By Danielle Grossi
As the sun begins to rise in New Paltz, NY, Nathan McVeigh prepares the coffee shop for another days work. He is working by himself, as always, practically running the place on his own.
“You get a decaf, correct?” he asks confidently. McVeigh knows lots of the customers faces and has even remembered their regular orders. His people person demeanor begins to come alive behind the counter, happy to make others happy.
Growing up with the trauma of not having someone in your life anymore can have lasting impressions on someone. Nathan McVeigh has not seen or heard from his father since the year 2003 when he left their family.
McVeigh was born in Boston. His father was in the military, so they moved around quite a bit when he was very young. When he was only two years old, he, his mother and brother had to move to Germany with his father. In 2000, they came back to the states and resided in Rochester, NY.
In less than three years back in the U.S, McVeigh’s parents got a divorce. His father left, and McVeigh hasn’t seen him since. He was left with depression issues since then, and would even attend counseling to help get him through such a tough time.
In 2011, McVeigh made his way to New Paltz on his own. His mother makes barely enough to get by, so he knew he would be pulling his own weight. Each day is a struggle to get by for Nathan.
Cafeteria is a small coffee shop on Main Street of New Paltz. The mellow atmosphere and live performances are home to McVeigh as he makes conversation and cups of coffee. He relies on the shop, where he works 30 hours a week, for his income.
“I depend on this job completely,” says McVeigh. “If I didn’t have this job, or if I lost this job, I would be totally screwed.”
After wanting to work at Cafeteria for 5 years, Nathan McVeigh finally got a call. He was then able to receive the training that deemed necessary for the position. He has been running the coffee shop in solo shifts since February.
According to a study by MIT.edu, the living wage for someone like Nathan McVeigh to get by in Ulster County is $11.21 per hour on a full time schedule. At Cafeteria, he is only making $9 per hour part time, plus tips.
“Rent in this town is super expensive,” says McVeigh.
Another task he has to take on to make ends meet is to do maintenance work, in a deal his landlord made with him, to make his month to month rent payments a little lighter. This saves him about $300 per month, making it possible for him to afford to live here.
“Because I pay around $400 a month rather than $700, it levels out that I pretty much live off of my tips, and the paychecks cover rent and gas. Tips can end up being anywhere from $20-$50 per shift,” says McVeigh.
“There is no where else that I can work around here that would give me the same tips, I would have to compensate more hours on the books to level out for the tips I get most shifts here,” McVeigh reveals.
On top of rent, some of McVeigh’s other expenses include medical insurance, his books for graduate school, gas to get to work and internship, car insurance, his tuition, food and basic necessities, which are obviously limited at this point.
McVeigh says he receives little to no help from his mother, other than a small Christmas and birthday gift each year. She throws him a new pair of tires for Christmas, or $100 for his birthday, but every little bit helps. Due to his busy schedule and the distance, he is only able to see her about twice a year for the holidays.
“I depend on this job completely. If I didn’t have this job, or if I lost this job, I would be totally screwed.” – Nathan McVeigh
Without a father figure in his life, McVeigh knew at a young age that if he wanted to make it through, he would need to make money on his own. At the age of fifteen, he took on his first job at Tim Horton’s, which is a Canadian based quick stop coffee shop, blending into Upstate, NY.
“It was like fast food coffee. Ironically, now I am back at a coffee shop,” says Nathan.
After his father left and counseling became a part of McVeigh’s life for many years, he fell in love with the practice of mental health counseling and helping others. Not only did the counseling help him through a tough time, it introduced him to his current dream in the field of counseling, specifically for men.
McVeigh is also currently interning at The North-East Center for Rehabilitation and Brain Injury to receive Clinical hours for his graduate program in music therapy. So, not only do these clinical hours take up time that he could be working, they are completely unpaid.
“With school, internship and this job, I pull 57 hours per week. It is hard to find time to eat, socialize with my friends and even sleep enough. I just have no availability to be working anywhere else or doing anything else right now,” McVeigh says.
McVeigh’s overall dream and the immediate goal he is working towards is to be a certified mental health counselor. This is what his clinical hours are going towards. He someday dreams of owning a private practice in mental health counseling, and he primarily wants to work with men. He says that this is because stereotypically, men are never supposed to have mental health issues, they are supposed to be “strong and unemotional”.
McVeigh says that the mental health issues of men are currently a rising issue in this country, and he wants to help. He has a huge passion for music as well, which is where the music therapy comes into play for him.
“Neuro music therapy seems to be where it is at, which seems perfect for me,” says Nathan.
McVeigh explains that Neuro Music Therapy is a sort of therapeutic application of music to the world of therapy. He really enjoys what it has done for him, as well as others, and how far it has come.
With his graduate’s degree, McVeigh will be able to do more than just the music therapy aspect of the field. He will be licensed to counsel, and hopefully someday own his own practice. He really loves the idea of helping others and says that he has learned a lot so far from his internship and is enjoying it.
Ironically enough, another one of McVeigh’s dreams now is to own his own coffee shop business someday. He says that all of his coincidental jobs in coffee shops lead him to learning the business and perfecting the work it takes to run one.
“With school, internship and this job, I pull 57 hours per week. It is hard to find time to eat, socialize with my friends and even sleep enough.” – Nathan McVeigh
His vision was to own a coffee cart on the walkway over the Hudson as a small side business. He got approved from the business bureau, but when he went to the bank to take out a loan for it, they denied it due to all of the student loans he still has to pay off.
“I will be paying those loans off for a while, but I would still love to own a coffee cart here someday,” says McVeigh.
Though Nathan McVeigh is doing it all on his own, he is content with where he is at and plans on graduating, working to pay off all of his student loans and continuing to pursue his passions. He believes that all of his hard work will pay off in the end.
“After Graduate School, I would like to get fully licensed and hopefully start a private practice working with men. I would like to do the coffee shop before I am 60, hopefully my loans will be paid off by then,” McVeigh says.