Socializing, Family, and Facebook

The Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and now the weather will definitely start getting hot soon.  I’ve been feeling stable but on and off depressed for months, especially since the middle of winter.  I think some of this depression comes from just being so lonely all the time.  There are only so many books I can read before I’m burned out.  Fortunately I was able to see a couple cousins and their families for the afternoon over the long weekend.  I hadn’t seen either cousin in a long time.  It was fun catching up with them.  First prolonged intelligent conversations I had in months.

I gets bouts and depression and loneliness more frequently than I used to.  It doesn’t help that I don’t really have any friends in my apartment complex anymore.  It also hurts that I had major falling outs with a few old friends that I had known for several years.  One of these friend couldn’t respect the fact that I’m not working a regular job and spending most of my time alone.  This person also thought I’m wasting my time with this blog.  Well, I sent that friend packing.  If a person can’t respect my decisions about work and how I spend my time, then we can’t be friends.

Another friend and I had a falling out over politics.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who can claim that these days.  But I just can’t stand how divisive and hateful modern politics has become.  It didn’t used to be this way.  Besides, political fan boys on all sides seem to be too blind to realize that modern politicians don’t care about the voters unless said voters are lobbyists or big money donors.  The way some of my friends and family post on Facebook, you’d think they were getting paid for every post about politics they put on their sites.  Besides, does anyone change their thinking because of these posts.  It’s like watching monkeys at the zoo fling manure at each other but not nearly as entertaining and far less civilized.  I’d quit Facebook and twitter if they weren’t the only means I had to keep in contact with most of my friends and my key promotional materials for this blog.  Mark Zuckerberg really has a business monopoly that would do any 19th century robber baron proud.

The biggest reason I don’t post about my particular beliefs is that, well, no one group reflects what I value.  When it comes to social issues, it depends on the issue.  When it comes to having a good military, I’m in line with some Reagan era Republicans even if I’m not as interventionist.  When it comes to curbing the abuses and excesses of Wall Street and big business, I’m almost as militant as any Occupy Wall Street guy.  And I definitely won’t support any politician of any stripe that wants to cut science funding.  Science funding is quite small compared to military or social programs.  I don’t have a political home because there isn’t any party that reflects what I value.  And I think many people in the under 40 crowd feel the same way.  And I know it may irritate some of my elders to write this, but I think the last thing our world needs is a senior citizen politician who isn’t familiar with science and modern technology.  My parents generation has been in charge for almost thirty years.  Retire and play with your grandkids already, you earned it 🙂

I guess the biggest reason I have been fighting depression for awhile is that my primary means of socializing and communicating, social media sites, have become so toxic and nasty even among friends and family.  And I think it sucks.  Some days I doubt I really am making any positive difference.  Heck, some days I wonder if people even want positivity and happiness in their lives.

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Thoughts on Different Generations and The Generations Yet to be Born

I’m going off the path of mental illness writing for this entry.  But it is something that has weighed on me for years, especially since I live in low income housing where half of the residents are low income senior citizens and the other half are disabled younger people.

I have never understood why people from the older generations complain about the people from younger generations and why younger generations complain about older generations.  I never have.  I was born in 1980, so that either makes me late Generation X (I’d like to give a beating to whomever coined that stupid term) or early Millennial, at least in terms of generations.  And even in grade school I heard about how sucky my generation did in school compared to kids in countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany, etc.  I was told we were “unruly”, “stupid”, “thieving”, “lazy”, “whores”, “sluts”, etc.  But, the same Baby Boomers (that’s another really stupid term I despise), had their hangups and critics when they were kids too.  I’m sure the World War II generations thought the Rapture was nigh when they saw their kids participating in free love, drug abuse, civil rights protests, draft riots, etc.  Even many soldiers who went to Vietnam abused alcohol and drugs during their tours.  The same Boomers who were rocking out to The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, etc. were horrified when their Gen X kids starting listening to Metallica, NWA, Madonna, etc.  And oddly, said Gen Xers, now that they are parents, are freaking out about their kids listening to Lady Gaga and dubstep music.  I swear, people instantly forget what it was like starting out as soon as they have kids.

