Worries About My Friends and Our Near Term Future

I worry sometimes.  Namely I worry about my friends and people younger than I am in general.  I worry about most of my friends struggling in life.  Most of my friends are buried in debts, mostly student loans, that they will be lucky if they ever pay off.  And most of my friends weren’t that dumb with their money or life decisions.  Most of my friends went to college because 1) we were told that was a path to a decent career and 2) we looked around and saw that there were no jobs that paid decently requiring only a high school degree.  Long gone are the days when someone could get a job as a factory hand or farm worker in their early twenties and hold onto that job for over forty years and retire with a paid off home, pension, and health insurance.

I’m seeing my friends struggle in their day to day lives.  Most are working a full time job and a part time job or a side gig.  Almost none of them own houses.  The only one of my close friends who owns a house is a high school teacher in a small town.  And he didn’t buy his house until he was in his late 30s.  They don’t own houses simply because they can’t afford a house and student debts.  I also have friends who have had medical emergencies.  One friend had to file for bankruptcy for medical bills.  One friend is fighting cancer, divorced, lost her children, and is still on the waiting list for disability.  Another friend of mine got a master’s degree only to find the best job she could get in a mid sized city doesn’t pay even 40 grand a year.  Her husband also works a low paying job and moonlights as an Uber driver.  He too has lots of student debt.

Now I know some unsympathetic people will be thinking, “well, that’s what they get for not majoring in STEM or going to the military.”  Well, one of my brother’s best friends pulled straight 4.0 all the way through high school and college and still got rejected for a state medical school at least three times before he was accepted.  As far as I know, he now has a decent career working in a medical lab.  Another of my brother’s friends didn’t finish medical school and residencies until he was in his thirties because of finances and run around from the schools.  Now he works as an emergency search and rescue doctor.  One of my cousins went to trade school for two years to become an electrician.  He worked for a couple railroads, got married, has four kids, and owns a small acreage in rural Nebraska.  But, he is now essentially self employed due to the inconsistent nature of railroad employment and his wife has had medical problems to where I think she had to give up her job as a nurse’s aide.  Another cousin works in web development.  Even though he has had to work for several different firms and sometimes take free lance work, he is doing alright because he has skills that are in demand.  At least for the time being.

Can we really expect most people to become doctors, nurses, webpage designers, computer coders, engineers, tradesmen, etc?  Yet that is all I hear out of “experts” and “business leaders.”  While I think it admirable that people like Mike Rowe want to encourage more people to consider the trades like plumbing, electrician, welding, carpentry, etc, I fear that too much emphasis on the trades will eventually lead the same problem that people who majored in business, law, humanities, liberal arts, etc. are facing now.  Twenty years ago, we were told to go to college and get a degree.  Many of us did only to find that every kid in the developed world was given that advice.  Now the degree doesn’t go nearly as far as it did even forty years ago, primarily because of so many people having degrees.  Then the kids were told “get a masters” or “do unpaid internships”.  Many did only to find that they had six figures in student loans to qualify for jobs that will never pay enough to pay off the loans, let alone pay off a house or even start a family in some cases.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if young people or my friends are angry about this setup.  Because while some jobs have been outsourced to cheaper places, many more were taken over by automation.  I have a friend who works in a call center for a bank.  I fear it’s only a matter of time before his job gets automated.  And, of course, no one in power cares about the twenty and thirty somethings struggling.  They didn’t even care about the  forty something auto or steel workers who lost their jobs to machines and outsourcing.

And it’s no longer just the US or Europe that is outsourcing and automating jobs.  Even China is automating and outsourcing.  Just a few weeks ago I bought some shirts online that were made in a small African country I had to look up on a map.  The US and Europe are just further along in this transition to a highly automated economy.

And of course, the US doesn’t have very good social safety nets or any empathy for those who lost their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet.  My elders like to brag about how well America is doing, how well we take care of our own, and how we are a great Christian nation.  If we cared about our own, than we wouldn’t be having an opioid crisis, mass shootings every day, increasing rates of mental illness, increased suicide rates (especially among middle aged men), and protests in every major city on a daily basis.  For our boasting about being such a Christian nation, we certainly don’t care about those who are misfortunate and had a rough go. Such hypocrisy.

