Being Alone vs Being Lonely

I’ve spent most of my life alone. I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 and haven’t been on a date since 2006. It’s not that I don’t like having conversations or in person interaction. I have very rarely met people who share the same interests I do. I grew up in a small farming village of less than 500 people in rural Nebraska. The nearest Wal Mart was over an hour drive away as was the nearest four year college and book store. Most people I knew growing up thought I was odd in preferring to read science and nature books in grade school over playing sports. I never could run fast and was never coordinated enough to do well in sports like baseball or basketball. I didn’t have quick enough reflexes to be very good at most video games. My brother was a master at those. I always lost to him and I gave up trying to compete against him when I was ten years old.

Instead, I spent most of my free time either in the local library or wandering my back yard. While in my back yard, I made up stories and fantasy worlds. It came natural to me. Granted the neighbor kids thought it was funny and used to spy on me. Got me real paranoid after awhile. I didn’t have many friends growing up. I guess no one liked the smart kid who wasn’t afraid of being well read and smart. Even the adults thought I was strange for preferring to read to going to ballgames or county fairs.

It wasn’t until I was eleven that I met a friend who had many of the same interests and was just as much as an outsider as I was. His family moved in from a mountain town in Colorado. We hit it off right away. He and I were discussing politics and economics when most of our classmates were discussing school yard gossip, the latest video games, or the results of the college football games the previous weekend. He and I would sometimes spend our recess time discussing the presidental debates with our sixth grade teacher in 1992. Naturally our classmates thought we were weirdos.

I met my current best friend when I was thirteen. She and her sisters were homeschooled. First time in my entire life I met a kid who loved reading even more than I did. We hit it off immediately. Of course I got a lot of grief from classmates because my best friend was a girl. Half of the school thought I was gay and the other half thought we were all but married by freshman year of high school. Neither was true, she and I just shared similar interests. Most people don’t realize how few options I had for socializing for most of my life. Hell, I didn’t realize how limited my options were until facebook came out. Sadly, facebook turned into a toxic waste dump shortly after being opened to the public at large and big money got involved. Sad to see something so beautiful get so distorted.

Because my best friend in high school was a girl, that killed my chances for dating. Some people have the issues of not being able to get a second date or end up dating losers and jerks. My problem has always been getting anyone to say yes even once. I never did figure out what I was doing wrong. I flat out asked people what I was doing wrong. I never got any answer beyond ‘just be yourself’ and ‘there is someone for everyone.’ Right.

Even going off to college and being the only person from my school on campus didn’t improve my dating prospects. I asked one girl out and she laughed in my face. I had another girl in one class get all angry because she thought I was starring at her when I was really just starring at the clock. I did have a steady dating relationship my second year in college. Like most young romances, it didn’t last. We didn’t have enough similar interests. My last three years of college, I spent whatever time I wasn’t studying for classes in the library reading the classics of philosophy, history, literature, poetry, etc. Those books that serious literature students consider classics but never read, I read dozens of those in my spare time in college. Sure it killed any chance at dating, but I figured out that I wasn’t what most people were looking for anyway. It was no loss.

One I got out on my own, I struggled for a few years bouncing from job to job because of my worsening mental illness. I eventually wound up on disability. Worked a few years just to say I could. In 2012, I took early retirement from traditional work to devote my life to study and writing. At age 40, I’m far happier with this arrangement than with any I’ve ever had. I don’t get spied on by my neighbors like the kids in my hometown did. No one gives me a hard time for not wanting to date anymore. No one insults me because I love to learn. Sure it gets lonely at times, but that is what happens when someone has rare interests and lives in an environment where aren’t many people. Could I have done better socially if I grew up in a suburban setting? I don’t know. I’ll never know at this point. But it does get lonely. Some days I feel like a medieval monk with a great book collection but no one to share that knowledge with.

