Vendors from The Big Issue Australia were tasked with writing letters of advice and wisdom to their younger selves in a twist on the long-running street paper feature. Here’s what they came up with.
Ricky from Canberra: “Life is all about making mistakes, learning from them, and growing”
Dear 14-year-old me,
Hey you! Yes, you! I need you to read this and trust my advice because I AM you – but in the future.
First things first: STOP running away from home! You have it a lot better than most kids in the foster system. Our foster mum loves the hell out of us and she’s an awesome woman who will stick with us through thick and thin. She will guide us in the RIGHT direction, but she won’t be here forever. Trust me.
Take that leap! Go for your dreams of becoming a musician in the metal music industry. Don’t wait until you’re older to start chasing your dreams. They’re a lot harder to achieve and you’ll spend a LOT of your time very depressed that you didn’t chase them sooner. This depression will control your life. It sucks!
Spend as much time with Nan and Pop as possible, because one day they’ll be gone and you will regret not picking up that phone or going for that promised visit. It will break your heart and the guilt will be almost unbearable.
Stop skipping school! You have no idea how much you’ll miss school. It will prove to be the most fun time of your life. You need that education – it opens so many more doors when you have finished high school. Major in music and drama – these will be your aces for chasing your dreams in the music industry! Knowledge in music and acting are your weapons.
And last but not least, have more faith in yourself. Don’t listen to those that don’t agree with your dreams and aspirations. They only want to see you fail. Also, ignore those that judge you based on what you wear. There’s nothing wrong with being alt-fashioned and wearing all black. You will never stop wearing black. Embrace our current motto: “Paint it black or take it back.”
Basically, don’t do any of the things that future you has already done. If only you knew what I know now – life would be a breeze. However, life is all about making mistakes, learning from them, and growing.
You’ve got this!
Love from Future Ricky (you)
Ricky sells The Big Issue at Woden Town Square, Canberra.
Eddie from Brisbane: “It’s ok to dream because dreams can come true”
This is your 51-year‑old self. Yes, you do live that long, surprisingly!
Let’s talk about school. I know you’re not liking it there at the moment, but later in life, some of your best memories will be of these years. You will even keep in touch with some of your schoolmates. They will have pretty good lives and you’re going to meet up with one of them in your late forties.
You’re 16 now and about to get kicked out of the house. You feel like the world is against you, but it’s not. You’ll figure that out later on in life. You blame yourself, but you’re going to survive. You’ll eventually be able to go back home but DON’T! You’ll regret it later. You’ll end up resenting some members of the family.
Soon after you get kicked out, your sister will get kicked out too. The worst thing is that it’ll be some time before you see her again. It won’t feel good, not seeing her. But it’s not your fault. Life will go on. You just have to live without her for some time. You’ll have some good times in your early twenties.
Later in life, you’ll be close to your sister again. You’ll find her through the Salvation Army’s missing persons unit. She’ll be married and have just finished her nursing degree. It’ll spin you out. It’ll feel like a dream come true. You’ll spend three Christmas days with her and her husband at their home in Sydney. And you’ll do City2Surf together a couple of times. So, life is going to get a lot better.
Remember, it’s okay to dream, because dreams can come true. Visiting Perth is on your bucket list. You’ll get there eventually and the icing on the cake will be going to Rottnest Island. You’ll get to go to Cairns, Fitzroy Island and Kuranda. You’ll live in a nice flat and you’ll be able to rely on yourself to pay your bond and rent out of your own savings. You’ll have direction in life by selling The Big Issue; it’ll give you purpose.
So, don’t stress and remember that there is more to life than you see at the moment. I’ll meet you later.
Love you and see you then.
Eddie sells The Big Issue at Milton and Sherwood Markets, and Central Railway Station, Brisbane.
Stacey from Perth: “You’re worthy of the good stuff”
You’re a rebellious little thing, and a bit of a party animal. Have fun, but be careful, too. I know you’re trying to cope with stuff that happened in your birth family. It all looked pretty happy, but there was stuff under the surface. You’ll learn better ways.
You’re still at school now, at Ocean Reef Senior High. I know you think it’s lonely and boring, but maybe try to avoid skipping school. And stay away from those kids who do the same – you don’t need that bad crowd.
You’ll have a life-changing trip with your foster mum and her grandchildren, where you find out about Hotham Valley Tourist Railways. You’ll end up joining up as a coach captain and a cleaner. The job will make you feel important. It’s the first time you’ll feel like you’re part of a team – people who love and care about you. You’ll have fun and learn new things, and the joy you’ll get from meeting new people will be something that’ll come up all through your life. You’ll also learn there are good people in the world who don’t want to hurt you, or take advantage.
