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Troubled by a Friend's Inertia

  1. Jun 22, 2011 #1
    I know this girl here (well, she's 24) who is coasting along aimlessly without a job.

    She is in a unique position: she is staying with a friend who doesn't require her to pay rent unless she's able. That's indefinite: there's no time limit in which she has to find a job.

    She found a full time job a few months ago, which was kind of amazing given the economy here. It was 40 hours a week, plus they required everyone to work about 5 hours on Saturday.

    But, I was surprised to hear her complaining about the hours, the pay, and the time required to get to and from work. In other words: she had no gratitude about her luck in even finding and having a job. I sensed danger when she started making entitled-sounding statements like: "Minimum wage jobs are so soul-destroying!" Sure enough, she just up and quit the job after a couple months.

    She claims to be looking for another, but it's been a month and a half.

    You may wonder what she's doing for spending money. I do too. Best guess: about a year ago someone smashed into her parked car, totaling it, and their insurance recompensed her some thousands of dollars. I think she's frugally stretching that out. She didn't buy another car, anyway.

    She wants to be an artist, and she and I get together in cafe's to draw now and then. She claims to get so much more done when she's drawing with me. Otherwise, she says, she doesn't get much artwork done. So, I'm thinking: "If you're not doing artwork everyday, how the hell do you expect to get good enough to make a living at it?" But I don't say it because I sense an unspoken plea not to disturb her delusion. So, she's currently neither supporting herself, nor using all her free time to dig into her dream.

    She strikes me as the type of girl who just doesn't have the inner push to take control of her life. The sort that really needs to marry a wealthy man who will support her while she dabbles in art. However, there's a big problem in the way of that: she's a lesbian.

    I gave her a lecture after I found out she had quit the job she managed to get. All she took away from it was that she had to figure out future ways to understate the importance of her being out of work.
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  3. Jun 22, 2011 #2


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    Sounds like a familiar story. I think my generation (of parents) has made it too easy for our children's generation.

    One visit to the local high school, and I came away concerned that only about 5% +/- really had the drive to achieve above average.

    I encourage folks to find something that is meaningful and enjoyable, and pays reasonable, if not well.

    My first job at 14/15 was working in a bike shop for min. wage and commission. I sold bikes, built them, and repaired them. The next job at 16 was gardening center doing manual labor, mostly carrying heavy loads for customers, unloading trucks and storing sacks of fertilizer and herbicides, or filling backs of dirt, manure and sand. At 17 I worked at a grocery store.

    During university (undergrad), I was a janitor, plumber, mechanic, dishwasher, then iron worker. In grad school, I was a teaching or research assistant, and for a couple of years, a full time operator at a municipal water production facility. I paid my way through undergrad and graduate school, paid off my wife's undergrad loans, bought her a new car, and left school debt free. I had a small downpayment for a house, and my folks kicked in a little for the financial support I gave to them over the years (I had siblings who went to university and needed support).
  4. Jun 22, 2011 #3
    I, too, did a lot of down and dirty jobs over the years because there was no alternative.

    She's mentioned vague plans about going back to school to become an art teacher. It bothers me that she doesn't firmly face the fact her Dolce far Niente is fragile and get on the stick.
  5. Jun 22, 2011 #4


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    I knew an [strike]idiot[/strike] girl who I gave the same arrangement to for a couple months until I realized she was a deadbeat. She couldn't even get the job part. She thinks she's going to join the air force and get paid $120k a year. What a moron.

    The thing with these people is that they probably do have a huge sense of entitlement. I personally recommend letting them crash and burn. You can't convince them to not be deadbeats, they have to face the consequences of their lifestyle. Until then, don't give them anything, not even if you normally would out of common courtesy.
  6. Jun 23, 2011 #5
    Fortunately for her I am not the one giving her a free place to stay. I would definitely put a time limit on how long she could stay without paying rent.

    The odd thing is that up till somewhat over a year ago she had a job as a cashier that she'd had for two years without incident. In other words, she has been able to support herself in the past. It's not like she never had to, or was never able to. More like she's on strike.

