Graduations, Reunions, and Life Choices

Got my lease renewed for this year.  So I don’t have that hanging anymore.  Also got a few new shirts in the mail from my dad this morning.  Thanks Dad.  I appreciate it.  Ever since I went more minimalist than most people a few years ago I have less of everything, including clothing.  This means I wear what I do have more often and have to do laundry often.  Maybe I should pick up some more clothing just so I don’t have to do washing and replacing clothing more often.  Unfortunately clothing wears out if you wash it a lot and wear it quite often.  I found this out through my own experiences.

Been going outside more often lately even with it being a damper and colder than usual spring.  I still don’t drive much except when necessary.  I fire up my car at least every few days just to make sure everything is in proper order.  Even though I no longer take road trips like I did even a few years ago, it is good to know I could if I had to.

I might be making a couple trips this summer.  I have a family reunion in Colorado at the end of June I might be going to.  And my twenty year class reunion is the first weekend in July.  I’m still undecided if I’m going.  Sadly, many of the people I spent the bulk of my time with in high school live far away and probably aren’t the types to go to reunions anyway.  Some days it’s hard to believe I’ve been out of high school for twenty years.  Other days, especially when I’m in the grips of mental illness, it feels like someone else’s life.  An incredible amount has changed since I graduated high school in 1999.

I occasionally break out my high school annuals and photographs of high school and college friends.  I remember when we graduated high school, one of the speakers said something to the effect that we wouldn’t truly appreciate the power and beauty of youth until we were older.  So true.  I guess the biggest thing I miss about high school and college is how easy it was to socialize and make friends in those environments.  I was a geeky kid I admit.  I would have been the stereotypical nerd in high school and college except that I had a lot of physical strength (but no coordination).  I was on the football and track teams in high school and did intramural softball in college.  I probably couldn’t have done any other sports as a kid.  I wasn’t fast enough for soccer or coordinated enough for baseball or basketball or quick enough for wrestling.

Another thing about school and college I miss is the academics.  Even though I never got straight A’s in any level of school, I still did pretty decent in classes.  I did well enough grade wise and test wise to qualify for some really good scholarships.  I am so, so glad I graduated college debt free.  I couldn’t manage on a disability pension while paying off loans.  It was tough giving up on the MBA program once I lost my graduate assistant job.  But I wasn’t going to continue on in school if I had no way to pay for it outright.  Debt scared me then and it still scares me even though I haven’t had debts for years.  I don’t know if I even have a credit score anymore simply because I don’t borrow money.

My eldest nephew recently graduated middle school.  He will be starting high school at a large suburban public school this autumn.  So he may be going to college in four years.  I don’t really have any advice for the youngsters except remain flexible and open to new experiences.  We have no idea what jobs will be around in even ten years.  Many jobs could be eliminated due to automation and artificial intelligence.  Of course, many new jobs could be coming too.  I can’t in good faith advise any kid on what career path to take.

I won’t even tell them to ‘follow your heart.’  I saw too many people take that advice and end up with degrees that have few job prospects, at least right now. Yet, I remember an interview Mark Cuban gave on a business news show a couple years ago and he said to the effect that if machines keep taking over jobs, then people with humanities and liberal arts degrees might be in demand more than even business and technical fields within ten years.  Wouldn’t that be ironic; for years kids were discouraged from being arts and humanities students for fear they’d be able to do nothing but make coffee and work fast food.  Soon we may say the same thing about accounting, business, and delivery drivers.

In short, we don’t know what will be available.  In fact, the youngsters coming through the ranks may have to retrain every few years for new job skills.  The tech and science isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.  It is actually getting faster.  We could be going into a really cool future but it could be a rugged journey to get there.  The next generation or two could be quite rough as we navigate the biggest change to civilization since Industrialization got going in the lat 1700s and early 1800s.  I hope we are up to the challenges.

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Arm Chair Philosophy During Thanksgiving

Spending Thanksgiving week by myself.  I had my celebration a week ago as kind of a going away party for my parents.  I guess I don’t mind spending the week alone as I’ve spent much of my adult life alone.  I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 when I graduated college.  I would actually feel kind of strange having to share a roof and four walls with someone, especially if that someone and I got on each others nerves.

