Thoughts On Daily Routines, Autumn 2020, Emergency Preparations, etc.

I’m still sleeping more than usual. But I feel quite stable. I usually go to bed around 9 or 10pm and wake up for good around 9am. I wake up at least once in the night to visit the restroom and sometimes it takes about an hour or two to fall back asleep. I’m still limiting myself on caffeine. I usually have no more than one cup of coffee every day, usually with breakfast. I contact my parents several times a week. My mother is keeping a daily “pandemic journal.” She usually records what’s happening in the news as well as locally and her own thoughts. My nephews and niece have been back in school since mid August. I can’t imagine how tough it is for those kids. The two oldest are teenagers and those years are rugged enough even in good times. My brother and his family are moved in to their new house. They have more space now and have a couple gardens. My mother and one of my nephews have planted some vegetables that are starting to grow.

The corn harvest is going right now here in Nebraska. It does feel odd to not be watching my Huskers play football on Saturday afternoons. Our season is supposed to start on October 24, barring any major outbreaks of the virus. I sometimes watched European soccer and playoff basketball to have some resemblance of normal. Baseball playoffs start this week in the USA.

The election is coming up in only a few weeks. For me, there is some added anxiety just from the unknown. I think the concern over the unknown is probably worse than the outcomes. I just hope there aren’t more bad riots. Regardless the outcomes, there were be millions of angry people in my country. It’s sad to see this happen. But, if we survived a civil war, two world wars, and several economic collapses, I believe we can survive our current mess. I won’t comment on my political beliefs except to say they are my own and I refuse to try to force them on anyone else.

I get paid again in a couple days. While I am short on cash (like many people right before payday) I am not short on food or supplies. Anytime I get paid, I make a point to buy extra non perishable food in case of shortages. I have done this for years. I guess growing up in a rural farming village of less than 500 people with the nearest supermarkets being a fifteen minute drive away and the nearest Wal Mart being an hour and a half away, it was drilled into our heads at a very early age to be prepared in case a winter snow storm shut down the highways or any other natural disaster. Since most people I grew up around either worked in farming or supported the farmers, our very lives depended on the weather and the seasons, even in modern times. I guess most people I grew up knowing always maintained some of the self reliant and make do beliefs of our pioneer ancestors. I suppose you could say we were emergency preppers before there was a term for it. I consider myself a bit of a prepper even if I don’t believe most conspiracy theories. I fear most people don’t get involved in emergency prepping exactly because of some of these theories. It makes sense to have several days worth of food, emergency water, supplies, and getting on good terms with your neighbors and community just in case. I mean, most people have home owners insurance but still don’t want their house to burn down. It’s just a back up, no different than having emergency supplies or a football team having backups in case the team’s star gets injured.

It is autumn in my part of the world. The trees are turning and the nights are getting kind of chilly. I usually run my furnace at night and sleep under a fleece blanket. While spring is my favorite time of year for physical well being, I do get a lot of writing and reading done in the fall and winter. Even as a child I did my best in school in the spring semesters. But I am feeling calm overall in spite of everything going on. I’ll be glad when a vaccine becomes widely available and this pandemic comes to an end.

Learning, Education, Work and Mental Illness

I was a sophomore in college when I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia.  That was in the fall of 2000.  I had been struggling with depression, paranoia, and anxiety for a few years before I had my diagnosis.  At first I thought it was mainly just teenage angst and moodiness.  I was still doing well in school and was able to at least appear like I had everything together.  I was still on the football and speech teams, I was still making honor roll most of the time, I still had some friends, etc.  But inwardly I was a wreck.  I was fearful of going to the school guidance counselor as I attended a really small high school of less than 90 students.  Back then, almost no one talked about mental illness or depression issues.  It had far more stigma back in the 1990s than it does now.  The internet was still in it’s infancy, there was no youtube, and blogging was still a few years away.  So I suffered in silence and in solitude.

I didn’t talk about my internal problems until they became unbearable because, first, I was certain no one would believe me.  Two, I still had images of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in my head as to what mental problems meant.  Three, I was often told to “suck it up” and “others have it worse than you” even while in grade school.  Four, I feared appearing weak.  So I just suffered in silence for a few years.