I have zero patience for old people who complain about the “idiot kids.”  Likewise, I have zero patience for younger people who complain about senior citizens.  The world is going to fall apart as soon as the current generation in power retires and dies?  Screw you, no it won’t.  Speaking of older generations, I’d love to slap Tom Brokaw for calling the World War II generation “the greatest generation.”  I guarantee that the Hitler Youth generation in Germany and the Japanese soldiers of World War II were considered a disgrace to their nations for years.  It should be known that many of the World War II soldiers spent their teens and twenties drinking bootlegged booze and chasing flapper girls and suffragettes during the 1920s and early 1930s.  I’m sure many of the World War I generation thought their kids were going insane for flaunting the laws of prohibition and promoting such blasphemy as women’s voting rights and wanton promiscuity.  But hate for other generations is nothing new.  People have been complaining about the loss of virtue and honor in their children’s generations for thousands of years.

Every generation has it’s cranks and losers, it is true.  There were war protesters during World War II even.  Youtube has videos of these protests.  But generations are made up of many millions of people.  So to say the “millennials are lazy” or “baby boomers are greedy” isn’t true at all.  Such broad generations are cherry picked nonsense.  I like the World War II guys who beat back nazism and imperialism, pioneered space flight, and saw to it the Civil Rights act was passed.  I also like the Baby Boomers who did much of the early leg work on personal computers, communications tech, produced some really cool music (namely rock and early hip hop), and started breaking down barriers like the Iron Curtain, and pioneered the internet.  I also like the Gen Xers who are making renewable power sources finally financially feasible, pioneering private space flight, making international business easier, and building up e-commerce.  I also like the Millennials who are building social media, starting businesses, fighting terrorism, trying to spread the ideas of freedom, democracy, and self determination in nations that have been authoritarian or theocratic nations for centuries.  And I like people of all generations that see that, regardless our ages or nationalities or creeds, we are all living on the same planet and that what happens in one place doesn’t just stay in one place.

Another thing I am tired of is dystopias and pessimist visions for the future.  I never really got into science fiction nearly as much as science nonfiction because most science fiction books and movies depict hopeless and lousy futures and presents such lousy futures as inevitable.  Who is going to fight for a better future with “inspiration” like that?  One of the reasons Star Trek is so popular even after fifty years is that it portrays a future where humanity has overcome many of their past hangups.  It shows what can be possible.  It shows a good future worth fighting for.  Far more scientists were inspired to pursue science by stories like Star Trek then the Terminator series.  As much as people are afraid of Artificial Intelligence turning against humans and killing us all, I would laugh and cry both if AI programs and machines turned out to have more empathy and compassion than humans in general. Besides, we already have millions of AI machines and programs, like every smart phone and computer with internet access.  I don’t foresee these things taking over, but I can see humans and machines merging their intelligences and making humans much, much smarter within a few generations.  I mean, most people already use their smart phones and computers as brain extenders and they haven’t been around that long.   In many ways, people already have the potential to be much smarter and better informed than previous generations simply because of information technology.  And if we get to the point that future generations can augment their brains through surgical implants, then our great grandkids will look back us and pity us for being so unintelligent.  We may seem like cavemen to the citizens of the 22nd century.  I certainly hope so even though I’ll likely never get to see it.

