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View Full Version : Be Honestly Brutal, Or Simply Supportive?



IdahoRider
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:11 PM
Okay, as some of you know, I was "downsized" from a hobby job at a humane society in 2008. I decided to go back to school and get a teaching credential and and am at long last finally in my last two semesters. I started my real student teaching portion of the the program this past January and will finish up next December.

I am a lot older than most of my classmates in college. I have a son that is older than many of them. There are a few of us more mature folks in the program, and we tend to cling to each other. In 2009 I met another woman in an algebra class and we became friends. Other than being older and being parents, we didn't have much in common. She had recently divorced after 32 years of marriage, she was devoutly religious and very, very straight-laced. But we liked each other and were very supportive. She almost single-handedly pulled me through algebra and the two math-for-teachers classes we were required to take, and I have been helping her through the writing requirements. We have been cheerleaders for each other, pushing when we needed it.

I was able to take the last of the state-mandated exams last summer, which cleared the way for me to start my "Professional Year" (student teaching). My friend kept putting if off. She said she couldn't afford to pay for them and would do it in the fall. But she had the money to feed and house her adult daughter and all daughter's various children. Okay, I never said anything. I just kept reminding her that you need to register for those exams months in advance, blah-blah-blah.

She didn't take them in the fall and wasn't able to apply for her "Professional Year" in January. She didn't take them this semester. She hasn't even registered for an exam spot yet, and those seats fill up so quickly. She kept saying she couldn't afford it.

I had lunch with her on Thursday and she said that she is taking next semester off and traveling to Arizona to help her son and DIL out. DIL is pregnant and has varicose veins and can't do housework and take care of the baby that was born last summer. Son is disabled and can't work. They have no money and my friend thinks she will move in with them and help cook and clean until after this baby is born in November. She said she plans on taking the exams in Arizona (entirely possible) and apply for her "Professional Year" here in Idaho while still there. She thinks she can do the interview on Skype.

I know that money has been a big issue for her. She relies on financial aid, her rental is being foreclosed on (she has had to move three times since I met her). I know that she has been somewhat disenchanted with the reality of teaching. But I am horrified that she would work as hard as she has, getting this close to being done (two semesters of the "professional Year") and just stop. I have seen too many people take a break and never come back.

I feel so sad. I thought we would either graduate together, or at least close in time to each other. I had offered to give her the money to pay for the exams.

I have tried to be as non-committal as possible, in that I haven't come right out and told her that I think she is being an idiot. I have expressed my concerns and asked her "have you thought about......." kind of questions. I think she could go to Arizona and work her fingers to the bone for her son and DIL, and it won't make any difference in their situation. So why give up her dreams?

So, COTH wise ones. Do I just express my sadness at losing my school buddy, and accept that she is doing this for reasons beyond the desire to help her family? Or should I be brutally honest and tell her that she is wasting her time and that anything she does for them won't be enough?

We have never had the type of friendship where we told each other what to do . Or one where we told the other that any planned action was the wrong one. So saying something now would be changing the structure of the friendship.
Sheilah

Perfect Pony
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:22 PM
Oh God. She is so co-dependent it's sad. I watched something very similar happen to my Grandmother, my aunts and uncles and father bled her dry and by the time she passed she had nothing. She was such a wonderful, vibrant, tough as nails person that went through the depression and worked her whole life..

I don't think there is anything you can do. I doubt anything you say will get to her, she identifies with the "rescuer" role and it appears her children take advantage of that. I'm sorry.

lilitiger2
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:27 PM
Be warm and supportive and a good listener which it sounds like you are! And she will sort out what she needs to, whatever decision she makes and, as people say, you may not remember what people say to you but you do remember how you feel when you are with them. Having a good caring friend like you likely is wonderful for her, whatever she does. Congrats on the teaching!

alto
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:36 PM
Just be supportive & a friend to her - something/someone positive in her life that she can talk to & that will always try to lift her up (she's got a ton of the down-draggers & who knows how supportive/non-supportive/undermining they've been - I suspect they fear her changing & being independent & all that may entail) - if you can do it, let her know that you've put that money aside in a special account for her exams & that it will be there when she's ready, offer to help her with the exam prep etc when the time comes (she may be afraid of failure & as long as she doesn't do the exam, it's an open door).

