Dear Annie: I’ve been friends with a small group of people since junior high. We’re in our late 50s now, and though none of us has set the world on fire, we have good families and stable careers. All except “Joe.”

Ever since he was a boy, Joe dreamed of making it big in a profession in which, with a good deal of skill and some luck, you can make a lot of money in a relatively short time. Unfortunately, Joe’s skills are no better than average, and he’s never had much luck. He hasn’t gotten further than the fringes of his dream profession, no matter how hard he’s tried. But that’s his dream, and he is absolutely sure his big break is right around the corner. His interests haven’t changed since junior high.

Joe has had one entry-level job after another, with no interest in moving up the ladder. He’s never had a serious relationship. Joe is a nice guy, and we all like him, but if we hadn’t been friends all these years, no one in our group would have anything in common with him at all.

A few months ago, Joe was laid off from another dead-end job, and at his age and with his haphazard work experience, he’s had no luck finding employment. Now all he talks about is moving to a big city where he’s convinced his dream would finally come true.

Some guys in our group say maybe he’ll come to his senses when he fails yet again. Others believe he will end up living in a cardboard box. The rest want to find a way to get him to wake up and smell the coffee. How do we help someone who’s thrown away his entire life on an impossible dream? — Joe’s Buddies for Life

Dear Buddies: Most people eventually learn the limits of their talent and find success in areas in which they can do well. And while extremely gifted people can find some degree of success later in life, Joe has deluded himself into spending 50 years waiting to be “discovered.” And he obviously isn’t ready to confront that depressing fact.

The kindest thing you could do for Joe is suggest he look into job counseling (or therapy) and work on becoming more successful — in any field.

Dear Annie: I am responding to “Lost in the City,” whose friends deserted her after she suffered from depression. This happens even when you aren’t depressed.

I have learned that even close friends you have known for decades have their own lives to live. Over time, these friendships faded, especially after I moved away. We, too, had shared life’s thrills and tragedies, and I thought they would always be by my side.

They would sometimes respond to my calls and emails, but then would disappear until I made contact again. It was a long time before I finally gave up.

I was upset for years, but finally realized that life just got in the way. I honestly don’t think they dropped off the radar on purpose, and I don’t question myself anymore as to what I may have done. It wasn’t personal. However, I encourage “Lost” to make new friends, as I have done, and I am confident she will lead a happier, more productive life. And regarding those loved ones you “lost,” you haven’t really lost them if you keep them in your heart. — That’s Just the Way It Is