I have no idea how many times I was told “get a job you bum”, “man up”, or “McDonalds and Wal Mart are hiring”.  I, and millions of people in my age bracket and lower did everything we were told.  We still struggle.  And we don’t have any empathy from anyone, not our rulers, not our businesses, not our parents, not our schools, not our churches, and not even from each other.

Unionizing is not an option like it was a hundred years ago because most jobs can or will be outsourced or taken over by machines.  Sure we are on the road to an automated economy where most of the grunt work is done by machines and computers.  But, what is the point if 1) we don’t ditch this idea that everyone has to be defined by what they do for money, 2) most people can’t afford anything beyond the basics because most jobs are done by machines, 3) we have few social safety nets to make up for the fact that most people aren’t able to work in fields that can’t be easily automated.

We may need some things like universal health care, universal basic income, free continuing education, complete overhauls of tax systems, and a general overall shift in public attitudes towards work and compassion for others.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not in the US.  I don’t think it will happen in the US in my lifetime simply because most of my countrymen don’t have empathy. Our leaders certainly don’t.

I do believe if our species can survive this transition, which is probably the greatest transition since people settled down and started farming instead of hunting, fishing, and gathering thousands of years ago, our descendants can have a really cool future where creativity and science can bloom.  But, I fear the transition will be a lot tougher than it has to be simply because of many people’s attitudes towards work and their fellow man.  I fear we will lose a few generations and much of their gifts in this transition.  But I guess we as a species lost short term to ultimately be better off when the Industrial Revolution began back in the late 1700s.  I do have great hope for the long term outlook for civilization and our species, but I fear it will be brutal getting there.  And the fact that I won’t live long enough to see the fruits of the seeds being planted today fills me with great sadness.

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My Online Confessions

I’m going off subject for this article.  It has been too long since I wrote a just for fun piece.  For this one, I’m going to disclose some facts about myself.  Some will be funny, some may be unpopular, but all of them are true.  So here goes:

  1. My three favorite hobbies are computer games, writing, and weight lifting.
  2. I love nonfiction science books.
  3. I can’t stand dystopic novels or movies (which, unfortunately, is most of tv in recent years).
  4. My favorite pizza toppings are pepperoni and Italian sausage
  5. I can’t stand most fast food.  I haven’t even had a Big Mac in over two years
  6. I get very irritated when people ask me “when are you getting married?”  Sometimes I want to retort to them, especially if they are older than I am, “when are you going to die?”
  7. I don’t like watching sports as much now as I did when I was in my teens and twenties.  But I do mainly so I can have something to talk about with family and friends.
  8. I can’t stand most cable news channels.  I like some business news channels, namely Bloomberg, because they report on things like science and tech breakthroughs more than politics and disaster.
  9. I don’t tolerate rudeness from others in my online interactions.  And I never give second chances to people I don’t personally know.  No exceptions.
  10. I often go out of my way to defend younger people, especially college age and those just starting out in adulthood.  I remember how bad it hurt being stereotyped as a “damn kid” even when I was in grade school.  When I was a teenager I promised myself I would never put anyone else through what I was forced to endure.  Certainly makes me unpopular with my elders and even people my own age.
  11. I don’t understand why it’s popular to be dumb.  Never have and never will.
  12. I don’t understand why it’s evil to be smart.  Never have and never will.
  13. When I write, I find writing in the first person point of view far easier than third person.  Always have.  My best material has always been with myself serving as the narrator.  Even most of my early poems and novel rough drafts were in the first person.
  14. I once had an outline for a science fiction series of novels.  It was mainly about humanity several thousand years with various human settlements declaring independence from an interstellar empire.  Pretty much think Star Trek, Dune, and a touch of the American Civil War.  Sadly I no longer have those notes.
  15. I once had the goal of becoming a best selling writer where half of all my writing and speaking profits would go to philanthropy, namely mental illness research and to the college I graduated from.
  16. High school was some of the toughest years of my life.
  17. College was one of the few places I felt that I wasn’t a complete outcast.  It was one of the only places I met people more eccentric than I am.  I loved college.  Kind of too bad I can’t live in a communal type setting with other researchers, academics, and eccentrics.
  18. One of the few parts I don’t like about being an adult is how tough it is just to spend time with friends.
  19. One thing I absolutely love about being an adult is that I don’t have to act like I care what other people think about me, at least as long as I’m not breaking the law.
  20. I don’t understand the whole ‘Oh God It’s Monday’ and the ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ nonsense.  I never thought it was funny.  Never will.
  21. I don’t understand why it’s funny to hate your in laws or argue with your spouse.  My two best friends I’ve known both for over twenty years.  I can count the number of major arguments I’ve had with the two combined on less than five fingers.  And it certainly doesn’t make our friendships sterile or lifeless or meaningless.  The only time I argue with my parents is during psychotic breakdowns, usually only a couple times per year.
  22. I absolutely despise the phrase “man up.”  I think it’s possibly the stupidest phrase in the English language.  I have never heard anyone tell a woman to “woman up” or an old grandfather to “young down.”  I don’t even hear adults tell kids to “grow up” very often.
  23. I get irritated when I present facts and statistics in a discussion only to be blown off or told I am a lair.
  24. My favorite ice cream is vanilla, simply because it goes good with most toppings and favorings.  It mixes with almost anything.
  25. I like poetry, particularly poems about war, struggle, and overcoming challenges.
  26. I don’t understand why many people can’t see that mental health problems are real.  I mean, the human brain is the most intricate and complex piece of machinery we know about.  Yet, too many people act like nothing can go wrong with it.  Shows a lack of critical thinking on many people’s part.
  27. I am extremely distressed by most education systems not teaching kids how to critically think or be adaptable.  We have known our schools weren’t adapting to the challenges kids would face as adults as far back as the 1980s (at least).  Yet we still teach our kids in 2019 like it was 1919.  I am convinced that is why so many people are anxious and depressed about their lives as adults, simply because they weren’t taught how to adapt to the current realities.  In short, we train kids and teenagers for a local and stable world only to dump them out in a global and rapidly changing world in their early twenties.  And then we have the gall to wonder why they are anxious and struggling in their lives.  We trained them for a world that no longer exists, often to the tune of many thousands of dollars in student debts that will take most of a career to pay off.  If that isn’t child abuse, then nothing is.
  28. I am sometimes lonely.  But I don’t socialize because I don’t want to hear my family and friends endlessly complain.  About the only people in my life who don’t unload their problems on me are my two best friends and my mother.  And it weighs on me and can cause me to be resentful.
  29. I hate being told I’m lucky.  I hate it almost as much as I do being told to “man up.”
  30. I don’t understand why the only manliness most people respect comes out things like war and violence.  Personally, I think Einstein and Newton were every bit as manly as George Patton and Napoleon.  Why is being a thinker considered a sign of weakness?  Hell, if it weren’t for thinkers, there would be no civilization and humanity would probably be extinct.  Think about that the next time you condemn someone for resorting to their brains before their fists or guns.
  31. I don’t understand zero sum thinking.  The idea that someone has to lose for me to gain a benefit is a load of crap.
  32. Don’t discuss politics with me.  Ever.
  33. I have never thought having lots of sex makes a man manly or a woman immoral.  Some people just like sex more than others.
  34. I have lost more jobs and friendships than I can remember because I never gave up on trying to think for myself.  Found out the hard way the world doesn’t respect original thinkers, at least not before they make major breakthroughs.
  35. I am convinced societies love their living tyrants but condemn their living benefactors only to reverse it once their children become the leaders of society.  So maybe there is a sense of justice, even if it’s only in history books and the minds of future generations.
  36. I don’t believe in most conspiracy theories. But I do believe that just enough of them have just enough truth to them to make the entire subject a dark, addictive, and dangerous one.
  37. I believe we live in one of the coolest times in human history, at least as long as you don’t watch the news channels.  News channels report only negative news precisely because that is what we are hard wired to pay attention to.  Good news sites fail, not because they are “fake news”, but because no one pays attention.
  38. I believe we as a human society can solve our problems (or at least adapt so to minimize the impact) and have a really cool future that we, even in 2019, will be jealous of.

