Thursday, July 09, 2009

Another problem with being an apprentice

So I've had this friend for about ten years, and I think that I knew her somewhat even ten years before that. And from stuff that comes up in conversation, I knew that she had gone to college and that she had taken a lot of art classes.

And I also knew that she did not make a living as an artist, and nothing had come up in conversation about her once having been able to do that. There were a few different possibilities.

She could have been in exactly my situation. She could have started out as an art major and been ordered by her parents to switch to something else.

She could have started out an art major and switched to something else on her own.

She could have had an minor in art.

She could have been an art major and just ran out of money and had to drop out of school.

She could have been an art major and had to drop out of school for some other reason, like maybe her health, and then she just never got back to it.

She could have been an art major, graduated, and just not been able to make a living as an artist, or found a "real job" that paid more and just gave up on the whole art thing.

I got the idea that it was the last one. I wondered how long a person with an art degree tries to actually make a living as an artist before giving up and getting a "real job." So one day I asked her about it.

I kind of got the short version of it. She did graduate as an art major, but she didn't stay with the painting and the ceramics. Her last year she studied stuff about making film. The specific job she was supposed to get with her degree had to do with lights. So she should be working the lights on some TV show, or making comercials, or maybe even making movies.

Only after graduation, you are supposed to apprentice for a year. She didn't even mention getting paid minimum wage during the apprenticeship. She couldn't work for free for a year, unless she lived with her parents, and there wasn't any place to do that where they lived. So she had to get a "real job".

She didn't give any more details than that. I'm not exactly sure how she ended up in this area, which is not in the county her parents lived in, and it's not in the same county that she went to college in either. I know that her dad worked not exactly the same job, but in the same field and for the same employer, and I am thinking that when the art thing didn't work out he helped her get a job where he worked, and then she transferred to this area when a better paying position became available.

And she hates her job. I don't know if she's always hated her job, but I've never heard her say anything nice about it. Okay, that's not entirely true. I'm sure she likes some of the people she works with, but I'm sure that would have happened anyway. Mostly, she talks about the revolving door of managers, and how she doesn't like any of them.

Anyway, she did answer my question, but she didn't offer much in the way of details. It just sounded like she went to school, decided to get an art degree, decided to specialize in TV/film because working the lights is a "real job" as opposed to just making art and hoping that someone will buy it, and then she didn't get that particular "real job" because she didn't know about the unpaid apprentice thing.

Afterwards, that didn't quite make sense. Surely somebody told her about this apprenticeship thing before her last year of college, and she would have had time to specialize in something else or maybe even switch majors entirely. Having once had a major in something that would have had an unpaid apprenticeship year (almost a year anyway), that was often the topic of conversation among the students. People were nervous about the "fifth year", or really excited about it, or whatever.

Me? I was really ticked that we were expected to work for free for most of a year. Not only that, but since we were techically still in school, we actually had to pay for the privilege of working that year. It was less than half of what most of us paid in a normal year, but still, we had to pay. And it was pretty much a full time job in addition to having a few things that we still had to do at school, so it probably wasn't going to leave enough time to even get a part-time job to pay some of the bills.

But, back to my friend. I can not believe that she just didn't know about the apprenticeship until it was too late. I can believe that she thought that she would get a student loan for that year and then couldn't get one. Or, I can believe that she thought that she would spend the year living with her parents, but the place she intended to work that year went out of business. Maybe she thought she could drive between the place her parents lived and the place she lives now, but she decided not to do that after her car broke down in the middle of nowhere. Before cell phones, driving by yourself between towns could sometimes be a frightening experience.

Anyway, I have yet to ask her for more details. I don't think she likes to talk about it. She is seriously in "my life sucks" mode, and reminding her that things could have been different is probably not a good idea.


Ananda girl said...

How very curious. I can't imagine being expected to work without living expenses!

laughingattheslut said...

Well, when I went back to school I had several thousand dollars saved up, and I thought I was going to have a job. I got fired, which ended up being a good thing, especially where the financial aid was concerned. Anyway, when I signed up for classes, I had money saved and a job, and I was going to save at least ten thousand dollars to spend during my "fifth year." So that would have covered that, except that after I was fired I ended up spending the ten thousand, mostly making car payments and such. But still, if you know that you have low pay or no pay year coming up, and this is really necessary for what you plan to do with your life, I would think that you would save up for it for at least four years.