As far as I know, no one knew about what was going on in my mind.  If people did, they never asked.  And I was too paranoid to tell anyone.  For the first years I had problems, I was still going to school full time and working on the weekends and during the summers.  I was so anxious and paranoid about going to work, I would vomit before my shifts several times a week.  Since I had spent my entire life listening to people complain about how much they hated their jobs (like they were proud of how much their jobs sucked), I was scared to tell anyone.  I just suffered in silence.

Finally in fall 2000, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression.  It was actually a kind of relief for me in that I wasn’t the only one having these problems.  I didn’t realize that mental illnesses were more common than diabetes until after I was diagnosed.  No one ever talked about mental illnesses in our family or my town.

For the next few years, I took full time classes and worked during the summers.  When I wasn’t in classes or spending time with friends, I was in the college library reading the philosophy and classical literature books that everyone talked about but very few actually read.  I’m glad I got to do that.  I doubt I could have done that had I not went to college first, at least not until the internet really got going.  But spending all those evenings in the campus library instilled a love for learning in me that still burns to this day all these years later.  Sure I wasn’t graded on what I studied and I didn’t get a diploma that stated I had learned such material.  But I knew that I did.  That’s all that mattered to me.

After I graduated from college and worked for a few years before qualifying for disability, I still read a lot of books.  I still do lots of reading, granted it’s mostly online articles, e-books, and audiobooks.  And, no, I don’t have any certificate that says I learned this material.  But it doesn’t matter.  The most fun I ever had at a “work” task is doing what I’m doing right now, writing blogs about navigating my life while working with a mental illness.  I don’t consider it “work” or “a job” because it doesn’t have the stress of any of my traditional jobs.  I love writing about my experiences and trying to be of assistance to others even though it doesn’t pay at all.  I don’t care that it doesn’t pay.  Sometimes, I’m glad it doesn’t.  For I fear if I ever were to accept a writing job or get pay for writing, I would be at the whims and mercy of those paying me.  Screw that.  I want to tell the truth, the good, bad, and mundane of living in the modern day with schizophrenia. I know what living with schizophrenia is like.  I’ve done it since at least my late teens.  I doubt any book editor or manager at a blog service has that kind of first hand experience.

I fear I couldn’t be completely truthful if I did accept pay.  I fear some boss would want me to “Hollywood up” my writings by exaggerating or being more dark just so I could get more readers.  I don’t want that.  I want this blog to be an educational tool and a means to communicate to others what it’s like to be mentally ill without it being threatening or divisive.  I do have good days with mental illness.  I have bad days with mental illness.  Some days getting out of bed and calling my parents is the best I can do.  Others, it’s writing a blog entry that resonates with some of my readers and getting a lot done.  Some days I just want to stay home and keep to only my thoughts.  Others I would road trip for several hours to visit friends out of state or go to baseball games, concerts, etc.  Some days I can talk for hours on end with almost anyone.  Some days I don’t want to even hear the sound of another human voice.  It’s ebb and flow, high tide and low tide.

Removing Myself From Social Media and Thoughts on Change

I decided I’m giving up social media.  I cancelled my twitter account and have put my facebook on inactive status.  I spend too much time on facebook and not enough time actually writing and researching.  I have only a couple close friends and a few cousins I really hear from anymore via facebook.  I would have given it up over a year ago if I wasn’t fearful I’d permanently lose contact with my friends and family.  I tired writing more emails several months ago, but got only one response from the dozen I sent out.  I suppose it feeds into my paranoia that my friends and family really don’t like me that much.  Every time I call my parents, the bulk of the conversation focuses on what I can do to improve myself and how to make my apartment more presentable.  I find this irritating.  I really do.  I can’t even just live anymore.  At this point in my life, I don’t care if I impress people or am popular.  I have never been popular, not even in college or high school.  But I had a good time in college because I got to spend time with people even more eccentric and academically oriented than myself on a daily basis.  I know many people condemn academic knowledge, scholarly pursuits, and intelligence.  I have endured this my entire life.  And I have given up on people ever changing their attitudes towards intelligence and wisdom.  I just want to live and be allowed to pursue my goals, which include learning as much as I possibly can about as many subjects as I can.  I don’t give a damn if I ever make a cent off my pursuits of knowledge and wisdom.  As long as I have enough money to make rent and keep my pantry stocked and myself clothed and my psych medications current, everything else is just add ons.  I don’t need a large house, a prestigious career, a trophy wife, lots of kids, a fancy car, designer clothes, or the respect of people I have nothing in common with.  I never have.  I was, like many ambitious teenagers, brainwashed into thinking I needed such nonsense to have a fulfilled life.  It took a serious mental illness and struggling for most of my twenties to realize that wasn’t what I wanted for myself.  And it took a few more years to where I got to the point when I no longer felt shame for not wanting a life I had no say in designing.