Thought on Marriage, Social Relationships, and Life’s Callings

I love being 40 years old. I enjoy that I no longer feel pressure to get married or have kids. I never could stand going to family gatherings and my old high school for home football games and have people asking me when I was going to start a family. People think I’m a liar for saying this, but I decided I wasn’t getting married when I was 18 and a senior in high school. For one, I saw that most married people I knew argued and fought all the time and about the pettiest crap. I still remember when I was 16 and my parents started arguing at the dinner table and I had just had it. I had a rough day at school already and I had a few hours worth of homework ahead of me that night already. I got up to just walk away, and they both shouted at me to sit down. Then they just went back to their argument like I wasn’t there. Sometimes when they argued, I’d yell at both of them just because I had enough. And my family was mild compared to most of my friends and extended family. Two of my high school friends and three sets of my cousins parents’ went through divorces in my youth. Seeing that scared me real bad. And I always heard this crap about how “you just gotta pick the right girl” or “love is all you need” or “love is forever” or “there is someone for everyone.” But I knew even in my teens I hated drama and fighting. I’d often hear that fighting makes relationships stronger and then I’d get punished for hitting my older brother or the neighbor kids. I always got mixed messages like that. I still do, though more through social media than my immediate family and friends. I love that I am no longer pressured to get married or have kids. It’s a pity almost no one respected my desire to stay unmarried twenty years ago.

I love that I can cut toxic people out of my life and not feel guilty at all about it. I may have fewer friends at age 40 than I did at age 22, but all of the friends I have are amazing. My best friend from college and I have never had a shouting match. Sure we’ve been irritated with each other many times but have never shouted at each other or ghosted each other. I’ve cut lots of people out of my life after we changed as people and after I figured out we weren’t good for each other. I’ve had to cut people out of my life that had been friends for years because we no longer shared the same values. I’ve even cut out family members. I find few things as irritating as going to family gatherings and hearing that one older relative rant on and on about the “damn kids” or that second cousin go on about politics or how much of an idiot his boss is. I don’t put up with toxic and rude people anymore. I would rather spend the rest of my life alone and in my apartment than socialize with toxic people. Anymore, most people I know are toxic. I refuse to put up with it. I don’t have to at this point in my life. And I don’t feel a shred of guilt for not socializing with people like that.

I love that I can do pretty much what I want for money, at least as long as I’m not breaking any laws. When I was a kid I was constantly asked what I wanted to do for a living. Originally I wanted to go into science research. I wasn’t really concerned with making lots of money. I enjoy what money can do as much as anyone, but it isn’t the primary focus of my existence. Another truth about me that most people think is a lie is that I decided I wanted to go to college when I was eight years old. The idea of being around well read people and getting to study things I wanted to sounded like winning the lottery in my eight year old mind. I always loved learning and reading. I didn’t have to be forced to read. Hell, I had to be forced to socialize with classmates. Mom and Dad were scared I’d never develop social skills if I just read books and made up stories in my back yard all day every day. Yet I still had a good social life in college, far better than what I had in grade school and high school. I’ve been accused of being anti social my entire life, but especially when I was a kid. The thing is I can talk with others all night about things like history, philosophy, economics, literature, science, and tech. But I can’t stand to talk about things like politics, the weather, sports, gossip, and school rumors. These things don’t interest me. Never have. Yet I was condemned for being anti social for not enjoying things like ballgames, county fairs, watching cable news, discussing politics, or the weather. I’ve never been anti social, I just have different interests than most people I’ve ever known. I’m thankful that the internet allows me to connect with people who have similar interests. I have more in common with people from my tech and futurist groups that I will never meet than I do my neighbors and most of my family. The internet is a godsend for the black sheep and small town eccentrics. It’s a pity I don’t have a couple hard core scholars or retired engineers living near me. In short, I love being a free lance independent scholar. Sure I will never get rich off my knowledge. Yet as long as I can pay my rent on time, keep food in the pantry, clothes in my wardrobe, keep my daily medications current, and keep the internet paid up, I don’t need much else. While I’m not convinced on the idea of previous lives or reincarnation, maybe I would have been wise to become a monk had I lived in medieval England. Maybe I could have been cured of mental illness and gone on to write parts of the Encyopedia Galatica if I lived in Asimov’s Foundation universe thousands of years in the future. I’ll never know. Being a scholar is like crime: It doesn’t pay and can land you in prison if you’re not careful. But, damn, I don’t know any other way to live my life.