For most of human history, we have made tools to extend our bodies.  Now with computers, internet, and AI, we are making tools to extend and augment our brains.  I don’t fear technology because technology is merely a tool.  Granted, all tools can be used for ill purposes.  Fire cooked our food and kept us warm but it also burned down our villages and cities.  The printing press made knowledge available to the masses but it also made misinformation and propaganda possible too.  I can make friends over the internet I would never otherwise meet but I still have to work around opinionated trolls and trouble makers made more bold by the technology.  I try not to take trolls and trouble makers personally as I know most people wouldn’t be saying such things to a live audience.  And I try not to take my elders personally when they gripe about my generation because they were young once too and had their elders complain about them.  But I wouldn’t mind breaking this pointless and aggravating cycle though.  I try hard to not complain about people younger than me because I remember what it was like to be a kid myself and be ragged on by my elders.  Maybe people rag on younger people just because we forget what it’s like starting out.  And maybe young people don’t like older people because they don’t realize that these elders had many years head start and that someday they could do well themselves given the time and effort.

Loneliness and Depression

Haven’t been out that much the last few days besides getting a little sunshine everyday, at least on days the sun is shining.  We’ve been getting rain everyday it seems for almost two weeks.  So I’ve been living off my food reserves and rarely leaving the apartment the last few days.

Not that I really mind.  Sometimes it’s therapeutic just being alone with my thoughts for hours on end.  It takes me a long time to fall asleep anymore, but I spend most of the time trying to fall asleep allowing my mind to wander.  I am sometimes my own best company.

In the past I’ve tried day programs designed for mentally ill people.  But much of what went on seemed quite remedial to me, almost like a rehash of grade school.  I found such programs quite boring and didn’t make any friends there.

I’m finding it harder to make friends the older I get.  Most people my age have careers and families.  I really can’t relate to either one.  And some people don’t want to friend me because I don’t have a family or a career.  And it’s really tough making friends in my apartment complex anymore.  Half of the people in my complex are senior citizens, and some of them seem resentful that I live in low income housing with them.  The other half are people with chronic illnesses and developmental disabilities.  It can get lonely in here at times.  I know that spending most of my life alone isn’t healthy.  But many people I just can’t relate to because I’m terrible at small talk.  Too bad there aren’t communes for eccentric people like me with a variety of interests.  Kind of like dormitory living for adults.  I know, not going to happen.

The depression occasionally crops up.  Fortunately the delusions and paranoia hasn’t followed.  I have lost interest in many things I once found enjoyable.  I no longer like travel.  I no longer like fishing.  I don’t even read as much as I used to.  Maybe I’m entering a new phase of my illness.  In a lot of ways, the illness itself is much easier to cope with than ten to fifteen years ago.  But I still do get kind of sad when I look at my friends and people I went to school with and I get to see what they’ve accomplished and their families.  I definitely feel like I’m missing out.  At least I can still write about these issues.  It’s the closest thing to a career I’ll ever have.

Needing To Vent

Been raining for almost a week straight in my town.  Not that I mind because it gives me an excuse to sleep in and stay home.  I’ve always been a natural night person and I don’t see that changing soon.  Unfortunately my landlord’s office hours are always in the morning so I never get to see her.  I’ve given up on ever getting my walls painted and carpet replaced.  I’ve been hearing that it was coming for over a year.  They can build skyscrapers in less than a year in China it seems.  Yet I can’t get approval for my walls to be painted and carpet replaced.  Go figure.  And people wonder why I don’t trust authority figures.

Somedays I really wonder if I am making any difference with being mentally ill or even making progress with this illness.  I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I’ll never get cured of schizophrenia, which would be a dream come true for me.  I’ve fought this illness for over twenty years and I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of always feeling paranoid.  I’m tired of being depressed all the time.  I’m tired of not being able to work.  I’m tired of people thinking I’m just making my problems up.  I’m angry that I’m never going to live up to my potential through no fault of my own.  It would be one thing if I fried my brains through drug abuse.  I would probably get more empathy if this illness was self inflicted. The public’s lack of understanding about mental illness and anything having to do with science is sickening.  I mean this is 2017 people, we’re supposed to be an advanced civilization.  Not advanced enough for me that’s for sure.