I don’t feel shame for not wanting to be rich or famous.  I don’t write blogs every few days with the idea I will get noticed and make a train load of money.  I write for a record of what it like to be a mentally ill man in early 21st century America.  I don’t write just for my current audience.  I write for future generations so there is at least one record as to what mental illness meant in the early stages of the Information Revolution.  And make no mistake, our species and our civilizations are going through a period of transition at very least as profound as the Agricultural Revolution thousands of years ago and the Industrial Revolution hundreds of years ago.  It should be no wonder so many people are afraid and angry.  Afraid of what’s happening and what is going to happen.  Angry that we found that much of what we learned in our youths and what worked well in previous generations is starting to no longer apply.

We are at a point in history when our science and tech is advancing faster than our institutions of government, religion, education, finance, industry, and social norms.  At this point in time (November 2019), the world is far different than the one I went to high school in during the 1990s.  I’ve recently rewatched some of the tv shows that were popular when I was a teenager, and it’s almost quaint looking at some of the tech that was considered cutting edge twenty five years ago.  Even in the Matrix series, there were no smart phones, social media, video sharing platforms, laptop computers, etc.  There were still phone booths in that series and that was made only twenty years ago.  I didn’t notice the subtle changes that were happening over the course of a year or two when things were happening.  But looking at it over the span of twenty years, I am as a 39 year old man living in a world that is foreign to the one I occupied at age 16.  I’m not even sure my niece and nephews have seen a VCR tape anywhere outside of a history show or museum.  I sometimes chuckle when I see older people who don’t research online as much as my cohorts do.  But my teenage nephews would chuckle that I have never run a 3D printer or used a VR headset.  One of my nephews recently bought a VR headset from money he raised working odd jobs for his parents and neighbors.  He set up a VR flying simulator for my father.  As for me, I’m waiting a couple of years for the prices to drop and the tech to get more user friendly.  As crazy as the changes I have seen in the last twenty years have been, I guarantee the next twenty will be even more so.  At this point I’m just content to buckle up and enjoy the ride from my apartment in small town Nebraska.

Routine Changes and Intellectual Pursuits With Mental Illness

Been staying home most of the time lately.  The weather is turning colder, like typical Nebraska Novembers.  We had our first snow a couple days before Halloween.  Even though I have essentially been cabin bound for several days, I don’t usually feel that lonely or irritable.

I have made a few changes to my routines.  I decided to give up on coffee, again.  Even the morning cup that was my standard for over fifteen years too often makes me irritable and twitchy.  I am sleeping longer too.  I usually go to bed around 9pm, wake up at 2am, work online or read until about 6am and then go back to sleep for another three hours.  I also usually nap for an hour in the afternoons.  It seems like I am sleeping some at least three times a day.  It may make it tough to get a lot done, but it does alleviate anxiety and allows me to declutter my mind.  I still sometimes get vivid dreams, but fortunately most are not scary or violent like they were in my early twenties.  Most just don’t make sense or they are the ones where I’m naked in public and no one seems to notice.  And I often have those dreams where I am back in school and I can’t find my classes or even open my locker.  Needless to say when I wake up and realize I’m in my late thirties again, I feel relieved.

Since I fazed out coffee and sleep more, I have found it takes more to make me irritable and distressed.  It also seems like I recover from aches and pains faster.  And I catch my breath quicker when I get winded now.  I don’t feel much for aches and pains when I stand for long periods of time, but I do find it annoying sometimes.  One of the reasons I started doing my shopping online was mainly because I got annoyed with standing in line for more than a couple minutes at a time.  The worst was when I was at the gas station and needing to pay for a tank of gas and I’d have several people ahead of me buying lottery tickets.  It was especially bad on the days of Powerball drawings.  I am convinced that lotteries are a tax on people who can’t do math.

I’ve also cut out as much sugar as possible.  I didn’t even buy candy for Halloween this year, not even for myself.  Then again, I enjoy watching people in costumes more now than I did even as a ten year old when I got to dress up.  Sugar was another thing that made me sluggish and occasionally irritable once the sugar rush burned off.

