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.

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.

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.

We Knew The Problems, We Didn’t Act Accordingly

Haven’t left my apartment since last weekend.  Been sleeping more too.  2020 has been an insane year, to say the least.  Pandemics.  Protests.  Quarantines.  Broken supply chains.  Private space flight takes astronauts to the space station.  Yes, 2020 will be a year for the history books.

While all these things are overwhelming for me, I try to stay grounded and positive.  I try to tell people around what’s actually going right.  I tell people that I am hopeful that all of our current troubles are hopefully the birth pains of a more humane and balanced way of living and interacting with the world.  We were foolish to base so much of our manufacturing overseas, especially essential medicines and protective gear.  Militarizing the police was not a good idea.  The uncomfortable conversations about bigotry have been put off for far too long.  Our governments spending too much money and passing the debts off to future generations have gone on for too long.  The gaps between the wealthy and the poor have gotten unmanageable.  The middle class, a key ingredient in any stable and free society, has been under siege financially for too long.  Many people in their twenties and thirties don’t see how they can ever afford a house or children when they already have a small fortune in  student loans.  They were told, like I was, a college degree was necessary to get any jobs beyond frying chicken or pumping gas.  Then they get out of college and the good paying jobs their parents and grandparents had aren’t there.  And now automation is probably going to take over a significant portion of jobs in most industries.  Any wonder most people are scared and angry?

Most of this has been building for at least a couple decades now.  Workers in my parents’ generation knew that social security wasn’t going to be enough to cover their retirements.  Yet, too many of them didn’t save and invest enough to make up the difference.  Now they can’t afford to retire and creating a log jam of millions of younger people overqualified for the entry level jobs they have available.  We knew that too many police officers weren’t being held accountable for using excessive and deadly force, primarily in black and brown neighborhoods, yet we wouldn’t hold them or corrupted local politicians and judges accountable.  Doctors and scientists have been warning us for decades a major pandemic was extremely likely in our lifetimes.  We knew, but we refused to prepare.  We knew about the potential dangers of climate change since at least the 1960s.  Sure, rivers are less polluted in many countries, electric cars are becoming reliable, solar and wind power becoming cheaper than coal in many countries, power storage is becoming more feasible, and nuclear fusion is in development.  But we are starting to see the effects of what scientists have been warning for decades.  We knew a major stock market crash was due once my parents’ generation started retiring and selling off their retirement funds.  We didn’t do enough to prepare, either as nations or individuals.  Wages for most workers haven’t budged in terms of inflation since at least the early 80s, even though workers have gotten more productive and are demanded more from employers.  We treated customer service workers like garbage for decades.  I saw it everyday I worked.  I even received enough abuse from customers, bosses, and coworkers alike I will never work in customer service again.  I don’t care if my disability does get cut off, I’d rather starve to death than be treated worse than an animal.

2020 is indeed a very stressful year for most people.  It was made worse because problems we’ve known about for decades were either never addressed or addressed inadequately.  Hopefully 2020 will be a year when we start to make right the wrongs and bad decisions of previous decades and eras.  I don’t know what it’s like to be black or any other racial minority.  And I never will.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman either.  And I never will.  I don’t understand their problems.  But I do want be empathic and be part of making right the wrongs of the past and present.

Rants About Trying To Socialize With “Normal” People

Haven’t been out much this spring.  It seems like when I feel decent enough to go out it’s cold and raining.  When I feel too depressed or anxious, that’s when the weather is good. I pretty much just stay at home most of the time.  I fear that I’m developing a phobia of being out in public.  I want to stay home, read, use my computer, write, and sleep.  And that is about it anymore.  I don’t even want to socialize with anyone in person anymore.  My landlady came to my apartment a few days ago and chewed me out.  I won’t go into details except that it scared me real bad.  I don’t want to go into details, so please don’t ask.

I have just been having a rough go with people in general this spring.  One day when I left my apartment, I stepped into the hallway only to see and hear several of my neighbors arguing and screaming at each other.  It was bad enough I would have called the police except I was too scared to.  Several of the people involved live near me and I know they would have made my life miserable had I reported them.  I often hear my neighbors argue and fight.  I occasionally smell pot smoke so thick I get slightly buzzed off it.  And it isn’t the good type of buzz, it’s the kind I am noxious and want to vomit type buzz coupled with migraines.