Fear of the Future

Since I have more alone time since the pandemic started, I have spent much of my time researching science and tech articles and journals. I’ve been especially interested in the changes in the workplace and job market. Personally I’ve been getting my groceries delivered to my house since 2017. When I started this, I was the first one in my complex to do so. As far as I know, a significant portion of my neighbors now do so.

I’ve gotten most of my shopping done online via Amazon and King Size for several years. For the first time in my life, I actually have a complete wardrobe that fits perfectly. I never understood why people were so picky about brands of clothing, at least for clothes that didn’t have to be worn at work or social gatherings. But then I grew up in rural Nebraska where most people wore polo shirts and slacks even to church. It was tough to get excited about clothes shopping when I knew it was hit or miss if I would find anything good in my size. Most people weren’t at all sympathetic about it. I was just told to “lose weight” rather than look for specialty clothing options via mail order and online. For me, the internet has been a godsend when it comes to shopping for clothing.

I don’t regret selling my car. I had grown to hate driving over the years. And since I live in a small town in a predominantly rural state, driving is my only real option. I’ve had people tell me that things like buses and passenger trains were “socialist.” Never mind that USA used to have the best passenger rail and public transit service in the world. And air travel, with all it’s restrictions and screenings, is a sick joke as far as I’m concerned. You pay for a ticket and then they treat you like you a criminal from the time you show up at the airport until you arrive at your destination.

But, it’s alright. With communication tech being what it is, I really don’t have to leave home much anymore. And the pandemic accelerated the changes that were already starting. People tell me to socialize more. What do think I do online? I also read more now than I have at any point in my life even if I haven’t been to the library in over five years. I’m actually learning more as a middle age man than I ever did in school. Too many people got the idea that learning has to be tough and boring. And no, memorization isn’t learning. A damn smart phone can look up facts and do math better than any scholar. Anyone relying on rote memorization and repetition is getting slaughtered in the real world. It’s only going to get worse in that regard.

When I was struggling socially in junior high, my dad told me that nerds and geeks would someday rule the world. I thought he was full of it when he told me this when I was thirteen. But, not even thirty years later he was right. Most of the richest people in the world got their start in science and high tech, not manufacturing or mining. And I am loving every minute of it. Things like comic books, live action role playing, computers, techno music, video gaming, art, writing, empathy, compassion, etc. were considered weak and unmanly. My classmates hated people who read comic books and worked on computers or did art. They were like be normal, play sports and fix cars.

Now people are worried about machines taking over many current jobs. They should be, especially with the whole Puritan work ethic and being defined by your employment type of b.s. we’ve shoved down our kids throats for generations. These kids are right when they know that even a college degree isn’t worth as much as it was forty years ago. I’m glad I went to college when I did and got out debt free. College was also the only means I had to find something conducive to my skill set. I grew up in a town of less than 500 people dominated by corn farming and raising cattle. The nearest four year college was an hour and a half drive away. Corn farming and raising cattle requires nowhere near as many workers as it did one hundred years ago. We no longer live in a world where 80 percent of our workers can work on farms, factories, or mines. Maybe 15 percent of the population does such now. People complain about all the manufacturing jobs getting sent to China, but the value of US manufacturing is actually higher than ever. We just manufacture expensive things like jets, power generators, etc. And much of our manufacturing is done via machines. Blaming immigrants and foreigners is a convenient red herring for politicians looking for votes.

If there is a point to this post, it is that the future is already arriving. It’s up to us to adapt to the new reality or step aside for those who will rise to the challenges. If you don’t think the world can change for the better, you are wrong. It will change for the better but it will change in spite of people who try to hold onto the good old days (which actually sucked for most people by the way).

February 16 2021

Been having a prolonged cold spell lately. Probably the worst I can remember in over 30 years. I think we have at least 18 inches of snow in my hometown. Hard to tell as my windows have been frosted over for several days. We haven’t lost power in my town. Heard that several million people in Texas have been without power since yesterday. During this cold spell, I usually go to bed shortly after sunset, wake up for a couple hours in the middle of the night, and go back to sleep until 7am.

As I had some back up food, I haven’t had to get out in this mess. Been eating lots of soup and pasta lately. I haven’t even been off my floor in over a week. My neighbor is kind enough to pick up my mail a couple times a week. I give him laundry money in return.

