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#VendorWeek 2018: Big Issue Australia vendors write letters to their younger selves

“Treat people as you yourself would want to be treated”

Kathy sells The Big Issue in Busselton, Western Australia

Dear younger me,

When you are 14, in your second year of high school at Saint Joseph’s College in Fremantle, you will decide to leave school, and attend a business college instead. One of your regrets will be that you didn’t continue with your schooling.

Ballroom dancing lessons will be on your mind when you are 16, and you will attend a weekly class on Friday evenings for a few months. A dark-haired, brown-eyed guy will notice you at the end of the first ball you attend up in Perth, and approach you as you are standing on your own, and ask if he can take you home. The answer will be yes. His name is Nick, and he will become your first boyfriend.

He is a lovely guy who will travel from Midland, near Perth, each Friday evening, to take you out somewhere. His eyes will become misty when you end your relationship. You don’t want to break his heart. Your eyes will be misty too, and you will have a sleepless night. There will be some times, later on, when you will regret not being able to reciprocate his feelings.

A dark cloud will hang over your head when Mum passes on. She will only be in her mid-fifties, and you will wish that you could have had more time together.

Kathy (Credit: Jemillah Bickerton)

You will always remember the house you grew up in, that your father built. I know you don’t like the décor, and your bedroom could be a bit bigger, but it is a comfortable home. Your father will always be a bit distant towards you, but you know that he cares for you. He will buy you any toys you like, and he will buy you a German Wertheim piano. You will take lessons and attain third grade in your studies, then lose interest.

Procrastination will play a big part in your life. You will wish that you had started to write poetry when you were a teenager, as you probably would have had a few more collections of poetry published by now.

Spending time on your own will always be important to you, like it was when you were young, when you would go walking around in the bush area where you lived, near the limestone quarry that your dad used to manage. Near where your friends, Georgie and Saskia, used to live in a tin hut.

You will always remember the experience you had there when you were five or six years of age: the day you saw a yowie. You will remember how dusk was approaching, and that you were getting a little tired after playing on your own for a while, so you decided to go back to the shack. Luckily, you were within close range of it. You will remember being close to the door, and then suddenly turning to your left you saw a dark hairy body approaching with these quizzical eyes staring at you. You will remember how your little heart leapt as you exclaimed “Help, there’s a bogey man out here!” This encounter will always come to your mind when you hear or read of sightings of the creature, known as the “abominable snowman” or “sasquatch”, in other parts of the world. Some people will dismiss it as a dream, but you will always know that it wasn’t. It has made you more open-minded.

Treat people as you yourself would like to be treated; the world would be a better place if humanity practised doing that. There is far too much emphasis on people seeking to satisfy their own selfish desires, to the detriment and well-being of others. Live, and let live.


“Know who you are; don’t let others change you”

Mark sells The Big Issue in Adelaide Australia

Dear 14-year-old me,

Hi mate, this is your 41-year-old self. If you don’t want a life of depression, anxiety and OCD, then listen up.

Firstly, yes, your parents have just divorced, but listen, don’t resent them. This resentment will lead to depression and misery later on. They will always do the best they can at the time, and they will always love and care for you. Love them back. Don’t rebel so much.

If you’re going to rebel, if you’re going to experiment with drugs and booze, that’s okay, most teenagers do. Just don’t let these things rule your life, and change who you really are.

Addiction will lead to anxiety and it will take over. Learn the skill of moderation; you can’t go full steam forever. It’s impossible. But even moderation should be observed in moderation – you can still have fun. The road of excess sometimes leads to the palace of wisdom.

Mark (Credit: Nat Rogers)

You are special. Remember the unlikelihood of your birth – you are lucky to be here, a true wonder. Be confident, believe in yourself, love yourself. Because a lack of this love will ruin your confidence and your life, and lead to something called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You are a good person, believe it. Don’t let negative comments get you down. Know who you are; don’t let others change you with their own inadequacies.

Make better choices. If something immediately feels wrong, it probably is. Don’t chase wealth – some of the happiest people are the poorest. Money isn’t everything. Gambling is for suckers, and quite literally, losers.

Live, love and let it be. And if all else fails, and you can’t love, live and create, and you find yourself desolate and homeless, sell The Big Issue! It might just save your life.

And you will again learn to love yourself. Love Me, You, I.