When I do get past my hallway, I get into the main assembly hall where there are vending machines and occasionally coffee left over from the morning social hour.  I don’t go there much because it seems the only people that want to talk are in bad moods.  It wears on me.  I certainly don’t go outside much nor do I drive much anymore.  I do all my shopping from online now.  I’m scared to go out in public anymore.  I always get people looking at me like I’m going to assault them or try to steal from their stores.  You act like you never saw a fat single man before who can read and converse beyond a fifth grade level.  I fear that some of these people may read me wrong, confront me and that will start a nervous breakdown and I’ll either wind up in prison or dead.  Just because of some scaredy cats reading a stranger wrong.

The whole “stranger danger” movement created an entire civilization of fear mongers and dysfunctional neurotics who are afraid of anyone but themselves.  It’s a mountain made out of an ant hill as far as I’m concerned.  Statistically speaking, you and your children are far, far more likely to be murdered, assaulted, raped, robbed, swindled, or molested by people you know then don’t.  Far more children are hurt by religious leaders, teachers, and even parents than hard core street gangs or Hell’s Angels types.  But it doesn’t make for good headlines or made for TV movies.  I hate it that most people can’t even do basic math or even understand basic statistics.  It’s really messing up our civilization and causing people to make terrible decisions.  And it’s making us miserable and lonely.

I actually want to socialize. But I am no longer willing to tolerate being treated guilty until proven innocent every time I enter public life.  I am no longer willing to tolerate being surrounded by rude and angry people all the time.  Many people are also just flat out act dumb too.  I once read in article and saw a TED talk that said that people’s IQ and overall intelligence are higher than our grandparents’ generation.  I don’t believe it, at least not in my elders or my peers.  I don’t see it in person or online. Everybody is just mean to each other all the time from what I seen just in my small midwest hometown and online interactions.  I hear all this talk about how we got to physically discipline our kids or their turn out to be worthless.  Spare the rod and spoil the child they say.  Fine with me.  But most adults could stand to the exact same type of physical discipline as far as I can tell.  But if I do that, then that’s assault and I’ll go to prison.  The USA already has more people in prison than the old USSR ever did at any point.  Look this up.

It isn’t just the “lousy kids” causing trouble.  The elders just love to rant and rave about how bad the teenagers and twenty somethings suck.  Even people my age are starting in on the kids.  Never mind it’s the “lousy kids” who are fighting and getting killed in your endless wars, paying far more for college educations than their grandparents did yet facing far worse job markets, can’t afford most houses or even cars even with multiple incomes, etc.  And these kids are supposed to be grateful for cheap electronics and communications?  Why, providing the internet and raising these kids who will end up being heroes eventually are the best thing my generation and my parents’ generation will ever do.  Let these kids work their mojo and get out of their way.  I see many parallels between the millenial people and the kids in my nephews’ generations and the generations that produced the World War II and World War I veterans.

Granted it’s socially acceptable to hate these kids.  I swear they are getting it even worse than what I did back in the 1980s and 1990s.  Why do we as a civilization and a species hate those with youth, vigor, and in their prime breeding years?  That has to be something unique to our species.  At least animals that don’t want their offspring will kill them when they are infants.  Civilized humans will just emotionally and mentally cripple them for life.  People tried to crush my spirit and my friends’ spirits when we were teenagers and young adults.  Get what, you failed.  You only made us stronger and more capable.    I actually encounter far more verbal abuse online and in person from my elders than anyone in my age bracket or younger.  Wisdom comes age, no it doesn’t.

People worry that science fiction dystopia could become reality.  For some of us, dystopia has been our reality for years.  It’s just neurotypical people are only recently starting to deal with things that the mentally ill, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, sexual minorities, etc. have had to deal with for thousands of years.  It stinks being treated like a  potential criminal because what have you, doesn’t it?  Many neurotypicals are losing their minds and blowing their tops primarily, I think, simply because they aren’t used to being viewed with suspicion and fear.  I have been viewed with fear and suspicion my entire life, mainly because of my size, mental capacity, physical strength, mental illness, and I just don’t desire to socialize with large numbers of people.  I love socializing, but only with intelligent and empathic people.  I can’t stand social mixers, cocktail parties, bar scenes, or even church dinners.  I never have been able to adapt to these situations.

