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.

Quarantine Journal: August 24 2020

When it rains, it pours it seems. My two neighbors who moved out a few weeks ago are now under quarantine for the next two weeks because someone they were helping out is showing classic covid symptoms. And these neighbors helped me out a great deal over the last couple years as I’ve lost my mobility. My cleaning lady recently came back to work but she is still slowed from her surgery. Had a breakdown over the weekend. Sometimes the only thing I can do for those is to just vent to someone until it blows over. I feel bad that I take this out on family, but who else can I talk to? I’m too paranoid and scared of my fellow tenants to ask for help. I don’t qualify for any extra aid from the state. My family and friends live too far away to offer assistance at a moment’s notice. I originally moved out of my home village for better healthcare and job opportunities and better social connections. Now that I have no car (I’m too scared and paranoid to be safe behind the wheel), my help is gone, and we are now in the middle of both a pandemic and economic depression, I’m essentially on my own with no immediate back up. I can’t ask for help from my other neighbors as they are irritable and hateful on even good days. I’m limited mobility because of chronic pains. I guess that twenty plus years of schizophrenia is taking even a physical toll. I’m even scared to answer my door.

Social Media Detox, Caffeine Detox, and Holding Onto Close Friends and Family

Mentally I’m feeling stable, at least as stable as a schizophrenic can be during a pandemic and economic depression.  I think it helps that I don’t watch the news or spend much time on social media anymore.  I have a few friends I hear from on facebook, but I no longer participate in any groups.  I may read posted articles about science and tech, but I no longer comment on them.  Too many people just looking for arguments.  And I’m burned out on it.  I no longer have the patience to deal with people I never met who wouldn’t dare act that way to someone in person.  Over the last few years, I’ve also purged close to 80 percent of my friends’ list.  So much for social media bringing people together.  At least I still hear from old friends and some family.

Been out and about a few times over the last week.  I still keep to myself mostly.  My neighbors moved out a week ago.  I’m sad they are gone.  They were the best neighbors I ever had in my entire life even going back to childhood.

I have been staying up later and waking up later the last few weeks.  I usually stay awake until midnight, wake up in the middle of the night at least once, and them am awake for good by 9 am.  I have odd dreams, but they aren’t scary.  Mostly they are about having to redo high school or college or about friends from my past.

Been cutting back on caffeine.  I’m giving up coffee.  It’s makes me too irritable.  I mostly drink just water anymore.  I rarely eat carbs.  I don’t even buy bread.  Most of the groceries I buy are frozen meat, canned vegetables, soups, etc.  I haven’t been having problems getting what I need lately.  But I still stock up on non perishables in case there are shortages again.  I fear we still have a long way to go for this pandemic and depression to be over.

Hermiting, Covid 19, and Schizophrenia

Been isolating and staying home for the last several days.  I do all my communication through social media and phone calls.  My cleaning lady had to have surgery so she’s out for probably a few months.  My neighbors come by and help out every few days.  Overall I’m burned out on dealing with people in person.  People actually scare me anymore.  The less I deal with them, at least in person, the better.

Currently working on audiobooks.  Recently listened to The Economic Singularity by Callum Chase.  Currently working on The Rise of The Robots by Martin Ford.  A friend of mine is trying to talk me into reading the Dune and Foundation series.  I read the first Foundation a year ago.  But I got soured on science fiction as a teenager when movies like The Terminator, Gattaca, and The Matrix were really big.  I have enough dystopia in my own life.  Why in the hell would I want to escape to that?  Recently read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harrahi.

I spend almost all of my time avoiding people.  These are real scary times for me, especially living in low income housing, being on disability, and dealing with mostly angry, irrational, and illogical people.  It seems like most people I personally know just want to fight all the time.  I’m through with that.  I’m ready to move past the anger phase.  Too bad almost no one I know is.  I am thankful I don’t live in a large city.  I am thankful I can hermit and stay home.  I am thankful I don’t have to deal with angry and stupid people anymore than I already have to.  I don’t see how most people can deal with this.  I know I couldn’t.

June 16 2020

Been real hot since Memorial Day.  Got some good rain also.  So at least it isn’t completely unbearable.  I have slept quite a bit the last two days, mostly out of boredom.

Sunday, June 14 was my birthday.  My parents came up for that.  Brought in lunch from a deli in one of the local supermarkets.  Pulled pork, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and chocolate cake were excellent choices.  I was glad they were able to make it up here.  I was originally worried about them getting exposed to the virus while travelling.  But they took precautions.  I wear face masks whenever I answer my door and pick up deliveries.  My dad joked that I may have been ahead of the curve when it came to getting groceries and supplies delivered to my house.  Been getting groceries delivered for a few years now.  Not many people did this when I first started, at least not in my town.  But even in the small college community I live in here in Nebraska, it’s catching on.

Had a short breakdown a week ago.  I always hate those.  I feel bad that I rant and rave to my family during those.  I do remember much of what I say during those breakdowns.  But it’s almost like the impulse controls are no longer working.  I feel sick that I take my frustrations out on family.  I’ve had only one breakdown in public, that was five years ago when I yelled at a young cashier.  I immediately apologized but I still felt so bad I stayed out of that store for over a month.  I guess I don’t understand people who take out frustrations on customer service workers.  Maybe I just have a big heart or just have more sympathy than some because I used to work in customer service.  Thankfully I’ve never had a breakdown around my brother’s children.  I love those kids and they are the last people I want to hurt.