    She presents as extremely stable, respectful, well spoken, and reasonable, the kind of person prospective employers would seriously consider hiring. No drugs/drinking.
  7. Jun 23, 2011 #6

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    Maybe she will find a wealthy woman to take care of her. I am friends with a couple of lesbian ladies who are quite financially successful. Both have partners that are well, not so ambitious, and seem to drift from job to job and would rather be spending time on creative pursuits. These are almost 1950s style relationships, with one partner as the breadwinner, and the other more domestically-oriented, earning a little pin money here and there.
  8. Jun 23, 2011 #7
    It could happen down the road, I guess. Her current girlfriend, though, is a student with no job who lives at home with her parents.
  9. Jun 23, 2011 #8

    I like Serena

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    I believe people need motivation to do something.
    If there is nothing to achieve, it becomes difficult to get and remain motivated.

    If someone else pays all your bills with no questions asked, it becomes difficult to be motivated to work very hard just to earn a few pennies.

    If however, you want things and do not have the money to pay for them, and no one is giving you the money, it's much easier to become motivated to earn money.
    And even more, you'll probably find you enjoy it, since you get the satisfaction of it.

    If this girl some day loses the easy life she's leading now, she'll become motivated to do something about it. One solution might be finding someone else to give her an easy life, since that's what she's already used to.

    I do not believe this makes her a bad person or anything.
    She's mostly shaped by the circumstances in her life.
    You apparently liked her before....... did she change?
  10. Jun 23, 2011 #9
    No, she didn't change. I first met her a little before her car got totaled. What happened is that I slowly became aware that she wasn't doing anything definitive to get her life back on track.

    When she quit the job she'd managed to get, I felt alarmed for her. I though she should have stuck it out till she could get herself another car. Once she had that she'd be in a much better position to look for a different job she liked better.

    On top of that, she complains about the two people who are letting her live there free, that they mess up the apartment which makes her feel disrespected since she makes the effort to tidy up now and then. I'm thinking, "You have a whole room to yourself for free, be the fricken' house maid for cripe's sake!"

    Before all this she lived with her mother (father's deceased). Her mother's an old school Catholic and didn't take her announcement she was a lesbian very well: she evicted her from the house. For a short while after that, back when she still had the cashier job, she shared a house with a bunch of hooligan party students who drove her up the wall with late night partying. Then she found this arrangement. I'm thinking she didn't have to pay for her own place long enough to lose the child's feeling of being owed a place to live.
  11. Jun 23, 2011 #10
    I wonder whether she sees herself as an 'artist', and has ambitious plans to produce works of art, (which she doesn't want to admit to in conversation). However she can't motivate herself to get down to it - 'artist's block'. She is therefore reluctant to get a job, on the basis that it will make it even harder to motivate herself and find time for her art.

    I would suggest that she decides to spend a set amount of time per day working on her art (no more than 4 hours though), on the basis that she will continue to allocate time to her art even if she has to get a job to pay the bills.
  12. Jun 23, 2011 #11
    My ten cents.

    Let her do what she likes, it's her life, not yours. Although, as a friend you need to tell her what you feel, that is if you really are a friend to her? You better think it over before acting and decide just what you want to be, in relation to her. But you better be a real friend before clashing :) And that one should be solved where you are, not here.

    But check where you stand yourself, and your values, before deciding that hers are 'wrong'.
  13. Jun 23, 2011 #12


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    It has nothing to do with the generation. There's people like that of all ages.

    When I was younger, a really good friend and his wife were kind of struggling. She was the one with the job and he made money once in a great while playing in a band. She lost her job, but quickly found another job - except it paid less.

    I got my friend a job - something I almost never did when I was younger, since it always seemed to turn out badly. In this case, the guy was great at the job and got several compliments from both our bosses and coworkers.

    Then he up and quits. He couldn't see the point of having a job when nearly all of his paycheck wound up going for things like groceries, rent, utilities, food for his kid, .......

    We didn't stay friends very long after that. Funny how you start almost looking for a reason to get into a fight so you'll have a reason to end your friendship. I think the thing I wondered about most was why I couldn't just say I'd completely lost all respect for him, thought he was a lazy ***, and ended the friendship without the fight.
  14. Jun 23, 2011 #13


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    In my opinion, [STRIKE]I don't think any[/STRIKE] no amount of lecturing will help. If she's depressed, or simply lacks solid work ethic, then she'll probably continue to have ups-and-downs regarding her life's progress until she addresses the cause(s) of her irresponsibility. How much do you know about her past? Did she have chores as a child? Were responsible choices reenforced in her home?