I am making friends with some of my neighbors.  I usually hear from them at least once a day.  For a small monthly fee, they’ll help me out with my laundry once a week as long as I provide the soap and laundry money.  They were also good enough to make dinner for me a few days ago.  While I do cook for myself, it’s usually simple things that don’t require a lot of ingredients.

Gotten back into listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I also listen to science and tech themed podcasts.  I occasionally listen to Joe Rogan if he’s interviewing a scientist or tech person.  I still avoid politics.  I have enough beliefs across the entire spectrum that is doesn’t qualify me for any traditional camp, party, or tribe.  So I catch flack from all sides just because I try to think for myself and am not dogmatic about my politics.  I swear politics has become like religion for far too many people.

I don’t post much on facebook anymore.  Then again, about the only people I hear from at all anymore are my best friend, a couple cousins, and a couple college instructors.  Even the tech groups, with only a few exceptions, have become fear mongers and hopeless these days.  Even tech enthusiasts are too often guilty getting their science news more from Hollywood and less from actual scientists.  I don’t read most science fiction and I don’t watch any science fiction shows just because they are so dystopic and such doom porn anymore.  No wonder most people are filled with fear and dread.

I try to tell people what’s actually going right (and far more is going well than not), but I’m just waisting my breath on everyone it seems.  About the only person who doesn’t think I’m a delusional liar is my own mother (and my best friend when she’s been doing well).  And even with her, I don’t know if she actually believes what I’m telling her or if she’s just humoring me.  And people wonder why I dropped out of society and don’t socialize much outside of close friends and family.  What’s the point of socializing if most people just suck the life and positivity out of you?  It seems that optimism and empathy are the modern rebellions.  It isn’t cool to be an optimist, but that may be just because we are years ahead of the curve.

People think I’m lucky because I’m on disability and don’t have to work a regular job.  While having freedom (at least to the extent the pension money doesn’t run out) is amazing, it is also a lonely life.  I spend most of my days reading, watching science lectures, lifting weights, listing to podcasts, but not much socializing.  It’s like this scholar I sometimes watch on youtube said, “If you seek the truth, the truth will set you free.  But it will also make you lonely.”  But I’d rather seek wisdom and knowledge than popularity and prestige.  I’ve felt this way my entire life.

I believe I now know what my purpose in life should be.  It is to be an independent scholar/philosopher.  Sure such work will mean I will never live a wealthy life.  Then again, some of the smartest and wisest people in history will never be known because they spent their lives in monasteries or libraries or lecture halls and laboratories.  And that is only if they were lucky.  Many more spent their lives never fitting in, seeing absurdities every where they went, and died frustrated and bankrupt.  Fortunately, the internet gives an outlet for people like me, who in previous eras would have had no options other than monasteries or academic life.  The true geniuses who drive progress may not be the billionaire entrepreneurs, but the engineers and scientists and instructors making the entrepreneurs visions possible.  I suppose people like that do the intellectual grunt work that make modern society possible.  Yet most people will never hear of them, much like no one hears of individual master carpenters or plumbers.

Rant About Jobs and Finding Meaning

I would welcome a cure to my schizophrenia but I have had bad enough experiences with work place environments that I never want to hold another job again.  I used to vomit from anxiety probably 50 percent of the time when I went into work customer service jobs.  The only job I didn’t do this was my janitor job.  But then, I didn’t work around crowds and I had to see my boss only once a day.  Yet, good luck finding a job that doesn’t involve working with crowds or office politics nonsense even with a college degree.

I would be completely content to be where I had to be around the same group of people day after day and only rarely interact with others outside my work team.  Almost no jobs like that exist anymore.  A significant number of jobs will likely be taken over by machines within the next ten to fifteen years. I have tried to tell people this for several years now.  But almost no one listens or if they do they tell me I am a liar.  The future is coming my friends.  These jobs, at least the ones we fight over now, will be going away.  And there isn’t anything even populist politicians or professional Luddites can do to stop it.  Sure, they can delay the inevitable.  But it will only put their individual businesses and nations at a competitive disadvantage and make the transition to a largely automated economy a lot tougher than it has to be.

