My Great Grandmother, Dorothy Shoemark, is a 94-year-old living alone in the rural NSW town of Wagga Wagga. Being born four years before the Great Depression and having a husband who fought at war, Dorothy wouldn’t be alone in saying she grew up in difficult circumstances. Growing up in challenging environments is part of the reason the older generation are so wise, making them always willing to locate an ear to be filled with stories of greatness.
The older generation possesses a distinct sense of wisdom that people of today will never truly un tap. Taking in years of helpful anecdotes from these individuals fills us with a sense of hope. Life is short, so satisfy it with colour and advice from those who have experienced walking the path before you.
As I walk up to Dorothy’s back gate on this delightful 27-degree day, I spy her keeping the garden in full bloom and satisfying the belly of the neighbourhood magpie. We settle in for what will be a two-hour discussion, reminiscing on her childhood, first loves and first jobs.
“Everyone should follow their dreams and do what they want to do. Take no notice of anybody else, don’t get distracted on your journey to success,” my grandmother says at the beginning of our conversation. “If you think you can make it [in a career you love], that’s what you concentrate hard on. Do it and work your insides out.”
Dorothy says she is passionate about telling people they should work hard for what they want, as when she left school in her early teenage years she couldn’t read or write properly. Because she needed to make money to survive, she persisted and taught herself everything she knows by reading whatever she could find.
Following on from this work-related advice, Dorothy also tells me you get what you want out of work from what you put into it. “If you want money you need to go out and work for it, don’t just sit at home and do nothing,” she says with her finger pointing in the air.
“To get anywhere in this world you need to be outgoing, confident and consistent.”
Dorothy’s love advice doesn’t differ much from words in teen magazines today. As we watch the neighbourhood magpie fly back for its second helping, she tells me the key to love is all about respect. “Find someone who treats you well – a person with real respect for you,” she says. Dorothy knew her late husband was the one as even when he was sent off to war, he never forgot to write to her for special occasions, to check up on her or to provide his monthly updates – which to Dorothy, is a massive sign of respect.
In terms of self-love, Dorothy was ardent in telling me that we need to look after ourselves and our body first – as we are only blessed with this one body for our whole being. “If you look after yourself, you’ll live as long as me! In fact, if you don’t get married at all you’ll probably live past 100,” she chuckles. If an aspect within a relationship seems unsettling and you seek guidance from others, Dorothy urges that you need to take good advice when it is given to you, because more often than not they are right.
“Don’t take good advice for granted, if they tell you something that is hard to hear, it is because they care and want what is best for you,” she says.
Focussing on money, Dorothy believes it is important to always have a separate bank account just in case you need it. Keeping a portion separate from your partners ensures you have a select amount of money to keep yourself on your feet, as well as buying the occasional treats to make life exciting. “Some people don’t realise what’s in front of them. You have to rent homes, buy a property, buy or fix new appliances, have money for starting a family – it all gets very expensive,” she says. Making money all comes back to working hard, treating your bosses and employees with respect and never settling for anything less than you deserve.
If you are privileged in this day and age to have an elderly member close by, go and tell them you love them, ring them up or even better, offer a socially distanced air hug.