This isn’t the first major holiday I spent alone.  Several years ago I stayed home when my parents were hosting it because I felt a major breakdown coming on.  I wasn’t going to have a break in front of my niece and nephews, especially when they were still too young to go to school.  It was a sad deal in that it was also my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving.  He was diagnosed with cancer a few days later and died a couple months after.  I was fortunate to been able to host the last couple Christmas celebrations with my parents at my apartment.  Not sure what I’m doing this year as all my family is now living out of state.  But I have a few weeks to figure that out.  It could be I get snowed in and not able to go anywhere.  This time a year the weather is always a factor where I live.

Starting to sleep less again.  But I’m not staying up all night either.  I usually go to sleep around 10pm and am up usually around 2 am.  I prattle around for a couple hours and then go back to sleep for another couple hours.  I’m usually awake for good by 8:30 am.  I have been feeling quite stable lately too.  I’ve now gone a full year without a major breakdown.  First time I can claim that ever since I was in high school.

In spite feeling better overall, I really have no desire to go anywhere or socialize much.  I’m content to pretty much stay at home much of the time.  Home is where I feel comfortable and accepted, even if I am alone.  I don’t like socializing in person much anymore.  I’m almost scared of other people now, especially people I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a new aspect of my mental illness.  I don’t have the volatile mood swings but just have no motivation to see anyone or try anything new.

Perhaps I really am depressed and not wanting to go anywhere or see anyone is the way it’s being manifest.  I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of despondency or sadness, but I probably do have both.  I feel no need to socialize because, in my diseased mind, I already know the outcome of said socializing: We will talk about dumb and mundane things and not much will be accomplished from the meeting.  I guess I’m used to not much being accomplished.  I’m used to people outside of family not coming through on what they say they’ll deliver.  It’s like I expect things to not work anymore.  I’m probably suffering from apathy too.  I’m just too tired to fight against it anymore.  I’m used to things not working like they should. I’ve seen it my entire life I guess.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t understand the average person’s obsession with politics or working; people talk all the time yet nothing really changes and certainly not for the better.

I would almost swear that people are intentionally screwing up and doing what they know won’t work.  I can’t believe that people are so stupid as to do what they know won’t work over and over and yet be duped by every charlatan and con artist who comes along offering the same tripe with different packaging and names.  I guess that’s why I don’t socialize anymore.  I’ve seen it all before and I’ve heard it all before.  But nothing changes for the better.  The only real positive changes I’ve seen, at least in my life time, have come via science, technology advances, and humanitarian efforts.  Yet no one wants to talk about these.  But it is science, tech, and humanitarians that are making up for the gridlock in politics and the loss of trust in education, law, and religion.  I guess that people don’t pay attention to what really makes a positive difference.

For generations we have heard old men on their death beds lamenting how they spent too much time at work and not enough time with their spouses and children or grandchildren.  Maybe it’s finally starting to get through to the younger workers who seek a work life balance more than my generation or my parents and grandparents did.  I think I’ll say something like “Too bad I didn’t get the corner office or the company car when I was working” or “Why did I take the day off to take my nephews to the museum?  There was money to be made, dang it” just to break up the somber mood and my way of saying kiss off the old style Puritan work ethic that seems to believe that those who don’t work themselves into an early grave are going to hell.

I don’t regret not having a regular job anymore.  Most people I know who got rich didn’t do so by working forty hours a week for someone else.  They got that way by working for themselves and starting their own businesses.  But even as rich as some people I knew were, I still didn’t see them take with them to the afterlife.  Even the Pharaohs had their graves robbed over the centuries.  Get a large pile of gold and jewels only to have marauders run off with it or have it collect dust in some museum half a world away thousands of years later.  Hard work may have never killed anyone, but neither did enjoying the small things of life that money, power, and prestige can’t acquire.

Random Ramblings on Hollywood Movies

I’m going to go off tangent for this post and write on some random thoughts I have had over the last few years.  I’ll try to keep this more light hearted than some of my previous posts.