Some people think I’m crazy or hopeless dreamer or a liar when I tell them this.  I am not stupid.  I am just ahead of the curve.  And being forced out of the workforce because of my schizophrenia meant that I was forced to find a different way to define myself than what I did for money.  But, in many ways, I am thankful I was forced to redefine myself at age 25 as opposed to age 45 with a family and a mortgage.  I went through my identity crisis when I was still young, flexible, and physically healthy.  It would be much tougher now that I’m 39 years old if I got laid off from a job because a machine can do it faster and more precise than I ever could.  The future is happening.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.  Changes are coming hard and fast in the next ten to twenty years, even more so than they are now.  It is time to stop denying it and adapt.

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.

Graduations, Reunions, and Life Choices

Got my lease renewed for this year.  So I don’t have that hanging anymore.  Also got a few new shirts in the mail from my dad this morning.  Thanks Dad.  I appreciate it.  Ever since I went more minimalist than most people a few years ago I have less of everything, including clothing.  This means I wear what I do have more often and have to do laundry often.  Maybe I should pick up some more clothing just so I don’t have to do washing and replacing clothing more often.  Unfortunately clothing wears out if you wash it a lot and wear it quite often.  I found this out through my own experiences.

Been going outside more often lately even with it being a damper and colder than usual spring.  I still don’t drive much except when necessary.  I fire up my car at least every few days just to make sure everything is in proper order.  Even though I no longer take road trips like I did even a few years ago, it is good to know I could if I had to.

I might be making a couple trips this summer.  I have a family reunion in Colorado at the end of June I might be going to.  And my twenty year class reunion is the first weekend in July.  I’m still undecided if I’m going.  Sadly, many of the people I spent the bulk of my time with in high school live far away and probably aren’t the types to go to reunions anyway.  Some days it’s hard to believe I’ve been out of high school for twenty years.  Other days, especially when I’m in the grips of mental illness, it feels like someone else’s life.  An incredible amount has changed since I graduated high school in 1999.

I occasionally break out my high school annuals and photographs of high school and college friends.  I remember when we graduated high school, one of the speakers said something to the effect that we wouldn’t truly appreciate the power and beauty of youth until we were older.  So true.  I guess the biggest thing I miss about high school and college is how easy it was to socialize and make friends in those environments.  I was a geeky kid I admit.  I would have been the stereotypical nerd in high school and college except that I had a lot of physical strength (but no coordination).  I was on the football and track teams in high school and did intramural softball in college.  I probably couldn’t have done any other sports as a kid.  I wasn’t fast enough for soccer or coordinated enough for baseball or basketball or quick enough for wrestling.

Another thing about school and college I miss is the academics.  Even though I never got straight A’s in any level of school, I still did pretty decent in classes.  I did well enough grade wise and test wise to qualify for some really good scholarships.  I am so, so glad I graduated college debt free.  I couldn’t manage on a disability pension while paying off loans.  It was tough giving up on the MBA program once I lost my graduate assistant job.  But I wasn’t going to continue on in school if I had no way to pay for it outright.  Debt scared me then and it still scares me even though I haven’t had debts for years.  I don’t know if I even have a credit score anymore simply because I don’t borrow money.

My eldest nephew recently graduated middle school.  He will be starting high school at a large suburban public school this autumn.  So he may be going to college in four years.  I don’t really have any advice for the youngsters except remain flexible and open to new experiences.  We have no idea what jobs will be around in even ten years.  Many jobs could be eliminated due to automation and artificial intelligence.  Of course, many new jobs could be coming too.  I can’t in good faith advise any kid on what career path to take.

I won’t even tell them to ‘follow your heart.’  I saw too many people take that advice and end up with degrees that have few job prospects, at least right now. Yet, I remember an interview Mark Cuban gave on a business news show a couple years ago and he said to the effect that if machines keep taking over jobs, then people with humanities and liberal arts degrees might be in demand more than even business and technical fields within ten years.  Wouldn’t that be ironic; for years kids were discouraged from being arts and humanities students for fear they’d be able to do nothing but make coffee and work fast food.  Soon we may say the same thing about accounting, business, and delivery drivers.

In short, we don’t know what will be available.  In fact, the youngsters coming through the ranks may have to retrain every few years for new job skills.  The tech and science isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.  It is actually getting faster.  We could be going into a really cool future but it could be a rugged journey to get there.  The next generation or two could be quite rough as we navigate the biggest change to civilization since Industrialization got going in the lat 1700s and early 1800s.  I hope we are up to the challenges.