Aches, Winter, Losing Friends, and Stress

Been having bad knee pains the last few days.  My mobility is more limited than usual.  So I’ve been putting ice on my knee and taking it easy since this weekend.  Sometimes I’m glad I don’t have to work a regular job and not just because of my mental illness.

Getting ready for winter, at least I was until my knee started acting up.  Stocking up on canned food and peanut butter.  So glad I don’t have food allergies as peanut butter is good and cheap emergency food that can keep for quite awhile.  Bought a fleece blanket in addition to the blankets I already have.  Been spending most of my evenings under a blanket and reading.  I’m still lifting weights three times a week.  Been doing this since the spring.  I’m pretty sure I’ve lost weight but I don’t know how much.  I know I’m down one size in clothing all around since the spring and I recover from aches and pains faster.  The worst time for aches is right after I wake up in the mornings.  Fortunately hot baths usually cure those.

My sleep patterns have changed, again.  I usually go to bed around 11pm, wake up at 3 am and rattle around for a couple hours.  Then I go back to sleep around 5 am and sleep until about 8 am.  I don’t nap as much in the afternoons, usually only a couple times a week.  My sleep patterns change with how my illness affects me.  I usually sleep more when I’m distressed and having more frequent flare ups.

Fortunately haven’t had much for serious long lasting flare ups since this summer.  I still get some a few times a week.  Lots of caffeine can make these worse.  So can socializing with rude and irritable people.  Been avoiding people in person as much as possible lately.  It just seems like people are more irritable and on edge than usual lately.  I even avoid talking with some friends because it seems like they just want to do nothing but complain anymore.  I’m sorry, but I have enough problems of my own and I’m not always stable.  I avoid friends sometimes because I’m fearful of having flare ups and melt downs on them.  I fear jeopardizing the friendship because I can’t process stress and negative vibes very well anymore.  I’ve already lost a few friendships over the last few years because I can’t process negativity well.  I don’t want to lose anymore.

Anger and Grief while Mentally Ill

Still going quite stable overall.  I still have minor flare ups a few times a week, usually they are triggered by stress or moments of excessive irritability.  Fortunately they don’t usually last more than a few minutes.  Most times I can burn them out through a few minutes of ranting to my self.  Sometimes I’ll verbalize my rants but keep my voice quiet enough so I can barely hear myself.  I don’t want to scare my neighbors and cause trouble.  So far it has worked.  I did have a real bad flare up in late August, which I regret.  The older I get, the more regretful I am of my taking my problems out on others.

While I am grateful that my friends and family don’t make issues out of my problems (at least not to me), I feel bad anyway.  I feel like I’m abusing my position as a friend and family member.  I think it would probably be easier for them to deal with if I just broke down and cried during my real bad flare ups rather than lash out at family and friends.  But most times, even when I feel really sad, I can’t bring myself to break down and sob.  I sometimes do tear up, especially when listening to really emotional instrumental music pieces (such as theme songs to some of my favorite war movies like Braveheart, the Civil War documentary series, and We Were Soldiers).  But I haven’t just broke down and sobbed since I was in college.  Sure I was sad at my grandparents’ funerals, but I wasn’t distraught.  Instead I had a stronger sense of being happy that such honorable people lived and had a sense of duty that it was on us who were going on into the future to continue the work of generosity, fairness, decency, and honor.  I just hope I can be an honorable and decent person to those I come into contact with on a daily basis, whether in person or online.

Random Thoughts on Colder Weather and Socializing

Been quiet on my end the last few days.  I’m glad the weather is starting to turn cool.  Summers have been my toughest time of year for me for many years.  I guess I just don’t like day after day of sunny and hot weather.  I’m not a lizard and I can wear sweaters, get under fleece blankets, and make hot soup and coffee.  I’m usually my happiest in winter and spring.  Winter usually puts me in a philosophical and reflective mood.  And I’m usually happiest and most active in the spring.  Even as a middle aged man looking at the second half of my life and seeing many people my age the parents of teenagers, I still feel as giddy as a child when it snows.  I like Christmas, but I enjoy the socializing with family more than I do getting gifts now.  As far as gifts go, as a middle aged man I really appreciate things like tools, clothing, and money or gift cards.  Now that I’m a grown man, I understand why my dad always liked getting tools or clothing for Christmas.

