Take biology and psychology that developed over many thousands of years in the Stone Age, throw in Bronze Age spirituality and religions, mix in legal, finance, and government institutions developed in the Renaissance, toss in jobs, consumerism, work ethic, and education developed in the Industrial Revolution, add mass media and instant communications of the early 21st century, and possibly add machine automation that will make the work force far smaller and resources far easier to get as icing on the cake. Stand back and watch mayhem and chaos ensue or work toward bringing about the Star Trek future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I confess I have different ways of learning and processing information than most people. And that has gotten me in much trouble over the years, especially while at a work place. I never could read people’s body language well enough to be good at socializing. I can’t tell what they think just by watching them. I can, however, read through the lines of what they write. I have always been a much better reading learner than a hands on or auditorial learner. I think one of the reasons I never became as good with my hands as I am with my mind or communications is that I couldn’t see diagrams or in some cases, even what I was doing. And I never got enough repetition in to get good. It always frustrated my teachers, bosses, and even family that it took more repetition for me to learn something than most people. But once I learned the skill, I remember it for life. I think I was given up on by teachers and employers too early in some cases because it takes me longer to learn through doing than most people. But once I learned something through doing, I have never forgotten it.
Even though I am pretty intelligent in some ways (though some would argue this), I never did get the top grades in school or most of the accolades at work. I did well enough that I gave my teachers and bosses that false hope I could be a superstar student or employee. Yet, because of my mental make up being so much different than the norm, I couldn’t develop my skills fast enough for my employers and teachers to really see my potential. I never could read a teacher well enough to know what was on a test. So I had to study the entire subject. It will make you well grounded in a subject, like biology or history, but it is not conducive to getting good scores on tests. Likewise at work, I couldn’t read my bosses, coworkers, or customers very well. I certainly couldn’t the first time I met them or even the first few. Like I said, it takes me more repetition to learn things than many people. Yet, once that knowledge is learned, it is learned for life. Even though I haven’t played football since 1999, I still remember many of the plays we used in games and practice simply because our coaches believed heavily in repetition and details. I loved that kind of take on sport. I didn’t want to be fancy or eye catching, I just wanted to win and be good at what I knew and was doing.
Yet because I couldn’t learn in the way my bosses and clients preferred, I didn’t make a very good employee. For years I was convinced I was defective and was damaged goods. I believed it so much it’s why I went on disability insurance in spite having a college degree and good intelligence test scores. Sure I may have the natural brain power many employers are looking for. Yet, the way my mid works and learns is not what gets a person ahead at a job, most of which are service sector jobs. Attention to details and throughly learning your field was the way to go for a renaissance era craftsman or a high end scholar.
Yet, good luck finding those jobs today. I have ability. I have talent. I have intelligence. I have the ability to learn new things and remember those new things my entire life. In many ways I am far smarter now than I was when I graduated college in 2004. But that is because I found out through trial and much error how I effectively learned. I learn by reading and by doing many times, not by listening to a lecture or two and doing a few trial runs. It does take me longer to learn the basics than most people. But I remember the basics far longer. And I can build upon those basics to even incorporating some of my own takes on work tasks and ideas.
Sure it is an odd way to learn. It is also one most teachers and employers especially don’t like. I lost more jobs than most people have had in a fifty year career simply because my learning style didn’t fit modern corporate or service sector styles. I may have done extremely well in an old style apprenticeship that took several years. But, as it stands now, I’m halfway through my life and don’t have the energy or the courage to start over in something that I know will not accept my skill set or way of learning. And it is a classic Greek tragedy as far as I’m concerned.
I have to wonder how many millions of people just in our day and age that live lives of quiet desperation and poverty yet would be model employees, crafts people, or business managers but never get the chance mainly because they learn things in different ways. I have met only a handful of people in my life that I know was on the Autism spectrum. Some of them were extremely intelligent, much more than even I am. Yet most of them struggled socially and especially at work because the learning styles and ways of communication didn’t match up with the culture around them.
I think that things we classify as mental illness like schizophrenia, bi polar, autism, etc. (even homosexuality and bisexuality were considered mental illnesses until quite recently in many places) have always been with our species. It just wasn’t as much of a disadvantage in a less structured Stone Age civilization. In fact, I imagine that many of the first medicine men, shamans, astronomers, and priests were men and women who would be considered mentally ill by modern standards. But they had a different way of learning and looking at the world than most other people in their little tribes and bands. And it helped to eventually launch civilizations. It’s the eccentrics and the odd fellows and odd ladies who took our species from only a few thousand scattered wanderers many thousands of years ago to the teeming billions who are actively making plans of colonizing other planets and celestial bodies. Providing we don’t seriously screw up this transition, who knows what the human species will be capable of given thousands of years scattered across a few star systems. And it was mainly because of the oddballs and mad men who, while scorned and condemned among their contemporaries, led the way forward out of the Ice Age caves to now standing at the entry way to the cosmos.
It’s been a long and strange journey. And it’s one I hope is only entering a new phase rather than reaching it’s climax and decline. The choice is up to us who are currently alive and how much we chose to nurture and value those who don’t think like the norm. I may never be one of these innovators who profoundly changes the world. For now, I am content to be among those who appreciate the eccentrics and encourage them onward. The road to the stars is fraught with great difficulties. But, because of the odd ones, I believe we are up to this task.