Life After Paid Employment

I am feeling extra creative today.  So here is a second blog entry.  Consider it like a buy one, get one free kind of day.  I haven’t held regular paid employment since spring 2012.  I decided to get out of the regular work life because I could tell it is beginning to take it’s toll on my stability.  It also didn’t help that the more I worked, the more disability benefits I lost and the more I paid in rent.  I did the math back then and realize for every dollar I made in labor, I lost over 70 cents in reduced benefits, increased rent, taxes, etc.  Tell me where the incentive to get off disability is.  There isn’t any.  Besides, my schizophrenia makes holding a forty hour per week job and dealing with workplace politics impossible.  It was becoming more trouble than it was worth.

After I left my last regular job, I got serious about blogging.  I had been writing regularly since I was in college but decided to focus my energies on blogging about mental illness.  I wrote a couple poetry books and rough drafts for a couple novels in addition to keeping extensive journals.  Unfortunately I don’t have most of my original writings anymore.  In my paranoid state I feared that others would see my personal writings and hold them against me.  That’s why I got rid of most my journals and poetry from my twenties and early thirties.  I don’t even self publish my poetry anymore.  I haven’t even written a poem in three years, instead focusing on the blog for the time being.

Even though I haven’t written poems or novel drafts for a few years doesn’t mean I have given up on those genres.  I still occasionally read poetry.  I haven’t read much fiction outside of Issac Asimov, Corey Doctorow, and H.P. Lovecraft in a few years.  I have concentrated on science and tech books instead.  I imagine in a few years something else will catch my mind’s eyes and I’ll dive into that.

I used to make up stories all the time as a kid.  It’s too bad I never wrote any of them down.  I used to spend hours on end roaming my back yard and the alley ways of my hometown just making up stories and thinking in my childhood.  It was something I wanted to do and even needed to do for myself.  As much as I loved learning and exercising my mind in school as a child, school by itself didn’t satisfy my appetite for learning and mental stimulation.  It only served as an appetizer I suppose.  It made me want to learn more on my own.  And fortunately I lived in an area that allowed me to explore on my own and had parents who were willing to tolerate that I desired so much time alone to learn and think. I dare say that thinking is my favorite pastime.  And of course good luck doing that at a regular forty hour per week job unless you work at a think tank or as a scholar.

I suppose that is what I am, an independent scholar.  I have always been that.  Even as a little child I hated being told what to think.  I always wanted to know.  I wanted to read the original works of literature of philosophers and scholars.  I didn’t just want to take someone else’s word for it.  Sure it got me into trouble over the years with authority figures, but I just couldn’t just go along to get along and blindly accept what I was told.  I never have been able to just shut off my mind and go on cruise control.  It has gotten me into trouble at jobs and at school, but it made my life more interesting.  It made me a better friend to others as well.

Overall I know with my mental illness I couldn’t hold a regular job for long without breaking down.  I have been like this for my entire adult life.  Fortunately I have disability pension and Medicaid.  Without these I would probably be dead or at least in prison.  And what a waste either one would be.  I dread to think how many people over the ages had creativity and genius but it was lost because they were forced to spend their lives in conditions they couldn’t control.  I am sure many geniuses spent their entire lives as slaves or serfs or toiling in some job they couldn’t stand.  I am sure many people were never allowed to develop their talents because of the prejudices and social norms of their eras.  I only hope we continue to get better at finding people’s talents and allowing them to develop.  If we as individuals can’t or won’t help kids develop their skills and gifts, the least we as individuals and grown ups can do is get out of the way.

Dealing with Loneliness, Landlords, Luddites, and My Love for My Fellow Humans

Feeling better overall more or less. About the only issues I have now are that I am still kind of afraid to socialize in person.  So I spend much of my time alone.  I have gotten to where I can’t stand talking to people in person for fear of them becoming angry and rude.  And it’s causing me stress.  I know I’ll have to just fight through it because I have to get my lease renewed within the next few weeks.  I always hate this process.  I have to fill out tons of paper work reporting on what I do and don’t earn money and whether or not I have a job or investment funds.  I haven’t had a regular job since 2012 and I haven’t been cured of my schizophrenia.  Until I get cured that isn’t going to change.  And of course, they need information from my bank.  And my bank is always a a pain about giving out that information.