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.

Quarantine With Mental Illness: April 27 2020

Been under self quarantine for over six weeks now.  I’m still holding good on my necessary medications and most of my cleaning supplies.  Ran out of frozen meat yesterday.  I won’t get paid until May 1, but I have plenty of non perishable food.  I’ll make it through, it’s just a matter of doing it.

I try to talk to my family and at least one friend every day.  I haven’t been spending as much time on computer games lately.  Still listen to audiobooks and watch science and tech videos on youtube.  Sometimes I just want to sleep all the time, even with the warmer weather and longer days.

Been reading more online articles, mainly about science and tech.  I am convinced that many tech trends will be sped up because of this outbreak.  I still avoid news channels.

 

Quarantine Journal: April 23 2020

Woke up at 3 am.  Played some computer games until 7:30.  Went back to sleep until 11 am.  Talked to my parents and my neighbors this morning.  My cleaning lady will be arriving this afternoon.  So I guess I have my day more or less planned.

I occasionally have some knee pains, especially if I sleep too long or let my joints get too cold.  I’ve found myself keeping my legs under a blanket when I sit in my easy chair at my computer.  I think I’m more sensitive to the cold now than I was even a couple years ago.

Got my lease renewed yesterday.  I’ll be staying here for at least one more year.  I’ll find out my new rent rate within a month.  I expect it to increase some.  But then, the price on almost everything is going up.

I shop for groceries more often now.  I buy in smaller lots.  I have been having problems finding frozen meat the last few weeks.  I can still find soup mixes and non perishables alright.  I can imagine that home delivery for groceries will stay in high demand even after the outbreak ends.

I ordered some clothes through amazon a couple days ago.  They should be here early next week.  I’m still holding good on all my supplies besides frozen meat and Lysol spray.

Been listening to lots of audiobooks lately.  I listen to mostly history and finance books.  I get mine through youtube.

Mentally I’m back to mostly stable.  I do have momentary flare ups of anxiety and irritability.  Yet those usually burn out after a few minutes.  The mornings seem to be the worst time for those.

Haven’t been to the doctor since early December.  With the outbreak going like it is, I’m kind of paranoid to leave my apartment complex.  But I have a few months of medications on hand.  And I get my meds mailed to me now.  I won’t have to renew my prescriptions for months.

The NFL Draft is tonight.  I probably should watch that for some since of normalcy.  While I prefer college football to pro football, it is always fun to see what teams college stars end up going to.  And I especially love the guys from smaller schools that no one knows about who end up becoming big stars in the pros.  I am definitely going to miss the Olympics this summer.

Quarantine Journal: April 22 2020

Got my lease renewed for another year this afternoon.  The land lady knew I was paranoid to be out and about during this pandemic and was kind enough to bring the necessary paper work to my apartment.  Took about fifteen minutes to fill everything out.  I should be finding out my new rent rate by June 1st.  One of the things I like about my current apartment complex is that, since we have mostly disabled and senior citizens here, most people understand why I don’t get out as much as I used to.

My neighbors hosted a cookout yesterday.  While I didn’t attend, they were kind enough to save me some smoked chicken.  It was exactly what I needed.  Having good neighbors and understanding management at my complex has made this pandemic easier to navigate than it would have been in most places.

Bought two pairs of sweat pants through amazon yesterday.  They should be here within a few days.  Probably should order some facemasks soon.  I hope those are available.

Been having a hard time finding frozen meat lately.  I’m glad I can still find soup mixes, oatmeal, peanut butter, etc.  I’ll be real happy when this pandemic burns out.  Talked to an old friend last night.  I think the quarantine is starting to get to him.  I understand.  It got to me and I had a short lived breakdown last week.  So glad it got over quickly.  It is annoying I can’t be out and about.  But, as I’m immune compromised with my mental illness and weight problems already, I have to leave that to a different time and place.  I understand the quarantine recommendations.  I just hope this mess passes soon.  It is encouraging that places hit hard early in the winter like China are starting to reopen.  I think most places here in USA are right in the middle of it right now.  Could be rough sailing for another couple months.

Saw on the news feeds this afternoon that human trials of a covid 19 vaccine are supposed to start in a few days over in Germany.  Sure hope it works.  It is good to know there are already a few possible candidates for a vaccine even after only a few months of this outbreak.  If I heard the term covid 19 a year ago, I would have guessed it was the name of some obscure punk rock band.  I wouldn’t have guessed it was a new virus that would infect a few million people by April 2020.

So far I haven’t shown any of the symptoms.  I did have a bad cold back in December that made me feel rough and sluggish for a few days.  So far, staying home, washing my hands several times a day, avoiding touching my face, and doing what I can to boost my immune system seem to be working.  We’ve had at least a few dozen cases in my hometown already.  But I think Nebraska is going to hit it’s peak later than most cases.

I’ve been on quarantine for almost six weeks already.  I have lost track of the days.  I don’t usually socialize in person much besides my neighbors.  I still talk to family and friends almost every day.  This pandemic is easier to bear as I have easy access to communication and internet.