An Open Letter to Older Millennials Like Stefanie Williams.
Hi Stefanie! I agree with much of your letter to Talia Jane. You make some great points. I too struggled with shit jobs and did what I had to do early in my career. However, one can read Talia’s open letter to Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp as coming from a different place and thus the part you are attacking is a strawman.
I think Talia looked around her department and saw stories that made her think that it’s very hard for anybody to live well on that wage. I think seeing any co-worker possibly be homeless gives one pause and, depending who you are, is kinda existentially traumatic when you have that exact same the same job. Seeing that homeless co-worker and other co-workers struggle makes you reflect on how much of a struggle your own life is and that person’s story feels like it confirms your struggle or vice versa. Low wages in an expensive city isn’t good for company morale.
I’m an optimist and believe in the basic decency of most people. I’d like to believe Talia was honestly motivated to speak up for the these people she saw in her department. If she was, in her mind, speaking up for the rest of the department, she might not have gotten to the point where she was taking stock of what she had to do in her own personal life to solve her own problems with solutions such as roommates (she might have a small studio) or looking for extra jobs. Her focus might have been on the team (that could be a good thing she should spin on her resume), and maybe due to the folly of youth her termination caught her off guard and she set up the crowd funding as much because she needed it as because she wanted her story to be validated by donors.
As for Talia’s critics like yourself Stefanie, and mind you I don’t claim to know your or her critic’s financial circumstances, but unless somebody is a CEO or rolling in options from a startup purchase or is already rich for some wonderful reason, I think it’s safe to say that relative to Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman’s wealth, most people are far closer financially to being Talia than they are to being Jeremy. Nobody likes to admit that reality to themselves and it makes them think somebody like Talia is so *not* like them, because being slightly more comfortable than her (relatively) feels like quite an achievement and thus people like Talia who are still figuring out how to get there but stumble along the way are losers… human ego being as ego is. All your letter is, Stefanie, is one peasant squabbling with another peasant, even if let’s say you make 4 times as much as her through “hard work and determination”. I’m a peasant too, but I’m cool with it. I just don’t throw stones from my peasant house, errr, peasant SF apartment.
It’s kind of how the tech game is set up. We’re not all going to be Jeremy. Most of us, even if we are comfortable in our careers, are more like Talia. But the hope we’ll become Jeremy is all we listen to in our minds, so we protect the game. Steven Levitt spoke of this exact phenomena in Freakonomics when he talked about how crack gangs were set up, and that the bling of the one or two at the top motivates all the people in the gang to work sometimes for less than minimum wage in the hopes they will become kingpins. Some lower rung person challenging this is considered weak and thus beat down. It’s all in the game, as the character Omar Little said in HBO’s The Wire.
And by the way Stefanie… You really are so cute, giving out all your grown up opinions. I remember back when I was 30. That’s usually the age people start to think they are finally adults (or rather, think they have become the adult figure archetype they grew up internalizing), until the years continue and you realize that the “I’m an adult now” self-image is just a sham and hopefully then you begin to become yourself again, listening to and filled with the wisdom you had all along when you popped out and the doctor slapped you into this world. Maybe with age and wisdom will come compassion, Stefanie, and you will realize you too are Talia.