Mentally I’m still stable. I do have a couple minor flare ups every day, but they usually pass after several minutes. The mornings are usually the worst for these. I haven’t been really depressed about having to limit my in person interactions, at least not lately. It helps I can still keep in contact with friends and family via Zoom calls, phone calls, social media, etc.

My friends aren’t doing as well as I am. My friend in Omaha is having epileptic seizures again and has to work from home My friend in Denver is pulling lots of double shifts as her company can’t keep much for new hires. My only real problem is chronic back pain. But it doesn’t effect me much as I can have most things delivered to my house.

Things I Don’t Understand

I readily admit there are things about my fellow humans I don’t understand. And I never will. Of course having a mental illness makes it almost impossible to read people. But here is a short list of things I don’t understand (and likely never will). It is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Here goes:

Things I Don’t Understand

Celebrity worship

Obsession over designer clothes

Gender reveal parties

Beauty pagents for children

Little league parents

Parents giving participation trophies to kids and then complaining about kids receiving participation trophies

Teachers and adults who tell kids “Wait until you have a job, kids, etc.” And then never acknowledging the kids who learned from their elders’ mistakes as adults.

Too Big To Fail

Too Small To Succeed

Treating politicians like rock stars

Treating scientists and doctors like idiots

Prosperity Gospel

The belief everyone has to have an opinion on everything

Cancel culture

Most Tik Tok videos

Most Twitter tweets

Arguing over petty nonsense on social media with complete strangers

Prideful and willful ignorance

Being proud of having no compassion and empathy

The belief that apologizing when wrong means one is a weakling

People who think the world is more violent than ever when all the data says otherwise

Adults complaining about kids not supporting certain businesses or industries. It’s called voting with your money. People used to call that the free market

The appeal of the philosophy of Ayn Rand

The appeal of country rap

Vaping

Bragging about how much you work

Bragging about how much you hate your job

Bragging about how much you hate your in laws

Bragging about how bad your ex was

Believing there is virtue in being a victim

The acceptance and praise of mediocrity in all it’s forms

Reruns of Jackass and Beavis and Butt Head

The Bachelor and Bachelorette

Most reality tv

People complaining about how Hollywood doesn’t have any new ideas. That’s why Netflix and Amazon Prime are so popular these days. And there are thousands, if not millions, of people in youtube making original content on a daily basis, often on shoe string budgets and with just a smart phone or laptop

People who worry about dystopic futures yet refuse to acknowledge that the past was dystopic for most people, especially racial minorities, religious minorities, anyone not obviously heterosexual, slaves, women, and children.

Most print magazines

The belief that the internet is a luxury. Twenty years ago, it was. But now over 5 billion people (on a planet of almost 8 billion people) now have access to it.

The belief that the USA is the only country in the world with debt problems

The celebration of sociopaths and psychopaths in popular entertainment

Treating politics like religion

Treating science like a matter of opinion

Believing money is evil

Believing technology is evil

Most conspiracy theories

Caring more about your kids’ grades in school than if they are learning anything

The outdated belief that learning only takes place in school or has to be tedious and boring

Requiring college degrees for most jobs

These are just a few things I don’t understand. Once again, it’s not meant to be a comprehensive list. It was merely for fun and a change of pace

Inspiration and Bringing To Light The Things Done In Secret

Even though I’ve been feeling hopeful and optimistic overall during the last couple weeks, I still don’t socialize in person much. Then again, that could be why I’m optimistic. While most people have been allowing themselves to be bombarded by constant bad news, I’ve been making efforts to figure out what is actually going right. My entire life I’ve heard that the world was messed up and we would collapse back to the Stone Age any day now. It really messed with my head when I was growing up. It was one of the reasons I preferred to spend most of my days alone in my backyard. I’d spend hours on end out there pacing through the cedar and cherry trees making up stories. I’d made up stories of heroes, future worlds where we solved most of our current problems (like climate change, poverty, war, disease, etc.) and were exploring outer and inner space. I never read comic books or science fiction novels as a kid. The nearest bookstore was over an hour drive away. Most people in my hometown thought “The Simpsons” and “South Park” were morally degenerate but war movies, westerns, and crime dramas were “wholesome family entertainment.”