I was far more at home in my class discussion groups in college than I ever was anywhere else.  I think had I never gotten mentally ill I would have been content to work at a large university or think tank.  I would have fell in love with that kind of work.  Maybe spend my mornings teaching classes, go have my lunch while having conversations with other faculty members, maybe lift weights with the football coaches after work, and then spend my evenings working in the lab or libraries.  People say that those who can’t teach.  As if teaching is a dishonorable career field.  Whatever idiot came up with the stupid phrase “those who can’t teach” was probably an American. At least I would have loved working in academia before the whole speech codes, safe spaces, and no freedom for those we don’t agree with social justice thugs came along.  Maybe I am still alive at this point precisely because I became mentally ill and had a reasonably acceptable excuse to drop out of my society.  I was hated and despised at every job I ever held.  Not because I was bad at my job, but because I was good and could often think of better ways of doing things than even my bosses.

People are scared senseless of any kind of ability and intelligence it seems, at least that’s my experience.  But if hating achievement, progress, risk taking, and standing out in anyway not deemed socially acceptable is the spirit of this place and age, then being alone and on disability pension is the best I will be able to do for the time being.  The only way I, and people like me, could ever have even a remotely normal life is for a massive paradigm shift that values creativity and high achievers.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not here in USA.  I wonder how free thinkers, odd fellows, weirdos, and eccentrics are condemned and marginalized in other parts of the world.  I’d love to hear this.  I keep telling myself and my friends “this isn’t normal.”  But even I am starting to lose hope that people will come to their senses ever again.

 

Thoughts on Winter and Blogging While Mentally Ill

Been awhile since I wrote.  Haven’t really had too much to report lately.  It’s been too cold and too much snow to really go anywhere or do much of anything.  I’m getting burned out on reading, messing with my computers, and just staying home.  I’m glad to hear it’s supposed to start warming up again, at least by early March standards within a couple days.  I don’t think my town has been above freezing point in three weeks.  It’s one of the toughest cold spells I can recall.  There are times I have gone a few days in a row without even going outside it’s been so cold.  I don’t even know how much snow we still have on the ground except that it’s at least twelve inches.  Looking out my window, I can see one of the parking lots across the street from my house has piles of shoveled snow at least ten feet tall.  I used to go sledding on piles like that growing up.  It’s been one of the snowiest winters I can recall.  I haven’t seen even dried up grass since Christmas.

I write about the weather because I don’t have much else to report.  Been fairly stable overall.  I sleep maybe eight hours a day, but not all at once.  I usually sleep five hours in the night and take a couple naps during the day.  My days normally start around four a.m.   I usually nap for a couple hours in the afternoon, usually for an hour in the evening after dinner, and then I usually take my medications and call the day done around ten p.m.  I like this routine actually more than the all nighters I was pulling as recently as a year ago.  It allows me to do some things in the quiet and dark hours of early morning.  But I can still leave my apartment easily and run errands at four or five a.m. before the crowds get too bad just like I could at midnight or one a.m.  Usually by four a.m. about the only people on the streets are people reporting in for early morning work and city employees.  In the middle of the night it’s mostly eccentrics even odder then myself and the police.  And if I want to get some restaurant food without fighting the crowds, the middle of the afternoon suits me as well as the middle of the night did even as recent as three years ago.

I have settled and stabled more in my late thirties than at any time in my life.  And this blog is starting to attract better than ever audiences, at least on the days I write.  I’ve had at least four days since January 1st when I drew over one hundred visitors for one day.  My first such one hundred plus visitor day was I think last year.  I don’t know if the search engines are starting to pick me up more, more people are interested in mental health issues, or if the persistence is starting to pay off, etc.  But I am getting pretty decent visits now, at least decent for my standards.  When May arrives I will have been doing this blog on a regular basis for six years.  I still have most of my posts from these six years online and on this site.  I should go through them one of these days and see what I can discard and what I should keep so to make my blog more easy to navigate.  I should also take some time to compare and contrast my writings and moods now to those early years.

