Feeling quite well overall. In fact I would say that I’m quite happy overall much of the time. Yet living alone because of my mental illness, I really have no one to share this happiness with. Most of my friends, at least the ones in my age bracket, are married with children and in the middle of careers. I have several friends who are now divorced and struggling with life. I have a hard time relating to these friends simply because I never married. Even before I realized how serious my mental illness truly was, I didn’t have much interest in getting married. Growing up, I saw that many married couples were unhappy and having money troubles. Three of my best friends’ parents and three sets of my cousins’ parents went through divorces while I was growing up. It just seemed insane to me that my elders were chastising me for being leery about marriage when I was watching marriages getting picked off on a regular basis. I’m so glad that my parents didn’t pressure me into getting married or having kids. Now I’m watching some of my classmates go through divorces or having money problems in their late 30s. And I don’t have those problems.
I don’t feel guilty about avoiding the problems that many of my friends and family members have or had. It seems that most of the really good marriages I see out of my friends and family members came when the couple in question didn’t marry until their late 20s or even mid 30s. People can say that marriages in the “good ol’ days” lasted a lifetime. But many lifetimes didn’t last that long. And most people in bad marriages stayed in mainly because they had no choice, especially when mobility was extremely limited and there weren’t many career options, especially for women. Many people in the old days married more than once, not due to divorce, but because of the death of the spouse.
And let’s not kid ourselves, people change over the years. People develop different interests over the years. People develop different values over the years. I am definitely not the same person now that I was fifteen years ago, let alone five years ago. And one of the things that keeps me getting out of bed every morning is the idea that I can and will change over time given enough time and effort. Having said this, the person you marry at age twenty three isn’t going to be the same person ten years later, let alone forty. I tried to tell this to my classmates when we were in college, but many of them were like ‘love is forever’, or ‘love is all you need’, or ‘who broke your heart’. But here we are fifteen to twenty years later and some of my friends and classmates are finding out there was some truth in my theories. I’m not cynical by any means. I’m actually more optimistic than most people I know. I just see trends earlier than most people.
Even though I had a few really cool friends in high school, by and large my teenage years were difficult. In fact, in many ways, they sucked. I loved scholarly pursuits and I loved to play football at the same time. That made me an outcast among my teammates by itself. My best friend in high school was a girl, and most people couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that it was possible to befriend someone you found attractive and not have sex with them. I suspect the big reason I didn’t get many dates in high school was because my best friend was a girl. But, looking back on it years later, I’m glad I did it the way I did. I do regret not keeping in contact with most of my other friends, but these guys aren’t the type to hang out on facebook or go to reunions anyway. I wanted to get good grades and good test scores in school, so that made me a nerd. I knew right away I didn’t have the hand coordination to go into the trades, so crushing it in academics was the next best thing. And I got excellent scholarships because of my dedication to academics. Sure there were many I didn’t qualify for because of affirmative action and equal opportunity deals. But rather than complain about what I couldn’t control, I did what I could. Namely take difficult classes, do well in those, nail the college board exams, and go to a college that would offer me good academic scholarships.
Even though I didn’t graduate in my preferred field of the biological sciences, I did graduate with a business degree with an emphasis on management and economics. I had no delusions that I was going to be the next Wolf of Wall Street, but I really wanted to teach personal finance and investing classes at the college level. That was before I realized I would probably need a doctorate in order to even consider having any job security in the academic world. Well, I didn’t want to go into student debt to do that. And I could tell my mental illness was getting worse even in my mid twenties. So I applied for disability insurance and moved to low income housing. I worked a part time job for a few years, mainly to prove to myself that I could. In mid 2012, I decided to leave the regular work world to concentrate on my writing and personal scholarly pursuits. I didn’t need to work as I could live off my disability pension. I can do this because I have zero debts, zero family obligations, have cheap hobbies, and I am a minimalist.
For years people told me I was crazy for not getting married, not wanting to have kids, not wanting to pursue the regular nine to five grind, not wanting to go bar hopping on the weekends, and not spending my money on crap I didn’t need to impress jerks I didn’t like. But I’m not even forty yet and I’m already starting to see benefits from being wise and not screwing up. The only really sad thing about this is that I find myself not having much to talk about with when I’m around my old friends. I don’t have a job I can’t stand. I don’t have problems with money. I don’t have a spouse or girlfriend I have personality clashes with. I don’t have an ex I’m send alimony to every month. I’m not making child support payments on kids I never get to see. I was able to separate the gold nuggets of wisdom tossed my way by my elders from the mountains of b.s. that some people tried to jam down my throat. I sometimes find I have more in common with members of my science and futurism groups on facebook than I do my classmates and even some of my friends.
People think I’m odd because I get along fabulously well with my parents, at least the ninety nine percent of the time I’m not having flare ups with my schizophrenia. Sure they were demanding and tough on my brother and I when we were kids. Sure they told us harsh truths about ourselves, the world at large, and didn’t give us the whole Disney fantasy fairy tale stories kind of childhood. As a little child in the early 80s I knew who Ronald Reagan was before I did Mickey Mouse. At age seven I could identify Carl Sagan before I could most movie stars and musicians. It made no sense to me as a kid as it seemed that some of my school mates were more care free and happy than my brother and I. We may not have been raised like warriors but we certainly were raised like scholars.
Now that I’m an adult I am grateful for the way I was raised by my parents and extended family. I am grateful I struggled socially as a teenager as that made me develop skills that some people never had to. I’m glad I got see what could go wrong in dating relationships and marriages without having to experience these tragedies first hand. I’m glad my best friend in high school was a girl. I’m glad that she and I are still good friends twenty years later. That probably wouldn’t have happened had we tried to force the friendship into a romantic direction. I’m grateful for the failed relationships and dead end jobs. I’m thankful I moved out of my hometown. I’m grateful for the years I lived alone. I’m grateful I got out of debt. I’m grateful for loving to read and write. Reading and writing give me a joy that I never found in any romance, job, etc. I’m especially thankful for the early struggles in my teens and early twenties with mental illness and bad jobs. I’m glad those struggles came in my youth rather than my current middle age. I don’t have a mid life crisis because I had my crises in my teens and twenties, learned from said crises, and adapted accordingly. I’m glad I didn’t have it easy early on socially, work wise, mental health wise, etc. I’m grateful for the early struggles. I’m glad I had to face loss in my early twenties as opposed to my late thirties.
Living with a chronic illness forces us to give up our illusions. You are correct though, we change over time and even the closest friendship fade as we go through life.