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.

Dealing With Loss, Isolation, and Declining Health

Haven’t written for a few days.  I’m only now recovered from the holidays.  I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s 2020.  I am understanding why my grandmother said that time only goes faster the older you get.  I’m going to be 40 this summer.  Mentally I don’t feel any decline.  If anything, I feel mentally sharper and stronger than ever.  Physically, my body can no longer keep up with my mind.  It’s been this way for a couple years now.  I would love to be able to road trip and visit friends in person and go to concerts and ballgames at a moment’s notice like I did in my late 20s and early 30s.  But the body can no longer keep up.  I don’t know how much of it is aging, how much of it is the toll of two decades fighting a severe mental illness, how much of it is being overweight, etc.  At this point I guess it doesn’t matter either way.  I am pretty much content to stay home, chat with my old friends online, read my books, mess with my computers, and watch the events of our time and place unfold from my apartment.

Found out right before Christmas one of my college classmates died.  He was only 40.  He worked at a mental health hospital and was a compassionate man.  I hadn’t talked to him much since graduation.  I’m glad we found each other on facebook and were able to reestablish contact shortly before he died.  And then just yesterday I found out another college friend’s cancer has come back.  This time it’s terminal.  The doctors told her she has two to five years at most.  Starting to lose my own friends now.

Seeing most of my friends struggle financially has taken a toll on me.  And now that most of them are in declining physical and mental health and even starting to die is making this only worse.  It has gotten me to think about my own mortality far more than ever.  At my last doctor’s appointment, I was relieved to find I was not diabetic.  The only real problem they found was high blood pressure.  I no longer have much for stamina.  That’s one of the reasons I stay home so much.  Going out in public is now enough of an ordeal that I no longer enjoy it.  Add to this that most people I know are more stressed and short tempered than ever, I have no want to leave my apartment.  I have enough problems of my own to catch an ear full from my neighbors and landlord.  Sometimes I get in trouble even just staying at home.  Most people in my complex think I’m moving out or getting evicted because I never go out in public anymore.  Naturally, lots of rumors are going around.  No I’m not moving.  As far as I know, I’m not in danger of being evicted.  Though for the last few years I’ve lived in near constant paranoia that I was.  It’s mainly because most people are just so angry and short tempered constantly.  It didn’t used to be this way.  I actually used to enjoy socializing.  Then three of my best friends in my apartment complex died within six months of each other in 2014 and 2015.  From there my social life fell apart.  Other than a few neighbors, I literally have no friends within a fifty mile radius.  I don’t think most people know or care how tough socializing is for a middle aged man with a disability and no immediate family nearby.  I just keep to myself anymore.  I would rather be alone than have to fight with neighbors, coworkers, and complete strangers all the time.

End of the Year

Been a bit of an up and down year for me.  I’ve had several positives like finding a new general practice doctor and restarting my weight lifting routine.  Even though my lungs are still weak, my physical strength is almost as good as it was when I was in my late twenties.  I have employed a cleaning lady for a year.  The apartment feels more like a home than a hide out.  I redecorated my apartment.  I put up some art work done by friends and a few classic battle flags.  My personal favorites are the old U.S. Betsy Ross flag and the Pirate Ship flag.  I ordered several through amazon as they were on sale. While the flags look excellent, they are also bigger than I expected.  I currently have three on my walls. I’d love to hang all of them but I don’t think I have enough wall room.

As far as drawbacks go, I lost confidence in myself to drive my car.  So I sold my car to one of my dad’s friends.  It was an older, but lower mileage, car.  I no longer drove enough to justify having it.  And it was doing no one any good just sitting in a parking space.  I still isolate some, but I have reestablished contact with some of my old college friends and extended family I had lost contact with over the last few years.  I suppose after being a regular on social media for a few years, I have figured out what to post and what not to mention.  I think most people are at least starting to adapt.  I’ve noticed I’ve been involved in fewer online arguments than even three years ago.

I almost never have back pain anymore.  But I still get short of breath if I’m really active.  My physical therapist said I retained most of my physical strength even if I lost a lot of my lung capacity and my heart needed to get stronger.  In addition to lifting weights, I also make a point of walking around and doing stretches in my apartment every couple hours.  I am now on a blood pressure medication.  I have noticed I don’t need as much sleep as I did before I started the medication.  I’m also regaining stamina more quickly than before.