I have done blogging for six years now.  The longest I ever held a “real job” was four years when I worked as a janitor at the courthouse from 2008 to 2012.  This blog is the most satisfying work I have done in my entire life even if it is the worst paying.  With what I have spent to promote the blog and register my website, I still haven’t made a profit even after six years.  Yet I really don’t care if I do.  Yes, it would be cool to make some more money from my writing.  I wouldn’t refuse it.  But this is more a community service or labor of love than anything.  Being a parent pays nothing but it’s the most influential and important job any person can have.  Just because work doesn’t make money doesn’t mean someone isn’t getting something of value from it.  I may never turn a profit or get bigger audiences than I am now.  But that is alright with me.  I just hope to keep these postings online and in public access for years to come.  Maybe someone can get some benefit from these posts even after I am dead and forgotten.  Of course, if a cure for schizophrenia was discovered at some point in the future, then that would be a major blessing for myself and millions with similar problems.  It would mean I would have to go back to work probably.  But it would be a cool problem to have being cured of schizophrenia and having to find work again.  I wonder if people will still be hiring experienced writers and bloggers by then.

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.

Updates and Random Philosophy on Living

Haven’t had a great deal to report the last few days.  We’ve had lots of snow and it’s been quite cold.  Too cold and snowy to go anywhere unless necessary.  So I’ve been staying home, catching up on my reading, and taking long naps in the afternoon.  I’ve been sleeping a little more during the days, but mostly to pass the long drawn out cold days.  I still go to bed around 10pm and am usually awake for good by 5 or 6am.  My apartment is feeling quite like a regular home now rather than just the monk’s chamber I let it become the last couple years.  It helps that I put a few pieces of art done by an old friend and have a regular cleaning person come in once a week and help me keep on top of things.  Still have a few unresolved maintenance issues, but those will be knocked down before too long.  Rome wasn’t built in one day and I won’t be pulling out of my depression and anxiety induced exile and isolation all at once either.  It is coming along though.

One of my fellow tenants had a birthday party the other day.  About ten of us went to her party.  It felt good to be socializing again when people weren’t being irritable and rude to each other.  It just seems that most people I meet in person anymore are more short tempered and on edge than usual lately.  I was talking with an old friend of mine who lives here and he’s noticed the same thing.  So I’m not the only one noticing the subtle and not so subtle changes.  One of the reasons I don’t socialize much in person anymore is precisely because so many people I meet are in irritable and short tempered moods.  The fact that almost no one I know in person shares my interests in science, history, philosophy, and literature makes things even tougher.

It is true that social media and my smart phone are the bulk of my socializing now.  I know most people will think this is sad but I actually love social media and communications tech.  They have given me access to people with similar interests and concerns that I wouldn’t have had in high school.  My teenage years, other than a handful of confidants I could tell even my darkest secrets to, were quite lonely.  As an adult now near age 40, I have more social interaction than at any point in my life besides my college years.  And it is exactly because of social media, internet, and communication tech.  I know many people condemn what social media can be used for and think we would be better off without it.  I call their bluff on that.  I call the bluff on all nostalgics who are fearful of change and want to go back to the past.

I know many people, especially in my USA, are nostalgic about the past when only one income could support a family in a house in the suburbs.  Yet you don’t hear the same people decry the lack of opportunities for women, high taxes on rich people and large businesses, lack of variety in entertainment and fashion, Jim Crow laws, Cold War paranoias, cost of even long distance phone calls. I ran up long distance bills over $100 two months in a row as recently as 1999 because my two best confidants lived in other towns.  My parents were not amused by that.  Yet, here it is in 2019 and I talk to far more out of town people, and even out of country people, then I could have ever imagined even my wildest Star Trek optimist fantasy.  And twenty years isn’t that long.  It’s just enough time to get a newborn baby to adulthood.  The world has changed that much.