Why are space aliens in the movies usually such jerks?  The aliens from ‘Independence Day’, the foes of Sigourney Weaver from ‘Alien’, the large bugs from those campy ‘Starship Troopers’ movies (I actually liked that movie as I had a thing for Denise Richards in high school), the ‘Predator’ series, and the Empire from Star Wars are key examples.  Even Star Trek got in on less than pleasant aliens with the war loving Klingons and anal retentive Vulcans (though I absolutely loved Mr. Spock as the perfect compliment to Captain Kirk).  Only occasionally are there cool aliens featured in Hollywood like Superman, E.T., Yoda, and the Avatar aliens. And that’s about it, besides the trippy aliens from ‘2001.’ You would think any species that is advanced enough to master deep space travel would have abandoned their violent and animalist natures centuries before they set out to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before.’

Why are most movies about the future dystopic?  Most movies about the future are like the Terminator series, the Matrix trilogy, Equilibrium, Gattaca, Brave New World, etc.  Even H.G. Wells presented a real lousy future in ‘The Time Machine’ clear back in the late 1800s.  Can anyone show me any movies about the future where the future isn’t hellish?  I can think only of Star Trek and it’s various spinoffs and Futurama.  But even Futurama features immoral crackpot scientists and alcoholic robots who want to “kill all humans.” Seriously Hollywood, come up with some futuristic movies where the future doesn’t suck.

Why is it rich people or large corporations are always villains in Hollywood movies?  Who decided that having money makes you evil and being poor is virtuous?  Yeah I get that the Bible said “It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven.”  But the Bible, like many ancient works, is full of metaphors.  That’s how people get ideas across.  I use raging torrents of metaphors all the time.  If there were no metaphors there would be no music, no poetry, no religion, no philosophy, no literature, and no culture.  But I have known enough poor people, enough rich people, and enough middle class people to know that having money, or not, does not make or break your character.  All social economic classes have their share of jerks, saints, sinners, humanitarians, cranks, heroes, and losers.  Why are companies dumping toxic waste into rivers and supposedly holding back future technologies getting award winning documentaries made about their evils and the companies that develops life saving medicines and better yielding crops get maybe a thirty minute snippet on the Discovery Channel?  Seriously, where is the good news from big business version of Michael Moore?

Why does Hollywood feel compelled to roll out remakes of movies from the 1980s that usually weren’t that good to begin with? How many sequels do we really need?  I’m just waiting for the suits at the studios to roll out remakes of ‘The Princess Bride’, ‘The Breakfast Club’, and ‘Platoon.’ I heard a few days ago they are doing another Indiana Jones’ movie.  Harrison Ford has got to be in his seventies by now.  How much treasure can his tired old bones carry? Once again Hollywood, you’re running out of good ideas.  Maybe you should just let movie goers submit suggestions at the theaters or your Facebook pages.  Really, how many remakes of campy 1980s movies are we going to get subjected to before movie goers revolt in mass and just subscribe to Netflix or Hulu?

I have to admit I haven’t been to the movies in almost two years.  Most of the movie watching I do is on my computer with Netflix or Youtube.  I haven’t gone back because it just seems too much hassle to fight traffic, pay for a ticket, buy overpriced sodas and treats only to watch the same worn out story line over and over while the kid sitting behind me kicks the back of my chair as someone’s cell phone rings every five minutes.  Maybe I’m getting picky in my old age and not being hip or keeping up with the young people.  But I wasn’t hip even as a young person.  I love watching movies, don’t get me wrong.  I just love watching them at home.  In movie theaters they get kind of picky about people eating pizza and hot wings while having a beer during the show.  But I love the freedom of being able to watch movies at home.  Long live the Internet.

 

College, The World of Work, and The New Reality

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I’m taking a detour from my usual posts about mental illness and related issues. Yet this is still a serious topic I’m writing about. It’s about college, the world of work, and the new career and economic realities of life in the early 21st century. Even though I’ve been out of college and in the dreaded ‘real world’ for the last ten years, I still have yet to find the proverbial ‘well paying, well respected’ job that we were told that a college degree would lead to. I know that we’re living in tough economic times and that we’re transitioning to a service based economy from a manufacturing one. But I can’t help but feel like I was sold a bill of goods. It’s as if the old rules of go to college, get a good job, save your money for retirement, and live the American Dream of a house, a spouse, 2.3 kids, etc. no longer apply.