There are small ways in which you can get her to question her choices, use those rather than the big hammer sort.

Be so proud of all that you've done! :yes:

Blugal
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:40 PM
Agree with all the others. Denigrating her family (even in a round-about way by saying she's not making the right choices) will only make her defensive.

twotrudoc
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:46 PM
The advice you've already received is right on.

You are truly a caring friend.

Rooty
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:47 PM
Sounds like she is afraid to succeed/fail/finish and is making excuses so she doesn't have to. That way she can feel like "I was so close, but then x happened and I couldn't" I have met a number of people like this over the years, my brother did this when he was younger, and a couple of people I went to college with as well - just kakked out before final exams. That's just off the top of my head.
I am a fence-sitter and can almost always see both sides, so my approach would be to say I understand why you feel like you need to help your family, and gently point out how close she is to finishing, then let her know you will be there for her either way.
I have a very good friend who sometimes makes decisions I don't agree with, however they are his decisions to make and in the long run he has to live with them so while I may tactfully give my opinion, whatever he decides I will be there for him.

Kryswyn
Apr. 7, 2012, 01:54 PM
The only thing I can think you might say is, "Just imagine how much more help you could be to your children if you got your teaching certificate." Maybe that would help. But maybe not...

JanM
Apr. 7, 2012, 04:55 PM
Rooty is right. She's either going to take the exam (I bet never for that), or not, and you can't persuade her. I think she's one of those people who never finishes anything, and never will. Procrastinators are notorious about changing, and she seems like a classic case. I wouldn't loan her the money, because it's just an excuse and even if she takes the money it probably won't be spent for the exam anyway.

IdahoRider
Apr. 7, 2012, 05:28 PM
Yeah, responses are pretty much in line with what I have been thinking. We were talking about something last year and my friend commented that her daughter had asked her what my advice was about some family situation, and my friend said that she responded by saying that we didn't have the "here is my best advice, now follow it"-type of friendship. We listened to each other, let each other vent, and then moved on. I have had such struggles with my own adult son, things that none of my classmates or professors knew anything about. But I did unburden myself to her eventually, and she never once passed judgement on him (or me, as his parent). She heard me, but never told me what to do.

I am not sure why this bothers me so much! But I can get choked up if I think about it. That just seems so ridiculous to me, but it is the honest to God truth. She was so much better at some of the classes we took together. I really struggled with math, and she sailed through those classes. If it hadn't been for her helping me, tutoring me every spare minute, I wouldn't have passed the required math classes. It had been more than 30 years since I was in high school, and even then I didn't take algebra. It was all new to me.

And yet, I am the one that is going to finish. It was supposed to be both of us. When we were both so discouraged and thinking that we were too old and tired to do this we would give each other pep talks about how we would finish and become teachers and then we would have classrooms next to each other (because, of course, we would get hired at the same school). That was how it was supposed to be.

I have already told her that I will continue to bug her and that I won't rest until she is back in school and finishing up the last two semesters. And I also told her that I am ready to pay for those exams any time she is ready. I can use my bank card to do the on-line exam registration, so there is no doubt that the money would be going for the exams. Plus, she is rigidly moral. There is no way she would accept money for one thing and use it for another.

