I first heard of Talia Jane’s tale of woe from Keith Lee, who later wrote about it. My sense was that it would be wrong to kick her when she was down. Sure, it was a product of poor choices, and she was certainly the poster girl for entitlement, but still. She was sad and pathetic, and being misguided and entitled isn’t a crime.
Coming out of college without much more than freelancing and tutoring under my belt, I felt it was fair that I start out working in the customer support section of Yelp/Eat24 before I’d be qualified to transfer to media. Then, after I had moved and got firmly stuck in this apartment with this debt, I was told I’d have to work in support for an entire year before I would be able to move to a different department. A whole year answering calls and talking to customers just for the hope that someday I’d be able to make memes and twitter jokes about food. If you follow me on twitter, which you don’t, you’d know that these are things I already do. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s get back to the situation at hand, shall we?
So here I am, 25-years old, balancing all sorts of debt and trying to pave a life for myself that doesn’t involve crying in the bathtub every week.
Keith explained it thus:
Every stereotypical thing wrong with Millennials you’ve ever read. The writer:
- Moves from modest area of the country, to the most expensive.
- Has useless degree, surprised it only qualified her for entry level job.
- Whines about entry level job, not being paid 6 figures to make meme jokes.
- Claims she can’t afford food, her Insta is filled with big meals.
- Complains work-provided snacks are not refilled on the weekends.
- Writes open letter to CEO full of her “amazing ideas,” surprised she is fired.
- Works at low-level job for less than a year, is complaining on Twitter about getting her “severance.”
- Signs off with e-begging.
I can’t even.
The problem isn’t so much with her choices, but her complaining about the natural consequences of her choices. Some of these may have valid reasons, such as food pics on “Insta,” which may contradict her claims or may have a perfectly valid explanation. No matter. Keith “can’t even.” I can “even” a little more, largely because Talia Jane isn’t much different than many young people I’ve met. Perfectly nice young people. Well educated young people. Passionate young people. And sad and pathetic young people when life didn’t work out the way they were certain it would. Certain, because, well they were entitled to it.
Then another young woman, Stefanie Williams, replied to Talia Jane. Unkindly, perhaps, but not without reason and some advice. Like Talia, things didn’t work out well at first, so she worked hard and, eventually, did better.
Six months later, I was offered the weekend bartending shifts for the month of December. Long hours, lots of stress, I smelled like bad citrus and stale beer most of the time, I had to miss Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve with my family and friends, but I jumped at the opportunity. And all of a sudden, after about a year, I was making enough money to live. And after several years, I was making enough money to live well.
Hard work, sacrifice and it turned out okay. That’s nice for you. But yet another woman, Sara Lynn Michener, decided to make it a trilogy on Medium.
After reading your bizarre excuse for a mini autobiography detailing the privileged yet banal struggle you dealt with in your early 20s, which was apparently supposed to be a response to a younger woman’s perfectly reasonable request for a larger hourly rate, I felt it imperative to give you a taste of your own medicine and above all, your painfully deep need to acknowledge your own privilege, so maybe some advice will help while you piss all over what — to me — sounds an awful lot like a less fortunate (and far kinder) version of your younger self. If nothing else, I hope you might learn the meaning of the “grace and humility.” you’ve anointed yourself with.
Spoiler: kicking a younger sister when she’s down in self-congratulatory snark is neither gracious nor humble.
While I was a bit put off by the “kicking a younger sister” bit, as if women should be kinder to their own gender, what I found most disturbing was Michener’s title:
36 year-old DESTROYS 29-year-old millennial who “ripped” 25-year-old Yelp employee who got fired after complaining about her salary
Apparently, Michener thought rather well of her effort. But she called Williams “privileged,” and that’s what prompted me to write about this.
Some of us don’t have mothers at all. But not you. Only privileged people are embarrassed to be working as a waitress because their very present mothers are waiting there, full of love, for you to blossom (in your case into a snarky self-satisfied prat).
I can’t even imagine what life must be like for people that privileged. Perhaps you are one of those people, Stefanie. It would explain a lot about how you OWN every single one of your blessings and label it as “having a work ethic” But I don’t see any more of a work ethic than what Talia has. You were willing to work a shitty job; You want a medal for it. Talia just wants to eat.
What to make of all this? The word “privilege” has been used as an attack and excuse. It seems to be what some have and others want, and still others demand it be given up, though it makes little sense, as if making one’s life harder is a wise, or even a realistic, choice. Especially at a time when things are hard for everyone.
There’s room for empathy. There’s also room for a reminder about the value of hard work, smart choices, realistic thinking and recognition that you’re promised the opportunity to pursue happiness, not a right to obtain it.
Don’t kick Talia Jane when she’s down. Don’t rub her tummy as if she had no hand in creating her circumstances either. And if you want to help Talia Jane, help her to see the error of her misguided sense of entitlement rather than make excuses for her victimhood. Talia Jane needs to eat. She can’t eat excuses. I wish her the best of luck in her quest to find a fulfilling life. And if she has some “privilege” upon which to draw, I hope she does so successfully.