know who you are; don’t let others change you with their own inadequacies

A recent ‘Vendor Week’ edition of The Big Issue had a section titled ‘Letter to My Younger Self’ where Big Issue vendors from around Australia offered words of advice, reflection, consolation and love to their teenage selves. I found the the letter from Mark W from Adelaide to himself was particularly insightful.

“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. The 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.

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 will 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 find love, live and create, and if 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, to You, I.

public spaces can be okay

In the children’s hospital recently, there was a man in a suit with a straight back and pointy shoes rushing to catch the lift. He was clutching a large stuffed meerkat. With their straight backs, big eyes and anxious expressions, he and the meerkat seemed related. He patted it absently in the lift, but caught himself doing it and stopped. One floor up, a kid with a prostethic leg got in. “I really like your meerkat,” he said after a minute. “Thank you,” said the man. “You’re welcome,” said the kid. “Nice eyes.” Public spaces can be okay.

Lorin Clarke in The Big Issue #535

i’m not really a straight-cut potato

“I’m not really a straight-cut potato, I have a couple of curves to me. I also had a few difficulties growing up, but it’s always about never giving up. I’ve always thought that if you look at the brighter side of life and focus on something positive; you might be able to work out the answer to a tough situation.

Thankfully I don’t have any addictions. I try to help people going through homelessness and addiction by giving them support. Sometimes reminding them to look on the light side will help them out. Once you care for people, the goodness that it brings out of them – the kindness and respect – shows. Once you show love it mirrors back, it’s pretty cool.”

Jacob S sells The Big Issue on the corner of Pitt and Bathurst Streets, Sydney