Since the only thing that has changed about my finances or condition in the last several years is the cost of living adjustments I get from Social Security,  I honestly don’t see why I can’t do some of this nonsense online. I mean, it’s 2019 already.  Why should I have to fill out reams of forums that probably no one is going to read when we have the tech and science to do it online or at least by certified mail?  I was filling out my tax forums online over ten years ago.  I was paying for laundry at my college on a chipped card twenty years ago.  We have developed cars that can drive themselves better than any human.  The U.S. government recently demanded that NASA get American astronauts back on the moon by 2024, and they don’t care if they have to use private companies to do so.  About the only things I probably can’t buy online these days are firearms and street drugs.  And I probably could do both if I didn’t care about breaking the law.  I swear some things I have do deal with on a day to day basis is truly obsolete and out of touch with modern reality.  And it can be frustrating.

I know some people will think I’m overreacting.  Maybe I am.  But, I’ve lived in my current complex for twelve years.  Most of this information hasn’t changed any since the day I moved in.  I’m frustrated with how much of what I have to deal with is just hap hazard in organization and I have to deal with several different agencies, none of whom are in communication with each other.  It doesn’t have to be this much of a headache.  And do not give me this “well, suck it up because we’ve always done it this way.”  Well, we didn’t used to let women or minorities or anyone who didn’t own property vote either.  We used to believe kings and emperors were gods.  Things change.  Societies evolve.  Bad ideas die and end up on the ash heap of history, exactly where they belong.  It’s only a matter of time before much of social security’s paper work goes online or even automatic.  When I applied for Social Security Disability Insurance back in 2006, I did all that paper work online.  And that was thirteen years ago.  A lot has changed since then, though you wouldn’t know it looking at some institutions and people.

Of course having mental illness where I’m paranoid and irritable some times only makes things worse.  I do not enjoy interacting with my land lord.  I do not enjoy interacting with my social security man.  I fear dealing with authority figures.  I have had mostly bad experiences with authority ever since grade school.  I have rarely been helped by anyone in authority.  Most times I’ve had to rely on family or myself.  Besides, most times anyone in authority cared to talk to me was to threaten me and tell me what a screw up I was.  Happened at school.  Happened in the work place.  And it happens when I deal with Social Security and my land lord.  There has to be easier ways.  And don’t give me this “toughen up buttercup” nonsense.

If all our species ever did was toughen up and not try to improve anything, we’d either be living in caves still or would likely be extinct.  I am not a misanthrope, never have been.  I don’t hate my fellow humans.  I don’t want to hate my fellow humans.  Sure, the sometimes rude and stupid actions of my peers weighs heavy on my conscious and I fear for the future of my species.  But if I sound like I’m harsh and demanding of my fellow humans, it’s because I love humans.  I am a fan of mankind.  I hate those questions that ask ‘what is your spiritual animal’, as if it can’t be another human.  I have see the cool things we are capable of.  I have seen the kindness and compassion we extend to each other and the lower species.  I see it every day.  That’s why when I see arrogance, stupidity, rudeness, and violence towards other people and nature, it makes me sad.  Every time I see that, I think ‘those people are not living up to their potential.’  We can solve our problems.  Hell, we’ve been solving problems for many thousands of years.  You wouldn’t know it listening to some people, but those attitudes don’t matter.  And we can continue solving problems for millions of years as long as we don’t allow ourselves to become short sighted and clinging to old ways when they no longer serve their intended propose.

Civilization is not falling apart regardless of what our rulers and doom porn peddlers in the media want us to believe.  It’s going through a transition that is even greater than the Industrial Revolution or even Agrarian Revolutions of the past.  We are living through transition to a different type of civilization.  What will it be on the other side?  Don’t know.  But we didn’t know when what would happen when be built the first steam engines or planted the first seeds of wheat and rice or domesticated the first farm animals either.  We are living in a critical turning point in history, we are not living in the end of days type things.  We can make this transition.  It’s just that outdated institutions and obsolete ways of doing things will make the transition more of a headache than it needs to be.  The biggest thing we are lacking right now is not morality or decency, it’s original ways of thinking and new ideas.

Having Access to The World Without Leaving Home or Wearing Pants and Shoes

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My parents moved to Oklahoma City area a few months ago to be closer to the grandkids.  They seem to be adapting to suburb life well.  They joined a large church where they have lots of opportunities to socialize even outside of Sunday church services.  And my dad, being a bit of a handy man from his youth on a farm, is absolutely thrilled that he lives only a few minutes drive from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  Mom is talking about planting a few trees and getting a garden going in the new backyard.  Meanwhile, here in Nebraska we haven’t been above freezing point for over two weeks.  But I guess as I learned from my brother who has worked in Oklahoma City area for twenty years now, that far south seems to get spring almost a month ahead of me where I’m at.  I have been quite envious of how their winters are milder than ours (and my friends from Minnesota say the same about my winters) but I will be grateful that my summers won’t be as rough as theirs.  I imagine I’ll eventually relocate to Oklahoma myself.  It’s just a matter of time and doing the Social Security transfer paperwork.