As I didn’t have much inspiring hope in me as a kid, I had to manufacture my own. Granted, this was in the years before youtube and binge watching Star Trek reruns on Netflix. My best friend from my teenage years (the same lady who is my best friend even now) was probably even more alienated and an outsider than I was. I could at least fake enthusiasm in things like watching sports and politics I didn’t agree with. And I still do, mainly as a mechanism to appear like one of the crowd. I am actually more effected by the reactions of my family and friends to things like politics and our team suffering a losing streak than I am the politics and losing itself. Sadly, social media only amplified this.

Yet, I’m still thankful that enough people had the vision and ability to make social media work to bring it to the world at large. Sure, it was painful seeing sides of people I had known my entire life I would have wished I never knew existed. But I also found out who were really cool people I could count on in times of crisis. I may have lost lots of friends over the last several years, but I strengthened others in the process. Social media and the last few years of social unrest and change have really driven home the fact that most people have the friends they have, not because of shared interests and values, but due to lack of options. I have often had more acceptance and friendship from strangers I’ll never meet in my various facebook groups than I experienced from some people I have known since childhood.

Social media also allowed me to find out who the really toxic people were in my life. Once I gave up trying to talk sense into these people, I cut them out of my life. It was a tough process, but one that was worth it. People like that have always been toxic. It was just in previous eras this toxicity would have never been made public knowledge. These may have been the types of people who were pillars of the community in public but beat and shamed their children and spouse behind closed doors. One positive about social media is that is exposed the con artists and liars for what they are. People like that could have gone entire lifetimes being such and would have probably never been detected. The people who can be aware of how messed up those in power and in our own social circle can be are figuring it out. We don’t necessary need an entire population of citizens aware of how bad they are being cheated by those in authority that have never cared about them. Just enough to force changes are necessary.

Sometimes all it takes is the actions of only one really dedicated individual to inspire others whom in term inspire others. I mean, does anyone know who Gandhi’s brothers and sisters were (without going to wikipedia)? Or Isaac Newton’s? Or Greta Thunberg’s? Or Martin Luther King’s? Short term, fear and hate usually win. Long term, it is usually love and hope that wins out. Sure we have our problems and always will. But that doesn’t mean that progress is in illusion. I absolutely despise people who believe progress isn’t real and that even individual people can’t change. I’ve ended friendships over these attitudes. I spent my entire childhood being bombarded by negativity, pessimism, and fear. I will never go back. Hell, I feel like I was cheated by my elders for trying to steal my optimism and hope. They may have fought to take my hope and crush my spirit and kill my creativity. But they failed and they failed miserably. If anything, they made my resolve even stronger. And I’m not unique in this regard. I imagine every city, town, village, cross roads, tribe, etc. all over the world has at least a few kids who were “hopeless dreamers” who refused to be “practical” in spite of the negativity and punishments of their elders. And many of these kids grew up to be the adults who made positive change possible in their own ways. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are often the ones who accomplish just that. In short, now is probably one of the lousiest times in human history to be a pessimist who naively clings to comfortable lies of the past. It is also an awful time to a tyrant so seeks to divide people and rule through fear.

Too Bad I Don’t Get Paid To Learn or My Path To Becoming An Independent Scholar

I’ve been enjoying the cooler fall weather and the changing leaves. Been having bouts of depression the last few days. They clear up after some good conversation with old friends and family. I think the loneliness of the pandemic is starting to get the best of me. I’m too paranoid to socialize in person much as most people I know won’t wear face masks. And with flu season starting in only a few weeks, this could be a really rough winter. I’m prepared to hunker down and stay home for a real long time if needed, at least in terms of supplies. I’m not so sure about the mental part of it.

I’ve been having more time to think during this pandemic. Been reflecting on my past and growing up. When I was a kid, some of my happiest memories were being alone and exploring our large back yard and letting my mind wander. I’d often make up stories and keep these story lines going for months at a time. I never did write any of them down and have forgotten most over the years. I kept a journal one summer while in junior high, at least until my brother stole it and mocked me for some of my writings. He and some of the neighborhood kids used to spy on me when I paced the backyard too. Hurt really bad to have my privacy violated like that. I didn’t realize I was good at writing and story telling until I was almost done with college.