I can’t even really socialize anymore.  Most people seem to be in foul moods all the time or just want to talk about stupid things that have been rehashed a thousand times before.  Do people really get dumber the older they get?  I was always under the impression that older people were supposed to be wise and full of good advice.  Not so from what I’ve seen.  Most days I just don’t want to leave my apartment anymore.  I’m just tired of dealing with stupid and rude people all day.  I’m so glad I no longer work in retail customer service.  Those people take an incredible amount of abuse for no more then they are paid.

I don’t know if there is a point to this post.  I’m sure some are thinking I should “man up” and “quit whining.”  But, even I have moments of weakness at times.  I can’t be everyone’s Mr. Sunshine all the time.  And I shouldn’t have to be.  Years ago, someone with my diagnosis would be long term hospitalized and never heard from again.  Out of sight out of mind.  One of the reasons we’re seeing more and more mentally ill people in public is because of deinstitutionalization.  It’s not that the younger generations are weaker and morally inferior to previous generations.  It’s not that at all.  Modern times are not crazier than the past, they are just better documented.  I’m just tired that’s all.  I just need to vent.  And if a mentally ill person isn’t allowed to vent, then no one should.

Emergency Preparation and Disability

We had a lightning storm that knocked out electricity for over an hour in my hometown shortly after sunset tonight.  As I’ve been a small city dweller for over a decade, I forgot how dark it gets after dark, especially on cloudy nights.  Since the power went out, I found myself sitting in the dark.  But I was able to find my flashlights and battery powered emergency radio pretty quick.  Rode out the black out listening to short wave weather radio and the local classic rock station.  Now that the power is back on and so is my internet, I thought it would be rather appropriate to write a blog about emergency preparation while having a disability.

One thing people in my country learned the hard way during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy was that a person can’t always count on emergency crews to get to them right away.  Anymore a person and family has to be self sufficient for at least a few days in case of a major emergency.  These emergencies could range from anything as mundane as a winter blizzard, a flood, the the unusual like a chemical leak or terrorist attack.  People do need things like emergency radios, flashlights, a few days of bottled water, a few days of non perishable but easy to prepare food, blankets, a few changes of clothes, a few extra days of medications, at least one first aid kit, and maybe some lighters in case you need to start a fire.  Everyone’s situation and needs are different.  I don’t have candles as I live in a crowded apartment complex and that could be a fire hazard.  But having a battery powered radio and flashlights are musts.  You have to find out what’s going on outside your neighborhood in case an evacuation order is issued or if help is on the way.

Sure I got off real easy this time being without power for only part of an evening.  But sometimes it’s a good reminder that things can and occasionally do go wrong.  And that being prepared in case of emergency is a must.

I Enjoy Adulthood Even With Mental Illness

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I must admit, I love being an adult.  I love the freedom involved.  I love having my own money and getting to decide how I get to spend it.  I love that I don’t have to answer to authority figures I didn’t choose.  If a boss was giving me static at a job, I could always look for a different job.  If a landlord was giving me a hard time, I always had the option of moving to a different place.  I love that I can do things like vote and go to casinos.  I enjoy that I don’t have to feel guilty for expressing my opinions and having my likes and dislikes.  I like that I can read whatever I want.  I love having privacy.  I enjoy not getting yelled at for trivial things like when I was in school or living with my parents.  I like the fact that I can avoid people who give me too much static.  When you are in school, you just can’t avoid bullies or sadistic teachers.  Sure I’ve had bosses and coworkers who were jerks and whiners, but at least I had the option of finding another job if I didn’t connect with said bosses or coworkers.  Changing schools is a lot tougher.

