[Note: This was FAR more enjoyable listening to this conversation and I doubt I have done it justice by writing about it. But, keep reading. For every questionable, lost and floundering human, there’s an amazing one.]
So Craig and I are sitting outside of a cafe in downtown Portland. We’ve just finished taking a tour of the amazing waterfalls and a boy/man of about 21 sits down next to us with his parents.
We know he’s 21, because at some point one of his parents references his age. They’re average, white, middle class.
Craig and I are quietly eating, enjoying the people-watching and totally listening to the family next to us.
Their conversation seems cordial. They’re politely discussing menu options, “Oh! That looks good.” “Yeah, that sounds delicious.” Nothing seems strained. Just a family having some lunch on a sunny Portland Tuesday afternoon.
The son asks the waitress her recommendation, she suggests something, he orders it.
Then, they start talking.
Craig and I are chatting, as well. But then we start hearing bits and pieces that perk our ears up.
The son: “Yeah, so I’d be selling weed. I’d be really good at it. The manager was like, ‘I need someone who can manage the store, really make a sale, and know what’s going on.’ I think I can totally do that.”
Mom, dressed all cute-like. Like a Mom. Wearing a necklace and jeans.
Dad, wearing khakis and a button-up is quiet.
“So, yeah,” Son continues. “I think that I’m going to move forward with that one… I just don’t seem to have very appealing opportunities right now. You know? It’s like everything isn’t really what I want to spend my life doing, you know?”
We gather (from eavesdropping) that he’s still in college. And that his older sister, Maren, is almost out of college. How did I know this?
Mom said: “I need to know what your plan is. When Maren is done with school, we’re out of here. Like, right now, I’m working on our Plan B. You need a plan for your life.”
Then Dad starts talking.
Dad: “I just need you to enlighten me… can you help me understand why you think that an amazing opportunity is just going to FALL in your lap? You need to work. Like, actually WORK. Can you help me understand why you think the way you do?”
(UM, ALSO amazing.)
Next, Millenial Son starts talking about he would like for them to help support him financially to take a vacation.
Dad speaks again: “I guess I don’t get it…
…what do you need a vacation from? You’ve worked for exactly ONE month and now you need a vacation? One month? And then a vacation? I didn’t take a vacation until I was in my late 30‘s. I had to work. I was well into my career before I even TOOK a vacation. I had a job. What do you need a vacation from? You don’t work.”
Then Mom ads, “You live with us and you don’t pay rent. I don’t understand. You need a vacation from us?”
Then Mom takes it home with, “…Well, I guess I’m just worried that you’re going to end up unemployed and living with us forever…
Son: “I just need a vacation from like… life, you know? I mean, just because I don’t have a job, it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve some… you know, space and time to just not think about anything or do anything…”
Dad, sighs… “Again, I just cannot understand what you need a vacation from… I don’t understand.”
Mom: “…I’m scared you’re going to end up homeless.”
(THIS IS DYNAMITE. Craig and I are enjoying this more than we could ever explain.)
Dad: “You need to learn how to handle your money… you need to understand that if you don’t have money, you can’t take a vacation. No money, no vacation. It doesn’t matter what you feel like.”
Son: “I don’t know how to handle money, I know. That’s why I need to make enough money so that I can HIRE someone to help me manage my money. Until then, I’ll never be able to manage my money. And, there just aren’t any jobs that are available to me that I want…”
Mom and Dad: COMPLETELY SILENT.
Dad: I’ll be your accountant. I’d be happy to be your accountant. I’ll tell you how to handle your money.
Ya’ll. THIS WAS GOLD.
There were so many nuggets.
These parents were TRYING to understand where their son was coming from. They were using all of the right words, they were being so respectful, asking the right questions… and the son was being respectful, too. It was just INSANE. They were on two different polar ends of the spectrum of life. The parents were firmly station on the hard work/earn it part of the spectrum and Millennial Son was pretty stuck on the entitlement end.
My favorite line, though, was from Mom: “I’m just worried that you’re going to end up unemployed and living with us forever.”
Amen, said every parent.
While we were smiling about this and wondering about the direction of our country, we saw something absolutely precious.
At the other outdoor table next to us was an older woman, I’d say about 80. She finished her grilled cheese and tomato soup, paid her bill and stood up – a tall 5 feet – and was ready to walk to her next destination with her handbag on her arm. Navigating the curb about five steps away looked potentially arduous and she hesitated…
And then guess what?
A millennial walked up, extended her hand, and walked her across the street.
There’s hope, my friends. There’s hope.