I am convinced we, as Americans, been living the high life for too long. Our expectations are out of whack. There very likely is a limit to how much of ‘the good life’ that we can expect before our standing of living goes down. And I think that we in America have hit it. I suppose this simply couldn’t last forever.

I wonder if those who are now entering college are aware of what’s going on in the world. Lord knows that I, and most of my classmates, had no clue as to what was coming. I still would have gone to college. But I wouldn’t have deluded myself into thinking that I was going straight from college to the good life. I suppose it’s what they call ‘paying your dues.’

Anyway, the rules have changed. College by itself will no longer guarentee you much. So my advise anyone who wants to go to college straight out of high school is this: Don’t go in with your eyes closed. Know that college alone will not guarantee you the easy life and happiness. Buyer beware. If you are still determined to go to college, at least study something that can specifically transfer over in a career. I’m talking about majors in any field of engineering, computer informations systems, accounting, teacher education, computer science, anything in the medical fields, and law. I would especially highly recommend trades like plumbing, welding, electrician, auto mechanics, information technology, anything to do with transportation, mining/extraction, renewable energy, and construction. It seemed that many teachers I knew ran down the skilled trades until they needed their cars fixed or carpentry work done on their houses. Most people I know with liberal arts degrees like english, history, etc. are either working low paying jobs, are becoming college instructors, or went on to law school or business school. Now, I love english and history as much as anyone I’ve ever met. I also didn’t want to teach in a traditional classroom setting. So I read as many history, classic literature, and philosophy books as I could on my own time during my five years in college. The school library was my second home. I may not have had much of a social life but with mental health issues, I didn’t have much of a social life anyway.

I’ve been out in the world outside of school for ten years now. I made some mistakes in the course of my college years. Had I the ability to do over again, I’d have probably studied Computer Science or Information Technology in addition to my business training. I use computers all the time just in my blogging and researching. I have a basic business background, but I don’t have anything specific like accounting. I still would have read a great deal of history, classic literature, and philosophy on my own. I am, however, grateful I never majored in such subjects. My basic business background taught me how to manage my personal finances, which is not required learning in American high schools. When I was questioned ‘why business’ after my foray into Pre-Med failed, I answered something like ‘I don’t have any knowledge of how businesses, banks, money, investments, sales, and economics work. I can learn this and perhaps make myself employable once I get a bachelor’s.’ While I haven’t landed the high paying job, I definitely learned how to budget and get as much out of money as I can. These skills made adapting to life on disability insurance and part time work much easier.

The ideas of how an individual has to budget all their expenses, know where their limited money is going, how compounding interest on credit cards and bank loans work, etc. are not exactly mysteries of the universe. But I had to study business in college to learn these things that, in a truly good education system, would have been addressed to kids in high school and even middle school. The level of financial knowledge in my country is truly sad. This lack of knowledge is why we’re having record numbers of people and businesses going bankrupt. Many marriages are strained and fail because of poor money management. Strained families cause stress and anxiety on everyone involved, especially children. It is why most city, state, and federal governments have such atrocious amounts of debt. Most of this could have been avoided had we been taught how money really works. I would liken this lack of instruction of the primary driver of our modern civilization to an ancient farming society not teaching their kids how to plant, raise, and harvest crops or how to care for livestock.

Many devoutly religious people may counter with the ‘love of money is the root of all kinds of evil’ from the Bible and other religious teachings. This has nothing to do with lust for money and power. Teaching money management to kids would tell them how the basic tool of survival in our post industrial age society, money, really works and give them a healthy respect for it. Surely it isn’t so bad to teach kids something in middle and high school that would truly benefit them in their adult lives? Any school that doesn’t teach it’s kids basic survival skills in their given society nor gives those kids the ability to learn on their own after the formal education is done, in short, isn’t justifying it’s own existence. I was fortunate to have studied business in college for my own sake. And I had to learn it in college because it wasn’t taught in a safer environment like a local high school or middle school. I am so grateful I didn’t have to learn about it on the mean streets or the ‘school of hard knocks.’