Social media, like all other tech changes, is a tool that can be used to go great good or great harm.  Nuclear energy provides a significant source of power to civilization with relatively quite few facilities.  Yet the same tech can be used in weapons that can end all life on our planet.  Mass media can spread the ideas of personal freedom, self responsibility, civic duty, and show our similarities to billions of people quite easily.  It also empowered some truly sick and depraved monstrous people just in the last one hundred years.  Religion can give people hope, a connection to something beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and a sense of taking care of others in even the darkest times humanity ever faced.  It can also justify some truly evil actions.  Even farming led to humanity going from only a relatively few people who managed to survive the ice ages in isolated bands to being the masses we are now making plots to travel off world and settle other planets.  It has also led to the extinction of many other species, the decline of biodiversity, war, easily transferable diseases, and a loss of connection of most people to the natural world.  And yet, I wouldn’t give up any of these advances among any others.  Even the same chemicals that make the fertilizer for our food crops can be used as deadly poisons and weapons of mass terror and destruction.

Changes are a constant of human existence.  Changes even in nature are constant too.  With human existence, change will continue to come.  In fact, they will come even faster and be more disruptive than at any point in history in the lifetimes of all but the oldest people in our civilizations.  These changes can be delayed but they will come whether we are as individuals or nations are preparing or not.  We no longer live in a world where only one nation or race has the monopoly on knowledge and progress, as if we ever did.  The old ways of doing things, the ancient appeals to religious, gender, racial, national, socioeconomic, ageist differences and discriminations are losing the effectiveness they had in the past.  Even homeless people in our largest cities and farmers in the poorest countries in the world have smart phones and access to the collective knowledge gathered through the trials, bloodshed, tears, and revolutions of history.  This is a level of computing power that not even the U.S. Department of Defense had as recently as 1980, the year I was born.

Yes, information tech has greatly advanced just in my lifetime.  Some will scoff and say, this hasn’t translated into any other aspect of life.  I can’t afford my rent even on two jobs but I’m supposed to be happy with having access to Google and Facebook.  Give it time.  Other aspects of our lives will catch up eventually.  It is tragic that many people go homeless in my country while thousands of houses and apartments sit vacant and idle waiting for someone to call such places a home just because of the prices.  Individual workers are more productive now than ever yet wages have barely budged in my country in terms of inflation since at least the 1970s.  My critics will say even with communication tech advancing as well as the social progress we’ve made, our standard of living has actually gone down.

For many this is true, at least in USA.  Our standard of living hasn’t caught up with our efficiency, tech, medical, and social advances.  At least not yet.  We are still in the process of a great change, one that is even more chaotic and impacting than the Industrial Revolution was two hundred years ago.  In short, we have science fiction like technology, industrial era education, renaissance era governing, legal, and business institutions, Bronze Age spirituality, and Stone Age bodies and psychology.  Of course there are going to be conflicts.  We will work these out, it just won’t happen nearly as fast as many people want.  Changes like we are going through took centuries during the start of farming, generations during the renaissance and industrial ages, and now on the scope of only years.  No wonder people are stressed.  We are not experiencing the death of our species or our civilization no matter how much some people fear or even want.  We are in transition.  And I welcome this transition and it’s highs and lows.  Stay tuned.  Things are only going to get more interesting and chaotic, yet full of opportunities too.

Love, Romance, and Valentine’s Day With A Mental Illness

Today, February 14, is Valentine’s Day.  I know for some people it’s a reason to buy gifts, go out for dinners, and be romantic.  Others are more depressed about not being in a romantic relationship and feeling left out.  But since it is a day the world at large takes some time and makes efforts to reflect on the value of romantic love, it is a good an opportunity as any to reflect back on my experiences with romance, dating, and love as a man with schizophrenia.

I am currently unmarried and not in a romantic relationship of any kind.  At this point in my life I am content and happy with this setup.  This wasn’t always the case though.  As a teenage male, I had deeper feelings than many people and often showed my emotions more than many people thought appropriate, especially for a boy.  When I was ten years old I broke down crying over a girl I was sweet on who publicly turned me down.  It made matters worse in that it was at a school sponsored event attended by my parents.  Both my parents made it a point to tell me off in public for crying and being emotional.  They told me off again when we got home that night.  I never forgot that.  It was also the first time in my life I got my heart broken over a girl.  Of course it wasn’t the last.  Fortunately it did begin to steel my resolve in that yes it hurts getting rejected and shamed in public, but I survived and became stronger because of it.

I had my heart broke again a couple more times in early puberty by being rejected by girls I was interested in spending time with over the next two years.  Didn’t sting as bad as the first one but they did make me more resilient with each rejection.

