Sunday, October 07, 2007


PostSecret gets to me sometimes. Ok, most of the time. But this really touched me.

I feel so alone sometimes and i'm not sure i do a good job of showing it or asking for help. I think everyone that submits to PostSecret is doing something courageous.

From Knowing someone cares

DSU student posted phone number online; got calls
By Jill Callison

MADISON - It can be a lonely feeling when the phone doesn't ring.

And even though, yes, you could pick up the phone and call someone, sometimes you just need someone else to reach out first.

Ryan Paulson knows that feeling. Even though he's busy with classes at Dakota State University and a part-time job at Daktronics in Brookings, even though his parents only live a few miles away in Colman, even though he has - as of Saturday - a fiancé by the name of Cassie Moeller, sometimes he would look at his cell phone lifeline and just wish it would ring more often.

That's why a postcard posted Sept. 23 on resonated deep within Paulson.

It said, "I bought the coolest phone on the planet - but it still only rings as often as my old phone did."

PostSecret is a Web site that bills itself as an art project. People are invited to send in homemade postcards that reveal a secret they've never shared before.

A man named Frank Warren started the site in 2005. About 20 postcards are put on the Web site each Sunday, and Warren's fourth book of postcards will be released next week.

Earlier this year he began accepting reader comments on the week's postcards.

Paulson's response was put online the same day the postcard appeared.

Paulson wrote, "I feel the same way. I often wonder why I even have a phone because I rarely receive calls."

Then he offered a metaphorical ear.

"If there was a way we could contact each other, that would be cool. My phone number is 605-212-7787."

A few hours later, his phone rang. It was Warren, checking to see if Paulson had submitted a real phone number and truly was willing to talk with a stranger.

Paulson said yes, and his response was on line by 7:30 p.m.

Then his cell phone started ringing.

"Within five, 10 minutes of putting it up, I'd already had a couple phone calls," Paulson says. "I was like, OK, a few people will call and maybe the one person who put it up there."

Little did he know.

Within the first couple of days, Paulson received 250 calls, so many that his voicemail told countless other callers that it could accept no more messages.

He has talked to people in almost every state, along with calls from Colombia, Scotland, England and Australia. He's talked with soldiers stationed in Iraq.

Paulson spoke for more than two hours with cousins conducting a conference call from North Carolina and Georgia. He spoke to a 45-year-old nontraditional student who shares his interest in art. He talked with a woman who had just put her children to bed.

And he learned he's not the only one out there who sometimes just wants to feel like someone out there cares.

Paulson, unknowingly, tapped into fears that many of us share: that in a busy, crammed-full life, no one remembers us; that our answering machines never flash because we simply don't matter to anyone; that in an era when communication with others is easier than ever before, we are communicating less and less.

Sensing that, Paulson took as many phone calls as he could, juggling them between his classes and his job. He also has tried to return the messages left on his phone.

Even though the original postcard and his response left the PostSecret Web site on Sunday, the calls keep coming.

While a few people warned him against what he was doing, and a few others just called to see if it was a truly private number or just a gimmick, most people just want to talk.

"The vast majority of people I talked to felt the same way: 'I know exactly how you feel, and I'm really supportive you sent in your comment because it gives me and the original sender a feeling that there's somebody out there,' " Paulson says.

Few of his friends know about his response to PostSecret, he says. He doesn't mind that.

"I don't want to talk to my friends and have them be like, 'Hey, why would yo do that?' and answering all these questions and stuff."

Paulson hasn't heard from the one person he really wants to talk to, the man or woman who wrote, "I bought the coolest phone on the planet - but it still only rings as often as my old phone did."

At least, no one he talked to identified themselves as that person.

"It's very possible they could have called and not said that was who they were," he says. "In a way I can understand them not wanting to disclose who they are further, but I think it would have been really cool to talk to the person who wrote it in the first place."

Paulson does hope that someday he will talk to that person. He wants them to know how that postcard spoke to so many people.

He thinks it has changed and affirmed the lives of total strangers.

"I wasn't thinking of trying to change all these people's lives when I put that up there," he says. "I was just trying to say, 'Hey, I feel just like you do.' "


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