I graduated college with a business degree. I originally started as a pre medicine major with the idea I would get a job in a research lab eventually. While I was really interested in biology, palentology, and chemistry as a kid, I was also really interested in history and literature. I didn’t consider studying history or english in college because I heard the horror stories about arts and humanities students finding only minimum wage jobs after graduation. I only studied business because I got a D in organic chemistry, which destroyed my chances for graduate school. I also didn’t know much about business or money besides how to balance a checkbook. And since money involves everything, I thought business might lead to a career once I finished college. I really enjoyed the economics, finance, and investing classes. I didn’t enjoy the accounting classes. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and no idea what I was going to do with it.

After graduation I worked a couple retail sales jobs as that was all that I had available to me. Even while working those jobs, I used to get anxiety real bad about working. I used to vomit before work most days because of the anxiety. I later got a job as a graduate assistant while I was working on my masters’ in economics. That job, while really enjoyable, lasted only a few months because I couldn’t make grades. I also don’t think my bosses or coworkers liked me.

After I qualified for disability insurance a few years later, I finally had a safety net. I worked part time for a few years as a janitor at the county courthouse. After a few years of that, I decided to take “early retirement” and finally do what I wanted for the first time in my life. I devoted my life to studying, reading, writing, etc. And I have never been happier. I may not make much money and I probably never will. But I’m good with that. I never had the kind of ego that needed lots of money, a prestigious job, a big house, a wife and kids, etc. I guess I just wanted to be an independent scholar. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties I got to realize this dream that I was too scared to admit to anyone, even myself.

I love learning. I always have. Even being the odd kid in my school who loved learning and was too stubborn to hide it, it was never beaten out of me. I guess I was fortunate that, even though I got lots of garbage from classmates for being too smart, most of my teachers didn’t discourage my thirst for knowledge and wisdom. I even had a few who encouraged me and loved me for being eccentric. And I found even more teachers like that in college. I also met kids who loved learning even more than I did. It was amazing. It’s tragic that most kids have that God given love of learning beaten out of them at such an early age. I don’t know why I never lost that love. I’m just grateful that I never did.

A Few Thoughts On The Changes Brought During 2020

This day is starting out well overall. I went to bed early last night and wound up sleeping on and off for almost twelve hours. Woke up stiff and sore but at least it was manageable. Thursday is one of my favorite days of the week as my cleaning lady arrives in the afternoons and there are usually a couple football games on tv too. It’ still strange watching ballgames without a crowd in the arena. I’ll be glad when this health crisis burns out.

Started writing a journal by pen yesterday. It might be helpful to have a means to write down my thoughts and observations that I wouldn’t normally put on a blog I try to keep family friendly. Mentally I am still feeling stable. I do have rough patches but fortunately they don’t last long nor are they bad enough for me to act on.

I make a point to leave my apartment at least once a day even if I don’t have deliveries coming. Met my new neighbor and got back in touch with some old ones. I don’t know much about my new neighbor except that he looks younger than I and keeps pretty quiet for the most part. I rarely hear him except for when he has guests and I can occasionally hear laughter. So maybe he’s a funny guy.

While the health crisis and economic problems have been rough on me, at least I haven’t had problems I couldn’t manage. I still see my psych doctor every two months via a service similar to Skype or Zoom. I’m scheduled to see him again in a couple weeks. I can get anything within reason delivered to my apartment via Amazon or one of the local supermarkets. I started having my groceries delivered about three years ago when I came to the conclusion I wasn’t as safe behind the wheel of a car as I used to be. I think I was one of the first people in my complex to have groceries delivered to my place on a regular basis. While I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since before the shutdowns started, I still occasionally get delivery pizza and can sometimes sweet talk my neighbors or cleaning lady into picking something up for me, as long as I pay for it of course.

I’m still kind of paranoid about being out of my apartment for long periods of time because of the virus. Some people aren’t always wearing face masks or properly washing their hands. I may be only 40, but being overweight and mentally ill probably puts me in high risk category already. So I socialize with friends and family on a near daily basis via my phone or facebook account. I keep my facebook account primarily to keep in contact with old friends and extended family I may not other wise. Perhaps that was the original intent of Mr. Zuckerberg and his partners, not so much the arguments and trolling that is still too common.