When I was thirteen, I met the girl who would ultimately become my best friend in high school.  We hung out a lot, spent time at each other’s houses, traded books and magazines like some kids traded baseball cards, played video games together, and generally did things that friends do together as teenagers.  She was home schooled until high school, so she didn’t have the same day to day experiences in junior high I did.  I was still being rejected by girls I liked over the next three years, but it got to where I just got numb to it and accepted it as a part of living.  Eventually after three years of friendship, I developed romantic feelings for her.  We went on several dates, nothing really more formal than just going to dances and the movies.  But we were never intimate or even affectionate besides the occasional hugs when one of us was feeling down and depressed.  We did kiss a few times.  As good as that felt, we both had an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t pursue a romantic relationship.  We just valued the friendship too much.  It was a short term painful decision but one in the long term turned out to be a brilliant move.

She moved out of state when we were eighteen.  I went off to college at age nineteen a more hopeless romantic than ever even though my mental health problems were beginning.  I had a couple slight crushes on a couple girls in my freshman class.  So much so that I didn’t recognize that there were at least two other girls who were sweet on me.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  I thought they were just pleasant and decent people to everyone they met.  There was a third girl who came flat out and told me she had feelings for me that weren’t typical friendship but of a romantic nature.  But I just didn’t feel the same way.  So I explained to her as carefully, tactfully, and honestly as I could that I didn’t feel the same way.  And I refused to insult her by acting like I had feelings for her when I didn’t just so I could have a steady date.  Acting like you have feelings for someone when you don’t just to be in a relationship or not to hurt their feelings is actually a cruel thing to do, especially long term.  Turns out that one girl I had feelings for dated my best friend for a few weeks.  That put a damper on my feelings for her though I never forgot her.

Near the end of my freshman year, I met my college sweetheart and started my only really hardcore romantic relationship.  We had some great times, had some arguments (like all dating couples), broke up and got back together a couple times, over the course of the next two years.  I eventually decided to call off the dating relationship shortly before 9/11 because I could tell my mental illness wasn’t going well with the highs and lows of the dating relationship.  For the last three years of college I didn’t date at all.  I was polite and decent to everyone I met, had lots of acquaintances I could join study groups with or go to sporting events on campus, but I had only a handful of extremely close friends whom I could do and tell everything to.

After I graduated from college I went back home because, like many college graduates, I didn’t have a job lined up by the time I graduated.  I felt embarrassed by this at the time but I would eventually find out I wasn’t alone and this was the new normal.  After a few months of working a dead end job, I had enough of my childhood hometown.  I realized my career was going nowhere, all my old friends moved away, and I had no prospects for friends or a career in my location.  I also didn’t have enough money to move away on my own.  I talked to my parents about moving to a larger town.  I was immediately shot down because they wouldn’t help me if I didn’t have a job offer in another town.  And I previously had several job interviews where I was told they would have hired me if I was local.  Made me very angry.  I couldn’t relocate because I had no job and I was getting rejected for jobs because I didn’t live nearby.

Finally in February 2005, I lied to my parents about a job offer I had in a town that was only a couple hours away from them but had decent opportunities, a state university, and much better health care.  I convinced them to help me move and pay for the deposit on a small apartment.  It was a cheap place I could live in as I had a few months of living expenses saved up so I could find a job.  It was the first time in my entire life I lied for personal gain rather than protection or privacy reasons.  I felt guilty that it had to be that way at the time.  But I am so glad I did looking back on it years later.  Sometimes breaking the rules and disregarding authority has to be done to do the right thing.  Life isn’t as black and white and cut and dry as far too many people make it to be.

For the first couple weeks I was out several hours every day giving my resume and filling out applications to places that would pay me enough to meet my living expenses.  I also applied to the local college to take master’s degree classes.  I had three job offers and a new job within the first three weeks in my new town, compared to only one in my childhood hometown in the several months I was back home.  Location is key, my friends.  You can have all the qualifications there are, yet if you are in a location that doesn’t suit those skills, you have to relocate.  There are no two ways about it.

