INSP has been asking vendors from across the street paper network to write letters to their 25-year-old self to mark the end of INSP’s 25th anniversary year. In this instalment, Seattle-based Real Change vendors Necia (43), Joshua (36), James (36) and Jane (73) write about life at 25.
When Necia was 25, her world was absorbed by being pregnant with her second child, not having an income, not even money for a stroller—with no support from the father, who was in prison. It was a very stressful time. She lived on the streets and was suffering from PTSD, using drugs and alcohol.
At 25 years old, Necia knew about street papers, but she didn’t realise how valuable they were. Now, she realises that, although, it appears to be a simple job, it’s not easy to sell papers. She is an abstract artist, who feels she was just starting to make a name for herself in Seattle. Then, a couple of weeks ago, she lost 20 years of her artwork on the bus. “Thank God for Real Change,” she said, which allows her to have an income and helps her believe in herself. She is passionate about helping the homeless.
Her advice to 25-year-olds is to embrace the little things, spend some time away from technology, and get to know someone really well. Necia believes she was too judgmental when she was 25.
When Joshua was 25, he thought he knew everything, and didn’t have to comply with probation. He lost his mom while in jail in 2010. His mom was his best friend. The following year, he lost his father. Starting at Real Change was “a better way of doing things, unlike stealing and risking [his] life to end up beyond bars for something stupid—just to impress other people and make friends.” Now, he can make money legitimately, exercising “determination, patience, persistency, and consistency.” Real Change gave him an income and a purpose.
At 25, Joshua had heard about street papers, but he was sceptical of them. He believed the papers might just be making up stories without being guided by truth. Then, as he kept reading the paper, he saw the value, most notably in an article about the ‘One Night Count’. That really captured his attention, and he realised the paper provided valuable information.
His advice to 25-year-olds includes “don’t tell a vendor to get a real job or look down on them. This is not a hand-out; it’s a real job.” He later added a person needs to “give respect to get respect” and the younger generation needs to be respected more. He also added: “Life is a building block. We all feed off one another.”
At 25, James was recovering from a long stay at Harborview Hospital. He had just gotten out of the hospital after a month and a half. His mom brought him back to his hometown, where he got a job at Arby’s, sweeping the parking lot. He spent three days a week in rehab, learning to walk, talk, and relearn driving. Apparently, after his health issue, he said he only had the ability of a 3-year-old. He would just work and had a little money to go out on the weekends. At 28, he went back to college.
His 25-year-old self didn’t know anything about street papers. It was not until he came back to Seattle once a year, at 30, that he learned about Real Change. He’d seen vendors, but he thought “it was kind of hokey back then.”
His advice to 25-year-olds, generally, is “Live life to the fullest and be respectful to everyone, because you never know when you’ll need help.” Also, a little stubbornness and persistence can pay off.
When I was 25, I was raising a child by myself as a never-married single mother. I have four plus years of university units but no degree. I might add that my purpose was to study in nutrition to keep my 3-year-old, type 1, insulin-dependent diabetic daughter alive. Not much was known then and many we knew did die. She is 50 now and we are still learning how to deal with it.
High school was mostly secretarial practice. Women’s liberation was still just budding; men, husband or father, still needed to sign for things for their women, such as getting a tubal ligation or car loan.
As an unwed mother at 22, I could find apartments but houses were for women with a husband even if away at sea like Navy wives. I knew the Navy as I had grown up in a Navy family moving 32 times before high school graduation.
My mother grew up with a love of learning and journalism. Her retirement years were spent as a volunteer docent. She was an award-winning local historian in San Diego contributing to back country local papers (free press). She never went to college but worked in the civil service, first keypunch then more advanced languages for the government. She grew up with a love of journalism and taught it to me.
I was one of about five people who started The San Diego Review, a local arts, culture and political free press in 1991 which ran into the late 90s then petered out.
My advice to 25-year-olds, generally, is: “You are good enough. You can do it.”
Check back in every day over the festive period for more #VendorLetters.
INSP members can download the #VendorLetters feature on the INSP News Service.