top of page
  • Writer's pictureWendy Millgate

Teenager wanted to escape the world: Did I predict my cult future?

Some memories never fade, even after 44 years. I was nursing a sore throat at Bundaberg Base Hospital after a tonsillectomy, dreaming of the much-promised jelly and ice cream that would soothe my burning throat. It wasn’t coming quickly enough. Seeing my Dad walking towards me, grinning from big ear to big ear, cheered me up. He did his funny ear wiggle to make me laugh. He’d been in hospital recently after his back injury and was in lots of pain. So it was good to see him smile.

Dad proudly spread the local News Mail newspaper out in front of me, and there it was:


11-year-old Wendy Millgate won a first prize in the Mt Perry Show schoolwork section with an essay title, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off”. The essay reveals what some pre-teenagers are thinking about todays’ world.

Wow! I couldn’t believe it! Dad had sent my prize-winning school essay titled Stop the World, I Want to Get Off to the Editor without telling me. He was proud of me. (And that would show up a certain mother in our town saying her daughter should have won the essay writing competition in the Mt Perry Show.)

I felt stoked. Dad always did believe in my writing. That’s why he had bought me my first typewriter on his last trip to Brisbane to the back specialist. A yellow portable Brother typewriter! I loved it and had typed the essay with it.

This exciting news certainly took my mind off my missing tonsils! Apparently, they’d been huge! When Dr Ang had first seen my tonsils, he’d exclaimed to Mum, “Jesus bloody Christ. Haven’t you ever thought of getting these out? They’re as big as footballs!” Mum had been trying to get our previous GP in Gin Gin to take them out … for months, maybe years. (Let’s call him ‘Dr Perve’.)

Dr Perve had preferred inspecting my tonsils while I was standing in my knickers, and then prescribing copious amounts of penicillin. Mum left his practice for good after he once again wanted to prescribe me a three-month course of penicillin, and after he commented on her pretty knickers in her consultation! Well, that’s when my Mum set her teeth in the way she does, and can still do at 82, when she’s had enough and is NOT backing down. (My brother and I always knew if Mum did that, it was game over, red rover!)

We were out of there, and drove all the way to Gayndah to Dr Ang. He didn’t need me to be in my knickers to inspect my tonsils – and he wasn’t going to pour more antibiotics down my throat. My teeth were yellow enough already. Within two weeks they were out (the tonsils, that is!), and my words and name were in the Bundaberg newspaper. Tonsils out, ice cream in – and on the road to literary fame!

I loved writing. I had big dreams! I wanted to one day write a Mills & Boon novel and make $10000 from it! And so, I had wanted to win that competition. For some reason, my entry into a government competition of a cartoon that promotes non-smoking didn’t score a winning ribbon. Why my cartoon of a Catholic Priest standing over a fresh grave praying, ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if God don’t take you, tobacco must,’ didn’t win, I will never know! I thought it was clever.

Of course, as an editor now, when I read my blue-ribbon-winning-First-Place essay (yay), I cringe and laugh at some things. Mum did say I was a bit of a prude, and it shows through my dismay in the essay at the lack of manners in society. Apparently, they were ‘as scarce as hen’s teeth’ (extra star for appropriate use of a synonym). And ‘too much permissiveness and not enough discipline’ when it came to parenting. (Gosh, I was 11. Was I channelling my parents or what? Or perhaps my policeman grandfather.) I do note, proudly, my correct usage of semi-colons. 😊

And if there was a nuclear war? Well, I wrote, ‘Boy, what a mess there would be!’ and the ‘lazy rich people’ would be no help while families watch too much TV. Transport was too fast and simply ‘too dangerous’.

Overall, I wrote on my disillusionment with the way the world was going and how fast it was moving. I feared for my future children’s lives. It is obvious now (2020) that some of my fears at the way the world was heading 44 years ago were well founded. We are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global outrage at the senseless murder of African-American George Floyd in the US and systemic racism. My own daughter walked with the Black Lives Matter protestors in Brisbane recently, mask on and slathered in sanitizer, and I couldn’t be prouder of her (albeit nervous due to the threat of COVID-19).

My answer to the world’s problem in my essay’s conclusion was

‘…we should stop the world and all get off – take a good look at ourselves – and start again in low gear instead of top.’

You know what? That’s not a bad idea. Maybe I was onto something there. What I can see was that within me at the time, besides a drive to win a competition, was disillusionment with the world that hinted at a level of idealism. And perhaps that explains partly my future path. You see, eight years after that essay, I did indeed stop my world and step off into a group many called a cult..

Was I writing my own future?

I stepped out of university, off my future career track, out of my family and Catholicism, and straight into a new ‘Family’ with new ‘True Parents’. The world I left was now ‘the outside world’ and I was going to help build a whole new world. My yellow typewriter? It became my new community’s property and disappeared, much like I did.

And my once-proud father? He disowned me… only for a while. He was too great a man to let that happen for long…

But that’s another story...

(originally posted on Wendy & Words blog)



Feel free to connect via my via contact page. I am always open to new opportunities to share my story and learnings.

bottom of page