Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I’m an artist hoping to get a career in art, specifically as an illustrator. Three years ago I graduated with an art degree and have since been working to make that happen: doing a lot of research, building a portfolio and exploring all my options. I work part time to keep myself fed, but otherwise I’m always drawing, painting and networking. From what I’ve learned, it takes years before most artists can quit their day jobs. I’m prepared for this; I’m in no way lazy, but I know it will take me a long time. I keep my head down and keep trying. My family and friends are very supportive, which is wonderful, but there’s one big problem. They don’t understand why it’s taking me so long to get an art job, thus they’re always offering me art advice, though they aren’t artists themselves. Advice on what to paint, how much to sell for, who to work for and so on. Sometimes the advice is a little ridiculous, if not insulting: “Just go work for Disney” or “Nobody wants to buy those kinds of paintings. Paint portraits, those will sell.” Or, “Do it for the exposure if you have to.” They don’t trust that I know what I’m doing, and they don’t recognize how hard I’m working. It gets to the point I don’t want to talk about my art at all. I want to enjoy my family get-togethers again. How can I let on (politely) that I’m not interested in their bombardment of ill-informed advice? — Struggling Artist
DEAR STRUGGLING: Everybody’s an expert, and the less people know about your particular field, the more “expert” their advice becomes.
What you are going through is akin to people telling a certain struggling writer (yours truly), “You should write a book and get Oprah to endorse it!” This sort of statement might actually be a vote of confidence from the person offering it; unfortunately, instead it highlights the fact that none of these spectacular goals have been met. It’s a quick way to feel like a loser.
Don’t stop talking about your work (if you’re asked) — or avoid or ignore this unsolicited advice — but look for effective ways to cope with it. “You should work for Disney,” could be met with — “That might be very cool. Do you know anyone there I can call?”
Remember always that this is really your fan club; they’re just disguised as a Greek chorus of know-it-alls.
DEAR AMY: Two months ago I got married. Up until the night before my wedding, I was given the impression that my mother and stepfather would be there. It wasn’t until my rehearsal that I found out they weren’t coming. I was devastated. My mom and I had a bond that I thought couldn’t be broken. I found out that the reason she didn’t come was because my husband isn’t religious. How do I move on from this? She texted me on my one-month anniversary, and it was like nothing had happened. Every time I think about it though, I get angry and hurt all over again. Where does someone go from here? — Heartache in OR
DEAR HEARTACHE: You need to communicate directly with your mother about this. She is obviously a terrible communicator, and she is trying to ignore and move on from a very deliberate and hurtful action on her part.
You should choose to be honest, direct and transparent about this. The only way you can repair your relationship is to raise this issue, personally, with your mother. Understand that she will duck and dive in order to avoid this confrontation. She may blame her husband or yours. But she should answer for her own choice, and your goal should be to be calm, completely honest and to find a way to accept that this reveals your mother’s deficits, not yours.
DEAR AMY: I really don’t get your answer to “Wondering,” the man who received a fundraising solicitation out of the blue to help pay the funeral expenses of an ex-girlfriend who had dumped him unceremoniously 35 years before? If he wanted to recognize this ex, he could easily donate to a charity in her memory or send flowers or simply send a card to the family. — Bewildered
DEAR BEWILDERED: Great advice. It has become more common for people to send out a wide net fundraising for any number of things; anyone who is solicited in this way should investigate the request and make an informed decision about donating.