I still occasionally asked girls out but still got rejected.  I finally had a long distance relationship that went quite well for several months.  I surprised her by driving to her hometown on Valentine’s Day 2006.  I had just gotten offered a decent job after I lost my job at the college because of my bad grades, which were because of my mental illness really beating me up.  The surprise was on me because she had to work a double shift that day.  I had to wait several hours before she got home.  Fortunately her mother took pity on me and kept me company until she got off work.  That was a whirlwind of a relationship.  We called it off that summer because we could tell it would never evolve into a marriage.  We just had different priorities, values, and interests to make a marriage work.  It stung at the time but I’m glad it ended before we got married.

In 2008 I qualified for disability insurance.  I had my safety net finally.  My life settled down and I didn’t have the highs and lows I did in previous years.  I also came to the conclusion I was better off without trying to date or be in a relationship.  I am definitely not anti marriage or anti love.  I just know with my mental illness, my personality, my values, etc. I would make a lousy boyfriend and husband.  I would make a lousy father too and I would feel guilty if I had children who became mentally ill because they inherited it from me.  As far as being lonely, that’s why I keep in contact with old friends and stay on good terms with family.  I have a much better relationship with my mother and father now in my late thirties than I ever did at any point in my life.  Like many children I regarded my parents like superheroes when I was six, clueless buffoons when I was twelve, would be fascist dictators at age seventeen I wanted to be free from, wise counsel and backups at age twenty eight, and now more like myself and close friends now that I am age thirty eight.  It’s been a long and strange journey these thirty eight years as a human and these twenty plus as being a man with mental illness.

Even though I have had a mental illness since my teenage years, and was eccentric my entire life, I was still interested in romance and the love of a good woman.  Sometimes I had that, many times I didn’t.  And as I have aged I have made my peace with what went on in the past.  I accept that I can’t change what went on.  I also wouldn’t change it if I had that power.  I am grateful for my experiences with romance, love, and dating while having a mental illness.  It taught me much about myself, mental illness, human nature, and life.  I wouldn’t trade any of it.  At this point in my life I am content to remain unattached.  I don’t know if this will always be the case and I don’t have to know.  I know not what tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or even years from now will bring or how I will develop.  I’m just staying open to whatever happens and comes my way.

Just Because I Don’t Have Much Money Doesn’t Mean I Am Poor

Middle of the winter now.  Haven’t ventured out of my apartment much the last few days.  Too cold to go anywhere really.  Been immersing myself in computer games and audiobooks more these days.  I have to admit that I really have no desire to socialize in person much, at least not lately.  I guess I have given up on finding anyone in physical proximity who shares my interests and concerns.  I have gotten tired of neighborhood gossip and endless talks about politics and sports ball.  Been tired of it for a long time.  I haven’t even watched live tv since the college football bowl games around New Year’s Day.  I guess I just lost interest in the mundane and normal things my neighbors can discuss for hours on end.

I have to admit that I find most of my social life on social media these days.  I have excellent conversations with people from my tech and futurists groups.  It’s like some of the conversations I had with friends back in college, when you would chat until sunrise and your throat was burning from chatting so much.  During conversations like that, it’s like I could actually feel my brain getting stronger and more nimble.  I loved those years. I can’t imagine how cool they would have been had I not had a mental illness to deal with.  I can understand why many people are nostalgic for their college years, before the spirit crushing and brain numbing realities of having to spend over half your waking life at a job that most people aren’t well suited for just to earn enough money to live an “acceptable” standard of living.

Most people caught up in the day to day working ‘Oh God It’s Monday’ merry go round ride we like to call ‘being a productive member of society’ would argue I don’t live an acceptable standard of living.  Most people would consider me a failure it seems.  It seems that people either pity me or envy me for being on disability pension.  Acceptable by what standards?  Who decided what is and isn’t a productive member of society?  Am I going to hell because I am not working myself into an early grave or not buying the big house and SUV type lifestyle?  Seriously, what will happen if I don’t work myself into an early grave because I didn’t become a cubicle jockey or sell my talents for more money than I need to buy crap I never really wanted to impress jerks that wouldn’t shed a tear if I dropped dead of a heart attack tonight?  Is God going to deny me access into the afterlife because I don’t have a credit history?