    In any event, I think it would be more beneficial to lecture the friend with whom she's staying. As long as she's being permitted to freeload, I don't see her changing her lifestyle anytime soon. At the very least, she needs to have consequences. A medical evaluation and treatment might help if she's clinically depressed.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  15. Jun 23, 2011 #14
    Yeah, I think this is all accurate. She indirectly admits she thinks her art is pretty important stuff (i.e. it has important "meaning" and all that) by the serious way she talks about it and by the way she denigrates any artist whose work seems vapid, even if they render better than her. And she's also described project plans she's afraid will take a lot of work, and complained the job she quit left her with no energy to draw.

    I'll run that idea by her. I know she feels she should be working on it every day but I'm not sure she's considered an outright allocation of dedicated time.
  16. Jun 23, 2011 #15


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    I love that. "HELLO, you have a job so that you can have groceries, pay rent and utilities, and so that your kids don't starve moron!". I would have loved to have been there for that.

    I can relate, however. I know people who if they don't want to go on vacation or don't want some new computer, they wouldn't work. With these people, it's not so much that they have current obligations such as children, but they have no interest in saving for the future. It amazes me how many of my friends buy big new tvs, the newest tech gadget, throw money at every little stupid thing, yet do this while living paycheck to paycheck.

    I think this is the "have your cake and eat it too" entitlement issue our current generation feels. I think people like this secretly feel society should be supporting her because she's too important to have to support herself.
  17. Jun 23, 2011 #16


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    Wouldn't allocating a set number of hours to work at her art be as soul-destroying as a minimum wage job?

    Suggesting something like that sounds like a sure fire way to convince her to decide she wants to be a movie star. It just sounds to me as if she finds daydreams to be a lot more fun than working at anything.

    I just find it hard to be patient with people like that. Maybe I'm just not a fun person.
  18. Jun 23, 2011 #17
    It's not about values, but practicalities: how to get from point A to B. I don't mind at all that van Gogh only sold one painting while alive and was completely supported by his brother. He took that support and made the most out of it, generating as many as three paintings a day.

    So the problem is she's not working AND not drawing. We do 8-12 hour marathon sessions when we get together but that's only once every couple of weeks. In between she only seems to do about two hours of drawing on her own.

    In front of any of that, though, is the issue of her extreme dependence on other people versus taking economic control of your life and situation. The trouble with dependence, as she ought to have learned when her mother kicked her out, is that it can be quite fragile. Were she to have to vacate the place she's at now, for whatever reason, she'd have no where to go.

    I'm not here looking for persuasive arguments to confront her with, either. I've given her one "lecture" on each subject and she either dismisses it or she doesn't. When her car got totaled I advised replacing it immediately. She dismissed that idea, had her own plans, then complained bitterly when the only job she ended up finding was an hour and a half, one way, on public transit, which was a big part of the reason she quit. Real friends do warn you, yes. Real friends don't make you feel great about each and every irrational decision you seem to be seriously contemplating making.

    I withhold pushing my values on her. She's going after a style and genre of art I have no particular interest in, but I think that's fine: lots of people love that sort of thing. All I'm doing is giving her pointers on the mechanics of rendering realistically. Those pointers are about the only thing I say that she takes seriously and act on. She's already gotten better.
  19. Jun 23, 2011 #18
    I don't believe she's depressed. She's a pretty alive and upbeat person.

    Her Dad died suddenly in an accident when she was 10. Her mother went into a kind of nose dive for a while and she had to jump in and be the man of the house, mowing the lawn, maintaining the place, watch the little sister. So, according to her, she was quite the chore-doer, yes.

    I don't know the people she's staying with and couldn't approach them cold. Apparently there's been some disappointment briefly expressed about her job situation, but no threats to chuck her out or anything.
  20. Jun 23, 2011 #19
    Strangely, the other night I was complaining about "not feeling it" and being really irritated with the sketches i was doing. She said "Well, sometimes it's good to just force yourself." Maybe all that meant was, "Don't abort our session early on me!" but I thought it was kinda ironic for her to be giving that advice.

    I think she'd go for the concept but might possibly find a lot of things cropping up to prevent her from carrying it out all the time, sort of thing. I'm not sure.
  21. Jun 23, 2011 #20


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    The generations before us worked very hard to give the generations ahead of them a life free from the hardships they suffered. What optimism they must have had! They must have believed if humans were freed of struggle, we would be generous and diligent; surely all of human depravity and vileness are caused by our having to work so hard to survive. They must have believed we would transcend our ignoble lives, if only we could.

    Well I admire those who worked hard to give us moderns our cushy lifestyle, but I’m afraid they had a fundamental misunderstanding of humans.

    Back to your friend, zooby…maybe she’s just an all-too-typical human?
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