Dear Abby: I’m an artist and budding filmmaker with a B.A. degree. My problems are my job situation and where I live.
My dad has told me that — like him and his father — my brother and I share a similar problem. We all have trouble getting and keeping jobs. We never seem to get ahead or be content or comfortable. On my mother’s side, however, she, her father, her brother and my cousin all have held steady jobs. Why is that?
As an artist, I feel I don’t really fit into any job description. Mom would like me to work for the federal government like she does, but I don’t want to. I have had people let me down the past few years, and I have fought depression and personal attacks from friends and classmates who all told me to give up and get a “real” job. It makes me even more determined to realize my dream, but it’s getting harder. Can you advise me?
Swimming Against the Current
Dear Swimming: I’ll try. Most people work so they can have food on their table and a roof over their heads. Their jobs serve a purpose. I agree with your mother that you should have one — but I wouldn’t presume to dictate what kind.
For your father to imply that you will never get or be able to hold a permanent job is wrong and unfair to you, and I urge you not to fall into that kind of self-fulfilling rut. You can hold a job and pursue your art and filmmaking on your own time, although your success may take longer than you would otherwise like. Many others have done it, and so can you. For inspiration, talk to your mother’s side of the family. You share their genes, too.
Dear Abby: I live in a different state from the one where I grew up. Twice a week I call my elderly parents to touch base. While I enjoy speaking with Dad, my mother turns these calls into a trial.
Conversations with her are one-sided. She rarely asks me how I’m doing, and when I tell her things, she ignores or quickly glosses over my news and redirects the subject to herself. She rambles on about trivial events in her life, barely acknowledging me on the other end of the line.
Some days I am patient and tolerate it. On others, my fuse is shorter and I ask her to focus more on conversing with me, which offends her, and she accuses me of being rude.
I am an interesting, successful man who is frustrated my mother can’t connect with me more meaningfully. I don’t see my parents often and would like to be part of their lives. Mom is not by nature a generous person, but the telephone seems to magnify her self-absorption and lack of curiosity. Do you have any thoughts on how to handle her?
Listening But Not Heard
Dear Listening: Yes. It appears that you are seeking validation from your mother that you may have never received from her. It’s regrettable, but at her stage of life, you are not going to change her. She may be rambling because few people are willing to tolerate her self-centeredness. On the days you are feeling more patient, let her ramble on; on those that you don’t feel that way, keep the conversation upbeat but brief.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.