Let’s not con ourselves, most people work the jobs they do because they need the money to buy their survival, not because they are passionate about their jobs or their careers are a benefit to humanity and nature.  I think that if money weren’t in issue, many people would find even more productive means to spend their days than sitting in traffic to get to an office to fill out reports that few people read or do work with their hands that, in some cases, could just as easily be done by machines and computers.  Too many people work themselves senseless and joyless because, for whatever reason, they got too deep into debt pursuing the ‘dream life.’  Dream life for whom?  Not me.

I never understood the point of borrowing money for anything besides starting a business, learning a trade, or buying a house.  But with as fast as industries change anymore, owning a house can actually hinder a person’s career.  I know people who have had to turn down very lucrative promotions because they owned a house and couldn’t get that albatross around their neck sold quickly.  I also know people who were making six figures a year simply because they were flexible and could throw all their possessions in the back of a pickup truck and U-Haul trailer and be moved across country in a matter of a few days.  It seems to be in the modern economy that being flexible, not having unmanageable debt, and having skills that can transfer into several different industries is the new security.  To quote Randy Gage, “safe is the new risky.”

I am on disability pension, it is true.  It was the only way I could afford my medications once I couldn’t be covered under my parents’ insurance plans.  My mental illness also made the modern work place unbearable for me.  Even as a teenager I knew I wanted to work in a small group or even alone and not have to deal with strangers for hours on end every day.  Giving up my pre med course of study was one of the most painful things I ever did.  It was essentially me having to kill the dream of having a career in science.  I had wanted to work in as a research scientist since I was five years old.  Even as a child my favorite Disney character was Dr. Ludwig von Drake, an eccentric academic with a German accent loosely based on Werner von Braun, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud.

Even though I went on to study business the last three years in college, deep down I knew I would never use the business degree in a traditional job setting.  But I didn’t know what else to do.  I didn’t want to go back home because there was nothing there for me.  I didn’t attempt to apply for disability when I was diagnosed because I had no idea how bad this illness really was.  I thought it was something that, while chronic, could be easily managed with medication and counseling.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The illness made traditional employment impossible.  Since I don’t come from an uber rich family, I couldn’t live off a trust fund and privately pay for my medications and therapy.  I went on disability because, well, I had no other option.  I stay on disability because blogging and internet research doesn’t pay the bills.

Some people think that because I’m on disability I just sit around, watch porn, drink beer, and vape nicotine all day.  Not so.  Even my parents have no clue how much internet research I do when it comes to science, technology, and other academic topics I always wanted to study in school but simply didn’t have the time to.  Since I have a disability pension, escaped college with one business degree and zero debt, and haven’t had a credit card debt in years, I can afford the life I want.

Right now, at this point in my life, I want to be the independent scholar writing a few blog posts every week and spending my evenings chatting with fellow science and tech enthusiasts.  It wasn’t the kind of life I wanted even ten years ago.  Back then I was working twenty hours a week, writing drafts for novels, making outlines for possible science fiction worlds, writing poetry every day, and studying philosophers ranging from Aristotle to Francis Bacon to Neitchze.  I did the regular work world while on disability because it could be done.  Got that out of my system after a few years and moved onto my current life as a blogger and scholar.

Where will I be in another five or ten years?  I don’t know.  But I don’t have to know.  I just know I have probably faced the worst of what my schizophrenia has to offer and have survived into middle age.  I have gained a few skills that, while not paying the bills, keep me busy and make me interesting.  I don’t often tell people I’m on disability, but they seem quite envious when I tell them that I’m a freelance writer.  My bank account will never make anyone forget the Rothschild family, but it doesn’t have to.  As long as I can buy food, keep my rent up to date, keep my internet paid for, stay out of debt, and have enough left over to buy some basic clothing every few months, I’m happy with where I am at.  I don’t need a ton of money or a prestigious career or a large family to justify my existence.  If there is a Judgement that the dead have to face for their deeds and misdeeds in life, I doubt the Divine Judge will be looking at anyone’s W-2 forms or 401(k).  He who dies with the most toys is still dead.  He just doesn’t have to witness his kids and grandkids squander the inheritance his decades of toil and stress made possible.  Hard work probably never killed anyone, but neither did taking time to learn things and appreciate nature and human achievement.