As far as getting ready for colder weather, I broke down and bought a jar of instant coffee for the first time in over a month several days ago.  It takes the chill out of my bones and helps me concentrate my thoughts.  But too much can make me jittery and easily irritated.  So it’s more of a balancing act than it was even five years ago.  Caffeine just effects me more in middle age than it did when I was in my twenties.  I also decided to regrow my beard and let my hair get longer.  I more of less shaved myself bald and got rid of my beard for the summer.  Yes, I cut my own hair.  As good as my barber is, I just can’t justify paying her increased prices.  Especially since I usually do most of my work and receiving guests at home and don’t have to be super presentable every day.

Been watching more movies lately.  Watched a few science fiction movies from the late 90s and early 2000s over the last few days.  As far as movies go, I always liked science fiction and historical drama.  I don’t usually watch a lot of westerns, but Tombstone was one of my favorite movies from my teenage years.  I do like some superhero movies, especially the Batman trilogy with Christian Bale.  Haven’t watched much for comedies lately.

Still haven’t had much for socializing lately, at least not in person.  But I’m at the age when most of my friends are busy with careers and family.  All my friends except for my college friend who’s a school teacher in Netherlands are married or divorced.  I don’t hear from my brother much as he’s quite busy with his career and family.  I try to stay in contact with my best friends from high school and college at least a few times a month in spite how busy they are.  I imagine we can eventually pick up on the long drawn out conversations once the careers slow down and their children grow up.  Thanks to social media, my dad has reestablished contact with some of his old college and Air Force friends.

As popular as facebook has become I imagine there are millions of retirees in my parents’ age bracket reestablishing contact with old school friends and military buddies.  Before facebook got really big, my parents told me they were proud of how many people in my age bracket and younger were making more effort to stay in contact with friends from high school, college, and the military.  It wasn’t always easy, and sometimes it still isn’t.  But the efforts were worth while.

Some of my friends I’ve seen only a few times in the last fifteen years, but we can easily stay in contact.  It’s one of the reasons I stay on social media in spite how much negative vibes can thrive in some cases.  I have gotten to where I don’t post much, at least not around people I don’t know very well.  I usually save my best material for friends and family I know will appreciate, or at least tolerate, my eccentric humor and thoughts.

Don’t have much to rant about.  I still occasionally have flare ups.  But in most cases I can ride those out with a few minutes of ranting to myself.  I guess I don’t feel much guilt for the flare ups, at least as long as I don’t take my illness out on other people.  If a flare up occurs, I can usually deal with with after a few minutes of deep breathing, ranting to myself in a normal voice, or just stepping back and disconnecting from socializing for several minutes.

Taking Care of Anxiety and Taking Care of Self

Been feeling quite anxious the last several days.  I didn’t realize how anxiety stricken I was until I took an emergency anti anxiety medication.  I slept for several hours.  Even though I missed a couple ball games I wanted to watch on Saturday night, I slept very well.  It was the best I slept in weeks.  It was one of those sleeps that was so deep you had no clue how long you were down for.  As it was, I was down for over five hours.  When I woke, I felt a calmness and peace I hadn’t felt in weeks.  I felt quite weird in the fact it was also 1:30 am and I felt all this peace and confidence I hadn’t felt in a while.  So I’m now waiting on a load of laundry to finish and it’s 3 am my time on Sunday morning.

I now fear that much of my avoidance of people and feelings that people were more irritable than usual were due to me being anxious and more sensitive than most people lately.  I have always had an uncanny ability to pick up on other people’s feelings and vibes even as a child.  I could sometimes sense their feelings almost as soon as they could.  Naturally this caused me to over read many of my family and friends.  Anxiety is part of the mental illness.  And I had been more sensitive to it than usual for much of this summer.  While the anti anxiety medication and long sleep helped, I now want to take active steps to warding off hurtful anxiety.  I now realize how paralyzed by my own fear I am.  That’s probably why I avoid socializing in person as much as possible.  Other than chit chat with neighbors when I check my mail or meet the delivery man to sign for my deliveries, most of my in person interaction came when my cleaning lady came to my house once a week.

