For more explanation of this month’s theme, “millennials in thirty things,” check out this post.
It was like a secret society that everyone was a part of…except for me.
“Yeah, uh, I’ll have a Triple Grande Blended Nonfat Caramel Macchiato with Whip and Hazelnut.”
I frantically searched the menu scanning for words that even slightly resembled the mystical drink that was ordered. Finally, I found “Caramel Macchiato.” Grande was close by, but Triple, Blended, Nonfat, Whip, and Hazelnut were completely missing.
This wasn’t going to be easy.
I spent the next year or so frequenting Starbucks, memorizing the menu, the orders, the tastes. Then, when I thought I was ready:
“I’ll have a Double White Chocolate Mocha”
“Uh…what size, sir?”
“Oh, sorry,” I mumbled, “Grande, please.”
“Sir, the Grande size already comes as a double…would you like to make it a triple?”
“Uh…no…double is fine…”
But now! After a couple more years of experience, not only do I remember to include whether I want an English, Spanish, or Italian sized coffee, but I can also order drinks with extra syrups, different milks, and even secret recipes. In fact, I have become so loyal to this coffee society that, last December, I was officially honored with a glittery Gold Member Rewards Card personalized with my name near the center.
At the young age of twenty-two, I was an expert on Starbucks coffee.
Or so I thought.
A few weeks ago, I forced myself out of bed, sleep-walked to a Starbucks near my apartment, ordered my Triple Grande Iced White Chocolate Mocha (no whip), and sat down with my laptop at a table near the counter. Just as I was about to begin my work for the day, my prototype of a business man, briefcase and all, fast-walked up to the counter and ordered:
“One tall black iced coffee.”
To which the barista responded:
My head gave a sharp twitch in the direction of the conversation. The man who ordered the iced coffee chuckled uneasily, assumedly wondering whether the barista was actually evaluating him on the creativity of his drink choice, or if the minimum wage coffeemaker was just attempting to make a friendly joke at 9:00 a.m. to a non-caffeinated suit. As it turns out, it was a combination of the two.
“Why order an iced coffee when you could have a Iced Clover?”
I gasped (yes, audibly) from my table.
I must have heard him wrong, I thought. He must have said “Iced coffee, sugar.”
“What’s that?” the suited man asked.
“It’s basically a black iced coffee,” explained the barista, “but better! And, don’t worry, it’s the same price. It’s just more exciting! Try it next time.”
And with that, the confused man left, but I was still sitting—half laughing at quality example of “middle-aged confusion” that had just unfolded in front of me, and half moping over my seemingly wasted effort, decimated by a two-word drink, void of all the unwritten adjectives that I spent the last three years learning.
The Iced Clover is the frenemy of my generation. On the one hand, “it’s just more exciting!” It’s the ever-advancing future which we want to know, understand, and ingest so badly because, for the next few years, it belongs to us.
On the other hand, we hate it. It represents our ignorance. It’s our constant reminder that wisdom and expertise are rarely found among people with only twenty-something years of living under their belts. Understanding takes time, and that makes us impatient, but impatient for the good things that we know await us: knowledge, change, improvement, success.
We want to make a difference, but we want to do it now!
Unfortunately, at times we get discouraged. Personally, I start to think “how am I supposed to make a lasting, positive change in the American education system if I can’t even seem to understand something as simple as the Starbucks menu?”
There are two things that we, the millennials, should remember in times like this.
First, nothing is simple. Especially the Starbucks menu. (Trust me.)
And second, learning is not the enemy of understanding, but rather the narrator of it, slowly informing us page by page of the exciting story of our future. Unfortunately, no matter how caffeinated, I think we’re slowly realizing that this time—perhaps for the first time—skimming isn’t an option.
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.