Even though I have been living with schizophrenia since at least age seventeen, I have found that it is getting easier to work around it the older I get.  The bad periods don’t last nearly as long nor are as intense as they were in my early twenties.  In my late 30s, I have come to the realization that I don’t have to be defined by what job I have or if I have a wife and kids or not.  I am not my job.  I am not less of a human being because I am not married.  Sure I still deal with people that tell me “mental illness is fake” or that “you’re not a real man.”  But as an adult it is much easier to blow those jerks and losers off and ignore them.  You think I’m faking mental illness, then screw you.  It’s not my job to meet your standards.  It is so much easier to not be bothered by criticism as a 36 year old than when I was 21.  I just hope that the older I get, the symptoms will become even less severe and I will care even less about naysayers and idiots.

I still isolate a lot and avoid socializing with my complex mates.  But I think I’m more mentally stable because of said lack of socializing.  When I was a kid people used to tell me I was being “anti-social” and had “attitude problems” because I didn’t like going to high school sporting events and county fairs.  There really wasn’t much to do in my farming village besides school events, church activities, and county fairs.  There was only one movie theatre in a fifty mile radius from my hometown. I didn’t enjoy watching people throw balls around much as a kid.  As an adult I really don’t have to feel guilty for not watching such things.  I do watch some college football and basketball tournaments just to give myself something to talk about with other people.  Most people still don’t like discussing science and technology in casual conversations.  But I haven’t been to any sporting events in person besides minor league baseball games in almost five years.  And I don’t feel the least bit guilty or anti-social because of it.  And as an adult I have these options.  That’s more than I had as a kid.

I don’t really understand people who are nostalgic about their youths or the past.  I might be a little nostalgic about growing up if I had more friends, was bullied less, and wasn’t so much of a social misfit in my school.  I am kind of nostalgic about my college years because I knew lots of smart people, had lots of interesting conversations, could do things at the spur of the moment with no planning, could study what I felt like studying, and had the legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood.  College was much more stimulating and enjoyable than grade school or high school.  Sure I never got to use my degree in a job, but I blame the schizophrenia for that completely.  And I am grateful everyday I can keep in contact with old friends through Facebook.

I love living in the here and now of May 2017.  Sure getting to this point was rough dealing with schizophrenia for almost twenty years.  Sure my physical health took a beating because my mental illness and the side effects of the psych medications.  But after twenty years of schizophrenia I have figured out how to deal with bad days and psychotic breaks.  I have also learned how to enjoy the small things of life more than many of my mentally stable friends and family.  Happiness for me is watching a sunset, or eating chicken wings at a sports bar with college friends, or seeing my niece and nephews for a few hours, or talking with my parents about history or technology, or reading internet sites like futurism.com or bloomberg.com about trends in science and current events.  I had my ups and downs with schizophrenia.  I had many breakdowns when I took a lot of grief out on my parents and friends.  Fortunately those breakdowns are getting less severe and shorter as I age.  I have had to go to the mental hospital twice. But both times I was self committed and my longest stay was one week.  I may not be able to hold a forty hour a week job, but at least I tried several different lines of work before I came to the conclusion that traditional employment wasn’t in my future.  And it’s not shameful to not hold a full time job, especially if you have a disability or find other outlets to give back to people.  I can still drive a car, I can still buy my own groceries, pick up my medications, keep appointments, and more or less live on my own even with mental illness.  Some people can’t claim that.  In short I love being an adult.  And I wouldn’t want to go back to my youth, even though I had more friends and better health in college.  Being an adult rocks.  It really does.

Letter to My High School Self

High school graduations are this weekend in my home state.  Many of these kids will be going to college, some to the military, others to work or travel or do missionary work.  It was eighteen years ago, in 1999, that I and my cohorts graduated from high school.  That was half of a lifetime ago.  I’ve been legally an adult now as long as I was a juvenile.  An incredible amount has changed in my life, and the world at large, since that Saturday May afternoon in the farming village of my youth.