Been seeing more articles and videos online about people working from home. Even my brother and his wife sometimes work from home with their engineering jobs. I think I could have gotten into working from home had it been available when I started my working life in my early twenties. I found out the hard way as a teenager working in restaurants and retail stores that I don’t easily pick up on social cues or office politics like many of my coworkers. Sometimes it got me into trouble with coworkers and customers. But I think the mental illness problems were more to blame than anything. While it was tough to realize I lost my career due to problems beyond my control, I’m glad I went through the struggles in my twenties when I was still healthy and wasn’t set in my ways. Even though I’m 40 and still try to keep an open mind about most things, I found I don’t adapt as fast as I did even ten years ago. I may have had an easier time with office politics had I started my career from home. But I’ll never know. I’ve made my peace with my lost career and the family I’ll never start.

As tough as this crisis has been for me, I can’t imagine how tough it is for people with families, people who lost jobs and now can’t make their rent payments, for small landlords who can’t pay back their loans because their renters can’t make rent, for small businesses ranging from restaurants to dentists, and especially for the kids. I told one of my teenage nephews I wasn’t going to insult him by trying to imagine how tough this all is for him and his friends. My niece and nephews are at the age where kids learn how to socialize beyond family and classmates. And since much in person interaction is now no longer there, I think it will have a lifetime of effects on these kids. It might be similar to what my grandparents’ generation went through growing up during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era. My grandparents frequently talked about the struggles of not having money or having to fix things that wore out because they couldn’t afford to replace them. And one grandmother always said “It will happen again.” I’m so glad my brother and I payed attention when my grandparents talked about life during the Depression and World War 2. I’m also glad I listened to my parents stories about growing up during the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movements.

I recall a podcast back in April when the host said something like “We are going to witness ten years of changes in the next ten weeks.” Between the increased emphasis of working towards effective vaccines, work from home being a thing, private space flight becoming common, civil rights protests in almost every major city (not just in America) on a near daily basis, drone delivery getting approved by the Federal Aviation Association, and of course major wildfires on the West Coast and the South taking a beating via hurricanes and heat waves making people take the threats of climate change more serious, I think the ten years of change in ten weeks was an understatement. We will eventually emerge from these crises. We will come out changed people on the individual and national levels. The next few years will probably be brutal for most people. Hopefully we can emerge better people and stronger societies as a result.

Things I Am Glad To See Change

It’s been several days since I last wrote.  I feel that my posts were getting stale and I was running out of material.  I was needing some time away to recharge.  A lot has changed over the last several years since I started this blog.  That change has only accelerated over the last several months during the pandemic.  I thought I would do a post about things that I am glad that are changing.  This isn’t meant to be definitive by any means and is merely a thought exercise carried out via a blog entry.  So here goes.

Things I Am Glad To See Change

  1. The increase of the work from home options for office jobs.
  2. The rise of home delivery services, especially for groceries.
  3. Increased appreciation for delivery drivers and store clerks.
  4. Increased appreciation for nurses and doctors.
  5. The decline of the commute to the office.
  6. The decline of air pollution
  7. Less emphasis on senseless consumption
  8. Increased appreciation for empathy and compassion
  9. Increased awareness that not everything on social media is true
  10. The decline of 24 hour cable news
  11. The increased appreciation for baking and cooking at home
  12. The decline of retailers who couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt
  13. Increased awareness of prejudices in our institutions
  14. Increased awareness of prejudices in culture
  15. Increased awareness and appreciation for medical science
  16. Private space flight
  17. Plans to return astronauts to the moon
  18. The mass realization that there are some problems politicians can’t solve
  19. Increased applications for renewable energy
  20. More people realizing the importance of work life balance
  21. Streaming services
  22. Increased learning from home via Khan Academy, etc.
  23. Increased awareness of how social media can be abused
  24. 3D printing
  25. CRISPR Cas 9
  26. Self Driving Cars
  27. The rise of the electric car
  28. Increased awareness of mental health issues

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.