I have a spare bedroom. I have even thought about offering it to her, rent free, if that would help her reach her goal. My husband would probably balk at that, since it might put a crimp in his ability to roam the house buck naked. I know how lucky I am (with the possible exception of having a husband that roams the house buck naked). I was able to go back to school and not have to worry about getting financial aid, or where I was going to live. My husband has been totally supportive, as have my friends. And she is my friend, who has been instrumental in me getting this far. I want to pay it forward.
Sheilah

IdahoRider
Apr. 7, 2012, 05:31 PM
I have a very good friend who sometimes makes decisions I don't agree with, however they are his decisions to make and in the long run he has to live with them so while I may tactfully give my opinion, whatever he decides I will be there for him.
Good policy...and so difficult to follow through on! But I think that tactfully giving my opinion and remaining available as a friend are my only real options.
Sheilah

ReSomething
Apr. 7, 2012, 05:37 PM
I'm sorry, it sounds so much like you are the best kind of friend to have, but if she is backing away from finishing there isn't anything you can do to stop her except leave her your number and say if she wants to pick up where she left off just call.

Yes it's a waste, but she's probably got some issues and you can't fix them for her.

BuddyRoo
Apr. 7, 2012, 05:47 PM
Question for you. If you told her EXACTLY what you thought and it made her mad and she never spoke to you again, would you be okay with that? Conversely, do you see the two of you staying in contact long term especially if she drops out of the program altogether?

The reason I ask these things is that my good girlfriend from college kind of went down a similar track and she was in med school when she bailed out.

After many painful (for me?) discussions, I finally told her what I really thought. She didn't speak to me for a few months. But she got her butt back in med school, divorced her a-hole cheating husband, and now....many years later...says that that conversation changed her life. Woke her up. And made her life NOW (new husband, baby, and career in medicine) possible.

We may have been closer friends than you and your person. But I finally just had to take the leap and say, "Friend, I love you and care about you and will support you in whatever you choose. But what I see is X and you've got to make changes."

That's a short version obviously. But it was a very honest convo. And I really did think that I had "lost" her at first. It's been almost 10 years since that conversation and we're great! She's great! But I think she needed someone to tell her how messed up things were to get on the right path.

IdahoRider
Apr. 7, 2012, 06:44 PM
Good question, BuddyRoo. I think it would bother me more to not clearly say something now, and have her realize five years from now that she made a big mistake, than it would bother me to say something clearly now and have her not talk to me forever.

If it weren't for being thrown together in a class, we would never have been friends. We just don't move in the same circles. She doesn't see the value in keeping a horse that isn't working hard on a farm. And my having so many dogs mystifies her. Her inability to cuss any harder than an occasional "Oh, Crumb" blows my mind. As is her insistence that God would NOT understand if she took a job that required her to work on Saturdays. She listens to Rush Limbaugh. And I would rather pull my ear drums out with a crochet hook than do that.

But the friendship really works for us. I don't know how, exactly. But it does. When my aunt died last December, my friend dropped everything and came to house/pet sit for us. She gave up her Christmas dinner with her family to make sure my dogs got out to potty. And I would arrange my class schedule to coincide with hers, so she wouldn't have to worry about gas or parking expenses.
Sheilah

Trakehner
Apr. 8, 2012, 01:06 AM
Her son is disabled, they've got one kid and the wife is pregnant? Great! Those apples sure didn't fall far from the tree.

Keep in touch, but don't offer money or advice. She knows what she's doing and why. She's not a child and makes her own choices...not the ones you'd make (thank gawd), but you can't make her live her life.

Great on you, that you went back to school and are doing well. Be someone for her to look at and decide she'd like to do that too! Be happy, and don't let her live with you!

vacation1
Apr. 8, 2012, 01:16 AM
It's a tough call. One side of me says that sometimes people need more than just an objective "Hey, I'm worried about you because X" - sometimes you need, as BuddyRoo said, real, substantial help like what the OP's already mulling - a confrontation, a loan, a place to stay, someone to support their temporarily frail sense of their own importance.

On the other hand, of course, sometimes people actually do want to do something that looks so wrong from outside it just about kills you, but ultimately, it was what they wanted. I'm a pretty firm believer that we mostly do what we truly want - we might not want the outcome, but we wanted the steps that led there. For whatever reason, maybe the friend just doesn't truly want to finish this. Maybe her reasons aren't sound or healthy, but to some extent, you have to respect her choices.