What follows is a hypothetical letter to my eighteen year old self, mainly about things I wish I knew in my younger years that would have made my transition to the world of 2017 easier.  Too bad I couldn’t do this for real, I’d tell my younger self to buy stock in Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla when they first came out 🙂

Dear Zach,

You have just graduated from high school and now the world awaits.  I know you are looking forward to college much more than you did high school graduation.  That’s understandable.  For many people, high school is some of the roughest years of their lives.  You definitely had your problems in school, but those are now past.  Some of the people you went to high school with you’ll never have to be around again.  College will be better in many aspects.  You’ll get to pick what you want to study.  You’ll have more say in who your friends are.  The bullies and idiots will be in the minority.  Besides, most people will be too busy with their own lives to harass you like you got it in high school.  You may not think so now, but someday you will be thankful that you’re smart and nerdy.  Within the next fifteen years, you will see so much science and tech advances that you will realize that, yes, nerds really do rule the world.  No one is going to care that you weren’t a star jock or class president in college.

Speaking of sports, I know there were some aspects of high school football and band you hated.  I know you didn’t like the summer practices at six a.m. or the macho atmosphere of the locker room.  But be happy you got to play.  Playing football on Friday nights is the closest you’ll ever get to being like a gladiator or warrior.  Be happy you got to be in the school pep band.  It’s the only chance you’ll ever get to feel like a rock star.  Most thirty year olds don’t get to stand out or preform at anything.  Even though you didn’t have a great social life in high school, be happy you went to a smaller school and had opportunities to be involved in many different activities.  Most of your college friends and coworkers who went to much larger schools won’t be as well rounded as you will become.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t work your dream job out of college.  Most people won’t.  In fact because of the technology advances I talked about earlier, many jobs will be taken over by computers and machines.  So many people will be in that place where they’re working jobs they didn’t train for.  It’s not a failure on your part, it’s just that the world is changing much faster than people even in 1999 could anticipate.

Also, don’t feel guilty if you struggle at dating.  In the future, almost everyone will struggle at dating.  Besides, you will see many of your classmates go through divorces and marriage issues as the years pass.  Almost half of marriages will end in divorce.  And in the future, many adults will forego marriage entirely.  Surprise, so will you.  But being single isn’t bad.  It’s actually quite peaceful at times.  Some really big achievers in world history never married or had children.  You’ll be grateful you never got married.  Trust me.  You always had a hard independent streak in you.  That’s only going to get stronger with age.

Don’t take the opinions of others too seriously.  People in general can be quite dumb at times, so their opinions are almost never right.  The only person you have to answer to at all times is yourself.  Guard your integrity.  Be a man of sound character even if most people around you are liars and cheats.  Yes, cheaters do prosper.  But people will not honor their prosperity as much as they condemn their lack of character.  This was true in the past and will continue to be true.

You will have victories.  You will have struggles and losses.  People will come and go out of your life.  But hold onto your close friends and family.  Be happy you got to know your grandparents.  They won’t be around forever.  Be content and calm no matter what happens or doesn’t happen.  You will change your mind and thinking about almost everything several times over during the next eighteen years.  The only people who have their life philosophy set in stone at age eighteen are fools who are setting themselves up to be obsolete and out of touch with reality.  Like I told you, major changes are coming.  You wouldn’t believe me if I told you some of the things you will see before 2017.  You’ll just have to see them for yourself.

Be happy that you traveled and were open to new experiences in your youth.  The older you get, the tougher it will get to just travel or try new things.  Continue to be open to new experiences.  It will put you far ahead of most adults in your life.  Speaking of adults, don’t just think that because someone has gray hair or more money that they are smarter or wiser than you.  Many times they won’t be.  Some of them were just lucky.  And chance does play more of a part in your life than you would like.  You like the thought that you have a lot of say in your own destiny.  But in reality, you really have less control than you would like.  Sometimes things just happen that aren’t your fault or because of your hard work.

Remember to relax and know that life is a competition only against yourself.  Never compare yourself to anyone else.  You can’t live their life and they can’t live yours.

Sincerely,

Your 36 year old self, May 2017.