“I want you to know that life ain’t bad now. In fact, it’s great. You matter”

Trevor sells The Big Issue in the Blue Mountains, Australia

Dear young Trev,

Aw mate. This is tough. I know you’re going through a dark time. I want to say that even though you don’t think so, there is hope and a bright future for you.

As you seek escape and solace out there in the back garden – observing the spiders curling up leaves and weaving their webs around themselves to make a secure home, distracted by that for a brief moment in time – there is hope.

The horrible abuse by your stepfather won’t last – it won’t.

I know you have tried to speak out, run away from home, have been taken advantage of by so-called authority figures and that you weren’t believed, not by your own mother, nor the police.

It will not last – it will not last. There is another, better life to come for you.

Trevor (Credit: Peter Holcroft)

Hey, I know you love your footy. How good was your footy team? Undefeated for the year, champions. Stick with it. It’ll help to get you out of there later on. A couple of footy teammates suspect things aren’t 100 per cent at home, they’ll admit that to you when you reconnect in later years. Keep those friendships. Only wish you could’ve stuck at school longer. Ah well.

I want you to know that life ain’t bad now. In fact, it’s great. You matter. You’re of use and have a purpose.

People now listen to you and hear your story, and you’re making a difference, helping others, which sustains you.

I want to tell you that you’re loved, respected, you live in beautiful surroundings in the Blue Mountains. You’re happily married. You have two wonderful children, a son and a daughter (okay, from previous relationships – other parts of your life journey you’re yet to live!).

It’s coming your way. Don’t give up hope. Life DOES get better. And it’s fun!


“Forgiveness is the key to happiness”

Sharon sells The Big Issue in Melbourne, Australia

Dear teenage me,

Don’t worry so much about your mother, she is someone who you cannot help. Don’t worry about boys or boyfriends. Worry about getting a computer and learning the language of the computer programmers. Buy shares in Apple or IBM. Get your mum to put the house in your name and Megan’s name so the bank can’t put your mum into bankruptcy and you don’t lose the house, the car and the business. Don’t have any business dealings with the man your mother meets. Don’t have anything to do with him, if you know what’s good for you and your mother especially. He’ll break her heart and yours, and break your mother’s soul. She’ll commit suicide to end her grief from loss and depression.

Look for your husband Doug at a younger age and fight for him. Stay with him and marry him – you will be happy in a loving relationship with Doug and life will be good.

Keep in contact with your grandparents and family. Write more letters and phone more often; send cards and presents. Have more of a relationship with your father. Have more contact with your half-sisters Vicky and Joanne and your step-sisters and step-brother Christine, Susan, David and Julie.

Make Dad get you a horse. Have animals galore – fish, birds, cats, dogs, horses, the lot! Children and animals never lie. You’ll learn this in life.

Don’t smoke dope or sell it to the kids at school. Don’t smoke two joints before school or drink a cask of wine with orange juice every morning to cope.

Study harder at school and get into university. You can do well if you apply yourself.

Sharon (Credit: James Braund)

Apply yourself now and you’ll be rewarded later. Otherwise you’ll be shattered when you don’t do medicine and become a doctor. Forget about having children until you are older and more settled.

Get into drama and acting and do a portfolio for modelling. Do a deportment, grooming and modelling course. Learn how to do hair and make-up.

Study the piano and practise writing songs and put music to them. You can do anything you put your mind to – the world is your oyster. Help your family keep the business and the house and the car. Finish university and go to Auntie Carol’s for a few weeks to dry out.

Travel overseas and learn about other cultures and communities.

Save up to buy a house and use that house to buy a rental property. Get into houses and do them up to make a profit from selling them. You can make money this way.

Look after yourself, don’t use as many drugs as you do, otherwise they’ll mess up your mind. Love yourself and be good to yourself – you are worth it.

Help your mother with her mental illness and be there for her when she needs you.

Go to a good psychiatrist for help. You are worth something and can make something of yourself. Make more friends at school and don’t have just one best friend who will break your heart! Do the right thing by others. Go to church and follow God’s word. God will provide for you. Don’t worry so much about stuff you have no control over.

Learn to love yourself and put yourself first rather than trying to fit into the “in” group.It’s not what we do in life that we regret, it’s what we didn’t do. Have no regrets in life, live it to the fullest and be the best you can be. Teach love, for that is what you are! Forgiveness is the key to happiness. Forgive others as you have been forgiven. Love and give love.

You can read more about what went on during #VendorWeek 2018 here.

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