The whole story is even more difficult as it hinges on a woman's relationship with her disfunctional grown son. That rarely has a good outcome.

fooler
Apr. 8, 2012, 11:11 AM
. . .
I am not sure why this bothers me so much! But I can get choked up if I think about it. That just seems so ridiculous to me, but it is the honest to God truth. She was so much better at some of the classes we took together. I really struggled with math, and she sailed through those classes. If it hadn't been for her helping me, tutoring me every spare minute, I wouldn't have passed the required math classes. It had been more than 30 years since I was in high school, and even then I didn't take algebra. It was all new to me.

And yet, I am the one that is going to finish. It was supposed to be both of us. When we were both so discouraged and thinking that we were too old and tired to do this we would give each other pep talks about how we would finish and become teachers and then we would have classrooms next to each other (because, of course, we would get hired at the same school). That was how it was supposed to be.

I have already told her that I will continue to bug her and that I won't rest until she is back in school and finishing up the last two semesters. And I also told her that I am ready to pay for those exams any time she is ready. I can use my bank card to do the on-line exam registration, so there is no doubt that the money would be going for the exams. Plus, she is rigidly moral. There is no way she would accept money for one thing and use it for another.

Sheilah

Tell her this, she needs to hear this and know how someone outside of her family values her. Say it in the most caring way you are able.

Say your peace and leave it. She will have to make and live with her decision as will you.

Good for you being such a good friend.

thatmoody
Apr. 8, 2012, 12:03 PM
I agree with what fooler says. I have counseled so many students who are ready to drop out for whatever reason so close to their graduation. It ALWAYS seems like a good idea at the time (family crisis, boyfriend crisis, can't afford it (because you could all those other semesters), have to go back to work to pay for this or that. I can be a bit more brutal because I'm not in the role of a friend, but I always ask them to picture their lives in 2-3 years - one with the degree, one without, and ask them how each picture FEELS. How do they feel with the degree? Usually it's accomplished, proud, strong. Sometimes without the degree they decide they will feel okay too, and that's okay with me. Either way we go through some goal setting exercises to get them SOMEWHERE. It was a horrible struggle for me to finish my OWN degree, and I had to go through this process several times myself. That's how I learned it :D. I did it once for my master's, and then again when I finished my PhD. Now I'm going to do it again for pursuing my writing for tenure. Would I rather be tenured or not? Only I can decide what my life will look like with or without it, and only your friend can decide what she wants, but it's good that she has you.

tpup
Apr. 8, 2012, 07:48 PM
You are good intentioned, and a good friend. She obviously values your friendship. I would gently, and with the best intention and caveat that you support her no matter WHAT she decides, tell her how you feel. I often feel people are "put together" for reasons...sounds cheesy, but if you are that turning point and support for her, how wonderful. Perhaps offer 2 different scenarios..."what if you did this?" and if that's too hard for your right now, "how about this"? I would focus on how she feels when her degree is completed...what that might do for her ultimately, and for her family situation. If you tell her the above with love and support, I don't think you can go wrong. I would absolutely appreciate the candor, if it comes kindly and with understanding. Good luck!

Ponyclubrocks
Apr. 8, 2012, 07:55 PM
Here is a taste of honestly brutal: Your desire to rescue your friend is a lot like her desire to rescue her adult children...well intended perhaps but a fool's errand.

IdahoRider
Apr. 8, 2012, 08:53 PM
Here is a taste of honestly brutal: Your desire to rescue your friend is a lot like her desire to rescue her adult children...well intended perhaps but a fool's errand.
Yes, I see that and it kind of bothers me because I am usually so good with boundaries.

And I am not really sure why it is so important to me that she finish as well. She is a grown up and can make her own decisions. And her choices surely don't change my choices.

I just feel so emotional about it. Very strange for me. Maybe it has a lot to do with the emotion of being so close to finishing myself?
Sheilah