Overall I am happy for my parents in their retirement years.  I was worried about how they would adapt to retirement when my mom retired from the hospital and my dad sold his practice.  They didn’t socialize as much as many people, at least not outside of family and church.  My mom was on the town’s library board of directors and my dad was on the local school board back in the 90s and early 2000s.  He got to sign my brother and I’s high school diploma.  I did hear of a few examples of 18 year old high school seniors got elected to their local school boards and got to sign their own diplomas.

I guess I have gotten past the fact that I can’t just get in the car and go visit them on a whim like I could when they lived only a couple hours away.  But then, I just don’t travel as much as I used to mainly because I no longer need to.  I even recently signed up for grubhub.com, so participating fast food places in my hometown can deliver food to my house now.  I now special order my clothing through a big and tall men’s webpage and they mail my orders to my door.  Sure it is more expensive than Wal Mart or the old K-Mart, but the selection is much better and the clothes fit much better too.  As I always had odd sizes.  Before I hit puberty I was quite tall but really skinny.  Never been anything between being overweight and really skinny it seems.

If I don’t feel like venturing out of my house, there are a couple places in my hometown that can deliver groceries, sometimes even same day delivery if I order in the early morning.  I get most of my prescription medications sent through the mail now. One of my college friends joked with me that if he used my setups, the only times he would need to leave his house would be to go to work, get maintenance and gas for his car, and to buy his occasional beer.  He may have been joking but that is about the reality for myself.

And now many jobs can be done from home now via telecommuting.  I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this truly takes off.  I have a cousin and his wife that can do most of their work from home if they so chose.  The only time I need to go to my bank is to buy quarters for laundry and visit the ATM machine.  I do all my blogging from my leather recliner (which was delivered from a local furniture store) in my living room.  I have friends who take free online courses (not for college credits though) through MIT.  I use Khan Academy and youtube videos a great deal when I need and want to learn something.

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Maybe it will be telecommuting that saves some of these small Midwest and Southern towns that started drying up once farming and manufacturing got more automated and needed fewer human workers.  With as bad as rents and housing costs are in the big cities I couldn’t afford to live in a place like San Francisco or New York, let alone Omaha or Kansas City.  Maybe telecommuting is what will indirectly solve the affordable housing crisis here in USA. Might even solve the problems of higher education costs getting out of control. It also will cut down down on commuting time, so less air pollution from automobiles even if electric cars weren’t becoming more affordable and easy to find.  As strange as it may sound to some people, future generations might look back and write history books about topics like how technology, science, and the open market solved problems like environmental pollution, resource depletion, poverty, and perhaps even end war.  I think in some ways (at least much of the stats and data I have personally seen) all of these are beginning to happen.

Even though I don’t socialize in person as much as I used to, I don’t feel any less connected than I did in the past.  Sure I do miss physical touch and intimacy, but I have adapted to socialize more online and on phone. I’m currently trying to get face time set up on my computer. But I have adapted to my reality and have found ways around not having much money or living near people with similar interests or not wanting to drive everywhere anymore.  There was an old song about having the world on a string.  I don’t have that, but I do more or less have the world with a few keystrokes on a computer with wireless internet.  I can all my shopping and socializing and I don’t even have to wear shoes if I don’t want to.  I can hardly wait until I can get a multi purpose 3D printer I can use in my house as easily as I now use my computer and phone.

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Progress does sometimes seem to be slow, at least when we are in the middle of the day to day grinds and stressors.  But given the perspective of decades and years, we as a civilizations and species have made an incredible amount of progress just in the last ten years, let alone my lifetime, and certainly let alone since my grandparents were born.  All of this I do from home wouldn’t have been possible even in 2000.  Yet, growing up in the 1980s the year 2000 was some mythic futurist time.  Sheesh, other than fast than light travel, matter replicators, “beem me up Scotty”, computers who act like humans, and contact with life from other planets, we are starting to live much of what science fiction even forty years ago.  I have hope.  Everyone else should too.