Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Anonymous Project

Letters littered the Quiet Lounge. They were on books, backpacks and a table.

"What in the world?" someone said.
"I think they're from that anonymous person," Meg* said. 

Audrey opened her note. Then Parker, then Ella, then...

The Anonymous Project had begun. I left before anyone noticed I was there, but not before catching some of their smiles.

That wasn't the first time I had executed my plan, nor was it my last. It was, however, the first time my plan had gained recognition.
Since I hadn't yet given the letters to everyone, I made sure to use my anonymous email to make sure to tell everyone that more letters were to come. Then I got back to work.

Letter-writing was a tricky thing. First, it was the physical act of writing it. I made sure to write them in cursive, so that my fellow Loungers couldn't guess my identity. I was much less adroit at cursive, so it took me longer. Then there was the content. Usually, I had to think of precisely what to say as well. I already knew I thought these people were cool, but why? The process usually took between twenty and thirty minutes.

 At first, I was only going to write letters to the Quiet Loungers who really needed it: those who were struggling, those who had low self-esteem. In particular, the letters were meant to help one Quiet Lounger in need.  There were times in my life when I would have loved something like that, just a sign that someone cared when no one else did. I wanted to make sure that no one else felt the way that I did in those dark days, wanted them to know how much that I cared about them all. They had all been so wonderful to me, so opening, that I wanted to give back in some way. I knew that I wouldn't be able to fix their problems entirely, but I just wanted them to feel better for one moment. I hadn't planned to write letters to everyone.
Then I started to see everyone's reaction, the smile on their faces. I started getting a response: hearing people talk about me (even on Facebook), responding to those emails. So then I figured,  "Why not?" I wanted to spread brightness to as many people as I could. So I got to working.

The whole dropping off of the letters wasn't easy, either. I had to make sure I got the right backpack and that no one was seeing what I was doing, which wasn't easy with everyone else around. Usually, I made it look like I was doing something else around those areas. Then I would casually drop them off and wait for the results.

Making myself anonymous made it so much more worthwhile. I didn't want to cheapen the project by revealing my identity, because I wanted to make it about them and not me. I also had went deep into myself to start writing those letters and I made myself incredibly vulnerable. Being discovered wouldn't be the end of the world, but it wasn't something that I wanted. 

Word spread. Dropping off the letters became harder and harder to do and it felt like the areas were being watched for clues of my identity.

Worse yet, some people were catching on to my identity. I knew it was inevitable, given I was doing it so often. Someone would catch me.

It didn't help that that letter showed so much of my personality and voice that it became obvious to people intelligent enough to read it. I'm also really bad at keeping a poker face as well.

All of those factors together made my identity fairly well known. Thankfully, most people played it cool, but some people went up to me afterwards thanking me. Those moments were awkward and gushy, but it made me feel good. Samantha even said she was inspired to do something like this, although I don't know if she has actually started to do that. 

This has led to positive, rather than negative things, of course. On the bus, one boy, Luke, was particularly obnoxious about his ecstasy over discovering my identity. The bus driver was so touched that she bought me a Vera Bradley pen and stationary, telling me, "Keep writing. We need more people like you." The people who discovered my identity have treated me differently: it's been a quiet difference, but they definitely treat me with a sort of reverence that they hadn't paid me before. I still feel odd about it, because it doesn't feel quite right.

I do want to keep going, although I'm not sure quite how to do it. I don't just want to sit and talk about wanting to make the world a better place; I want to actually do it. I want to be the change I want to see the world.  I may not keep going with those specific people, but I want to keep making positive changes in some fashion. Maybe writing letters to strangers? I don't know. What I do may not make a difference, but I'll try. I just want to make as positive of an impact as I can.
*names changed.

Post written on request

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