This is where you’ll soon meet your now ex-husband. He’ll pick you up from school and together you’ll go clean the trains at Forrestfield Marshalling Yards. You’ll fall in love. You’ll find out you’re pregnant at 16-and‑a‑half. You’ll be shocked, happy, excited, scared. You’ll be head-over-heels in love with the baby’s dad – you’ll reckon he’s the best thing since sliced bread.
When the kids at school find out, they’ll think it’s a lie and bully you. It’ll get you down, but you’ve got to ignore them. They’re just silly kids who don’t know anything, and you’ll manage to rise above it.
You’ll move in with the baby’s father and his parents. It’ll be a happy time. You’ll get engaged. You’ll get married and have another baby. If I could revisit any time in our life, it would be a few years after this – at 18 with two children – when we were all still in love and happy. But don’t be such a people‑pleaser. You’ll think it’s the only way to keep a family together, and that if you don’t keep everyone happy you could lose your new family, too.
Ask for help. Being a young kid, who’s never dealt with a lot of traumatic stuff, who’s learning to be a mum, leaves you a bit like a volcano ready to explode – the pressure is too much. Know that you are good enough for your fiancé’s family. And as a mum.
Looking back now, you probably would have been better off going it alone with the baby. Maybe things would have been better if you hadn’t married the baby’s father. You might not have lost it all, kiddo – the kids, the partner, the family… But being part of it all will help you learn later in life that family’s everything.
The biggest and only lesson I can pass on to you is that you can’t rely on others to provide you with anything. Happiness, love, togetherness: if you do have all these, you are lucky and you should keep it all, any way you can.
When you get to 44, you’ll know to take better care of yourself, instead of putting other people first all the time. You’ll make a decision every day to look past the hurt; put a smile on your dial; put on some colourful, cheerful clothes because it’ll make you feel happy – it’s a bit like your big, kind heart’s shining through – and head to work.
You’ve just got to get on with life! Get into your garden because it’ll make you feel calm, and the same goes for your knitting and art. Cook good old-fashioned stuff and enjoy hanging out with your awesome cousin, Kaia. You’ve got to be proud of getting on with it all, letting go of the hurt, and making something of yourself. You’re worthy of the good stuff.
Wishing you peace, love, and rainbows, kiddo.
Stacey sells The Big Issue at Royal Perth Hospital and Victoria Park Post Office, Perth.
Lesa from Melbourne: “You are loved and you do matter”
Dear 16-year-old Lesa,
I know things are tough at the moment, but they will get easier. I know that you are disappearing from home, and you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd most of the time. I mean, don’t get me wrong – some of the people you have met are terrific people and you should keep them around you – but there are a lot of them that are no good for you. They will just lead you astray, and if you follow, it’s very hard to come back from that. I know you are working, and that’s great! Keep it up, but please don’t be so eager to leave school – or if you really want to leave, please make sure that at least one of your jobs is secure enough to support you.
Make the most of your time on holiday overseas with your mum and little brother, as this will be one of your fondest memories. Egypt and Rome are amazing places – so pay attention to everything you’re seeing and doing and just be appreciative of being there. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Yes, you are a punk of a kid, but I want you to know that you are also smart, caring, loving and worthy. Don’t be shy; just be yourself and if people don’t like it, then that’s their bad luck. Don’t dwell on what people say and think of you; it’s really not worth the headache it will cause you.
Don’t go down the road of addiction, because it will get you nowhere. It will make you lose everything and leave you wondering what the hell happened. And when the time comes, there will be no-one willing to help you. Believe me: it’s a very long, dark road when travelled alone.I know you and I know you probably won’t listen to this, but please just keep this letter handy and read it from time to time.
Don’t forget that you have dreams for your life and they are important. I think you would make a great lawyer, as you are really very argumentative – and good at it, I might add! And you would be an even better veterinarian, except for the fact that you would want to keep all the animals.
Don’t let one person rule your life at any given moment, as it’s your life and you are the one that needs to be happy with your actions. This is the biggest lesson you will learn.
Remember you are loved and you do matter and you are definitely smarter and stronger than what you (and a lot of others) give yourself credit for.
I hope this letter finds you well, and I hope I have put some things into perspective for you. I hope it makes your life a bit easier to get through.
Lesa sells The Big Issue at Bourke St Myer and in Balwyn, Melbourne.