As far as science news goes for 2019, there were some really cool happenings.  A probe was landed on the dark side of the moon by the Chinese.  A few more probes were sent to Mars.  Self landing and reusable rockets are becoming almost common occurrences.  The world now has almost five billion people with access to the internet.  Strides in life extension medicine have been made.  There is now at least one company, started by a young man in his twenties, that is now removing garbage from the Pacific Ocean.  Plans are being made to start cleaning up orbital space garbage.  I bet my grandparents when they were watching the USA vs USSR space race back in the 1960s didn’t think this would become a problem so soon.  And now private companies and small countries are sending up probes.  Definitely not my parents’ space race anymore.

Even an electric powered pickup truck is now in development by the guys at Tesla.  I joked about that a few years ago.  Maybe my joke about custom making a fishing pole on a 3D printer or buying camping supplies with Bitcoins aren’t far behind.  And I’m sure there are already people who can build computers and moon shine stills from scratch (see my Nerdy Redneck posts).  Now it looks like it is starting to happen.  I also saw that a cross country self driving truck delivery was made here in USA a few weeks ago.  There was a driver present but the only time he took over was for things like refueling and maybe road construction.  Ten years ago this was science fiction.  Looks like I’ll be telling my brother’s kids to not consider being a truck driver or taxi cab driver.  Even the small college town I live in has a few Uber drivers now.  Before my car accident I applied to Uber, thinking I could make a few dollars ferrying around college kids on the weekends.  I was turned down because my car was too old.  One of my friend’s, her husband works for an Uber like company.  Made decent money but worked long hours and was rarely home.

2019 has been an eventful year overall.  Much of it has been good news, some of it bad.  The bad news is going to get more attention simply because that is what the human mind notices first.  Brilliant survival strategy in the Stone Age but can drive us insane when most of the basics are already met for most people in our world.  According to a scholar named Yuval Noah Harrai, our world now has more people suffering health problems from eating too much as opposed to not getting enough food.  Our great grandparents would have never imagined that.  As much as I enjoy futurism and tech predictions, I would be foolish to say what isn’t possible for the citizens of 2120, especially after how much change I’ve personally witnessed since I graduated high school in 1999.  My best friend and I were among the first families in our small farming town to subscribe to internet.  I didn’t have my own email address until I was 18.  And it was my friend who taught me how to get free music (which I never did) and free dirty pics (guilty as charged).  My eight year old nephew is enamored with my mother’s old mechanical type writer.  I never used one myself but learned how to type on an electric type writer when I was in junior high.  The change over to computers was easy in comparison.  Maybe my nephew’s kids will be surprised that we had to type on computers, rather then just think and communicate that way.  Or it could be something completely out of the blue we can’t imagine yet.  If the 2010s are any indication, the 2020s will be even more eventful and sometimes chaotic.  It’s only going to get more interesting and eventful.

December 11 2019

Only two weeks until Christmas.  2019 is going to be passing into 2020 soon after.  2019 has been a long year for me.  I think spending much of my time at home made this year go slower than usual.  It was a year of changes for me.  I sold my car so I’m no longer driving.  I lift arm weights regularly.  I gave up most fast food.  I gave up most sugary food.  I broke down and hired outside help to keep my home livable.  I now have help with cleaning and laundry.  I gave up on a few friendships once it became painfully obvious some of my friends and I no longer had the same interests or values.  I guess people do change over the years.  It’s usually so gradual that we don’t notice it until afterwards.  I am beginning to overcome some of my anxiety about people.  Guests don’t bother me much anymore.  I still get slightly paranoid when I hear people talking out in my hallway.

I didn’t watch much tv or news this year.  I can’t relate to many tv shows.  I even cancelled my Netflix subscription.  Most of what I watch anymore is youtube or live sports.  The news is depressing, but I get that’s what catches the attention.  We have plenty of good news stories that will never get mentioned simply because good news doesn’t catch the attention.  I didn’t read as much as I would have liked either, outside of online science and tech articles.  I guess it’s been kind of a less eventful year, at least for me.