out how to make that happen. Some months later, I heard TEDx Jakarta was looking to give regular people a chance to speak at the event. So I applied to be a TEDxJakarta: YOU speaker and told them about a project I was working on. I got a call back and it was the best six minutes of my life.
What is the project you were working on?
It’s called “The Secrets Project.” I gather people’s secrets — anyone who’s willing to share their secrets with me — and put all of their secrets on my blogs so anyone can read it. I keep their identities anonymous. Sometimes, I meet people who want to share their secret with me even though they know I’ll put their secrets on my blogs. I sit down and just listen without saying anything or judging them at all. Sometimes I don’t even learn their names.
Why do you want to deal with people’s secrets?
I came up with this project because I know what it feels like to have a secret. People tend to withdraw from the world in order to hide their secret, but they end up feeling so lonely. I know the one thing these people need is a sanctuary where they won’t be judged. I know this because it happened to me. I used to think that I was carrying the biggest secrets and worst problems. When I tried to tell people some of my secrets, I realized there were other people who were holding on to secrets too. I became aware that I was not alone and suddenly after I unloaded my secret burden, it disappeared into thin air and I felt better afterwards.
Why do people want to share their secrets with you?
Honestly, I don’t know. Everyone has their own reasons. After talking to people, I understand that people want to tell their secrets but they don’t want to expose everything.
After you hear the secrets, what do you do?
I gather them and published them on my blog in hopes that people who share or read my blog won’t feel lonely anymore. I hope I can make a book about my project in the future.
Does your project really help people with secrets?
Well, some [of the people who shared their secrets with me] e-mailed me to say that they’re happy. They don’t feel alone anymore. And more people have begun to contact me because they want to meet me and share their secrets. As for me, I’m now able to listen without judging people. I now know that I’ve done at least one thing right with my life — I have helped many people trapped in miserable situations because of their secrets.
What’s your day job?
I’m a junior associate lawyer at a litigation law firm in Indonesia. I have worked on a variety of types of cases such as corporate cases, civil litigation, and criminal litigation. But I just quit because I’m leaving Jakarta soon.
Have you ever thought of becoming a detective?
[Laughs] I have never thought of that. I don’t force people to give away their secrets, its not like a detective who does his best to uncover the truth.
People share their secrets with you, who do you share your secrets with?
I think I’m pretty open on my blogs [www.langkahkaki.com and www.arifabdillah.com].
We dare you to share a secret with MyJakarta.
One time I posted a photo of my wrist with a knife on the artery and some drugs in my palm. I wrote “C U T here.” I suppose people could read it as “cut here” or “see you there.” I wasn’t going to commit suicide, I was only depressed because I was in love with someone I shouldn’t have been in love with. And eventually, this is how The Secret Project began.
You said you’re leaving Jakarta soon. Where are you going?
I’ll be leaving for Amsterdam to work on my master’s degree in public international law at the University of Amsterdam.
Do you think you will you miss Jakarta?
I absolutely will! I’ll miss everything about Jakarta: its daily disorganized chaos, all the interesting people here and all my favorite places to hangout with my beloved friends. I love Jakarta as much as I hate it. I was just a man from Pekalongan, a small village in Central Java, then I moved here. I owe this city so much for helping me. Jakarta made it possible to achieve my dreams.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ll be a writer who travels. It’s something I have always dreamed of doing. All this time, I’ve been learning how to write about my life. I want to stay in every country for a bit to see, to listen, and to understand various people. I want explore the world on my own terms.
Arif Abdillah was talking to Nariswari Dita Yudianti
Nariswari Dita Yudianti