A US Marine Corps Officer (who we chose to keep anonymous) and a DC-area coffee barista had a conversation- and the lessons learned from that conversation are worth their weight in gold.
The Marine posted the conversation to social media, after it reportedly stuck with him for days after the encounter.
“This conversation happened with myself and a 20-something-year-old lady working in a coffee shop in a XXXXXXXXXXXX the other day in DC,” the Marine Corps officer wrote. “I don’t share this to make fun of Millennials at all. My reason for sharing is because this seems to be a trending mindset with many, but not all young adults whom are in college or just entering the workforce. I have reflected on this more than I maybe should have to ensure I was not blinded by my own reality, and am now confident that I am not.”
Purchasing a coffee, the Marine struck up a conversation with a self-titled “Millennial,” who, at some point in the conversation, took it upon herself to play the role of victim.
The following is a transcript of how the conversation reportedly went down, with some details omitted to protect the identities of the individuals:
Barista: Well I am a Millennial, so the economy doesn’t work for me.
Marine: What do you mean?
Barista: The economy only benefits older people. For us Millennials, the deck is stacked against us. We can’t get ahead. I can’t even afford to drink the coffee here. 100% of my paycheck goes to rent and paying off student loans.
Marine: Oh wow. Where did you go to school?
Barista: I graduated two years ago from an Ivy League School.
Marine: That’s awesome! What did you study?
Barista: Historical Art Theory.
Marine: So how does the economy not work for Millennials? Concepts of money work the same for everyone.
Barista: Well, older people can benefit from stocks and investing and stuff like that. We don’t have that option.
Marine: Why not? You can invest too
Barista: Millennials can’t afford to invest in stocks. I make $10 an hour. My rent is $2000 a month for a tiny apartment here.
Marine: You have an Ivy League degree, why are you working here?
Barista: I worked here all through school. I can’t find another job. I can’t find anything in this city that will pay me what I need. I have student loans to pay and can’t afford them without making six figures.
Marine: So you are going to continue working for $10/hr in a job not related to your degree in order to hold out for a job that will pay you, a new college graduate with no relative job experience, a starting salary of $100k?
Barista: I have to! DC is expensive. I can’t live on less than that. I have interviewed for some really neat jobs in the nearby museums, but they only pay about $50-60k a year. That isn’t enough.
Marine:That is a lot more than you are making right now, and will count as relative work experience to pad the resume. Isn’t that a step in the right direction? And What is keeping you from leaving DC? It is really expensive here. Can you move out of the city to a cheaper cost of living area?
Barista: I don’t want to move. I like living downtown. There is a good nightlife here.
Marine: Well I have a lot of very successful friends, and I don’t know a single one of them that made even close to $100k for their first job out of college. You have to work your way up to that. Nobody wants to pay someone that much who has no relative job experience. Plus, taking one of the higher paying museum jobs will improve your quality of life and help you make connections in the business.
Barista: I don’t have time to wait. I need a good paying job now.
Marine: Have you considered the military?
Barista: Ew, no way! They don’t make any money!
Marine: On your first day, you would make significantly more than you do here. But anyway, you work in a building where you have access to a hundred very successful people that have achieved great careers. Talk to them, pick their brains. I am sure any of them would love to offer some wisdom.
Barista: No offense but all, the people working here are old and can’t possibly understand what Millennials deal with in this economy.
Marine: Well my fiancé is a Millennial. She does not have the benefit of your prestigious Ivy League degree. However, she is very successful and has worked her way up in her field from the bottom up. And now she is doing well because of good choices and being fiscally responsible. The problem is not being a Millennial. The deck isn’t stacked against you. The problem is using the title of “Millennial” as an excuse to not achieve greatness. Nobody is holding you back. You just need to be willing to make the hard choices to better your career. Let me know if I can help at all.
At this point, the barista reached into her Louis Vuitton purse and retrieved some chewing gum.
Barista: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, it means a lot. I just don’t think you can understand what we have to deal with nowadays. This economy is terrible.
Marine: Well the economy is better now than it has been for almost 20 years. It’s not the economy’s fault. But I wish you the best.
By the end of the conversation, the Marine officer had insight into the self-defeating attitude that has been cultivated into many a young mind.
“Stop using labels as excuses,” he wrote. “Labeling yourself as a Millennial, minority, or lower class, etc., does not define who you are and does not put you in a box. This is not the 12th century English class system. Anyone can achieve greatness, regardless of whatever label you give yourself. Yes, some people will have it easier than you, but they are not holding you back. You are. Everything you don’t do because of the box you put yourself in is your fault. Born into a disadvantaged situation? That’s fine. Look around you. There are plenty of multi-millionaires that were once worse off than you. Read their stories. Learn from their struggles and successes and apply them where applicable.
A valuable lesson learned- and all over a cup of coffee.
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