She usually comes on Thursdays, so those were getting to be my favorite days of the week, at least until fall started and college football got going.  It is an exciting year of football for me.  My Huskers, while not in the championship picture, are now at 3 wins and 1 loss, and that loss was an overtime one.  I feel a sense of hope and pride in my home state team I hadn’t felt in several years.  I think it made a lot of people happy that Scott Frost, our coach, has a winning track record at his previous jobs and is a Nebraska alum and grew up in a small farming town in state.  I hope we continue to improve.  I don’t know if the glory days of my youth will ever return, but it is encouraging that the alumni and fans still support the team even though it’s been twenty years since we won a championship.  I don’t know anywhere else that has that kind of unwavering support.

Overall, I’m starting to feel more confident and energetic.  That anxiety will mess with a person real bad if left unchecked.  I hate to think most of my problems are due to anxiety problems I was not addressing.  But that is how strong our minds are.  Our minds are powerful enough it can make anxiety as real as the air we breathe and the food we eat.  And anxiety does effect physical health.  I had felt aches and pains, especially in my lower back.  I still feel those some but I can now push through them.  Sometimes getting outside help can make all the difference.  It can be tough to seek medical help or assistance from even a trusted doctor.  I don’t know how much of that is my illness talking or me being a man or what.  It can be tough to ask for help, especially when I am often able to solve my own problems and have a knack for helping others solve their issues.  But I definitely read too much into other people, especially those I’m close to.  But the mind, even an ill one, is very powerful in that it can sometimes make or break our realities.

Avoiding Negative People While Mentally Ill

Haven’t been in the mood for socializing much lately.  It’s not because I’m feeling lousy and irritable.  Far from it.  I avoid socializing for the most part lately because almost everyone else I associate with is in lousy moods.  I have run out of patience with people coming to me with their problems and not caring about mine.  What makes things even worse is that no one I talk to complains about things they can immediately remedy.  I’m tired of listening to my friends and family complain about this, that, and the third.  You have problems, well good.  That means that you are still alive.  Everyone has problems, even I do.  Surprised?

I haven’t even left my apartment for several days because I am tired of seeing and hearing so many people be in foul moods.  I have been told that socializing is important to good mental health.  Is it really when most other people are being negative and toxic?  I finally had enough and shut off my phone this afternoon.  Don’t come to me and expect me to listen to your gripes and not even have the courtesy to care about mine.  I live below poverty levels.  I am overweight.  I have chronic back problems.  My mental illness sometimes flares up but I don’t dare take it out on anyone.

I am lonely.  I have almost no one to talk about things I want to talk about, outside of my own parents.  It seems like most of my friends are in foul moods all the time anymore.  And my neighbors are just as bad.  I have to admit dealing with so many angry people is taking a toll on my psyche.  About the only things I enjoy anymore are watching youtube videos and playing computer games.  Most people will tell me this is a horrible way to live my life.  It probably is, but dealing with angry and irritable people for most of my social interactions sounds even worse.  And my friends and family wonder why I dropped out of society.  I just don’t want to deal with other people’s toxic attitudes and behavior.  I sometimes sleep just to feel better and not deal with other peoples’ madness.  I probably sleep ten to twelve hours a day anymore.  I have reached my breaking point.

Socializing is no longer enjoyable.  Being by myself is far more enjoyable anymore.  I have given up on telling people good news and sharing my enthusiasm for tech and science advances.  Most my friends and family either think I am “fake news” or I am met with complete indifference.  I would actually rather be told I am a liar than be met with indifference.  I’m burned out on negative friends and family.  I talk to only two or three people on facebook on a regular basis these days because of all the anger and hopelessness.  I don’t know if it’s me or if all my friends and family went bad all at once.

Naturally no one sees these things the way I do.  And if they do, they won’t bother to do anything to improve their situations.  As it is, for now, I’m just staying out of sight and out of mind.  I refuse to socialize with negative people.  I lost much of my youth because I was raised to be a negative pessimist who was never pleased.  I’ll be damned to spend my adulthood that way.