Thoughts on My Upcoming 40th Birthday

I’ll be turning 40 years old in two weeks.  I guess the days drag slowly but the years go fast.  I sometimes lose track of time during the day to day grind.  I’ve been a bit more nostalgic than usual lately.  Been listening more to the music I liked back in college and high school.  While I don’t buy into the whole ‘older music is better than new’, I do like a lot of the things that came out in the late 90s and early 2000s.  But, then again those years were real significant to me.  It was when I was growing into the man I would eventually become.  In those years, I had my first dates, my first kiss, travelled to Mexico for a couple weeks, actually had good physical health, could stay up all night and still do a full day of classes with little more than a couple Pop Tarts and a cup of coffee.

It seems the only true constant in life is change.  I risk sounding like an old man when I say I’m amazed at all the changes I’ve seen just in my lifetime.  I’m old enough I remember the last few years of the Cold War.  Even as a nine year old growing up in rural Nebraska, I knew that the Berlin Wall coming down was significant.  I was in fourth grade when my elementary school got a bunch of Apple II GS computers.  I felt like I joined the future right then and there.  Now those are ancient relics compared to what we have now.  I may sometimes give my elders a hard time for not being comfortable with computers, but my nephews would give me the exact same hard time for being uncomfortable with VR programs and 3D printers.  My thirteen year old nephew set up a VR flying program for my father, a licensed pilot and former Air Force pilot.  I don’t know how to do this.  Maybe I could after watching a few tutorials on youtube, but not until then.

Just in my forty years, I’ve seen computers go from clunky desk tops to fit in your coat pocket supercomputers that happen to make phone calls.  I’ve seen the electric car become reliable.  I’ve seen the internet become as much as a game changer as the printing press and steam engine in previous eras.  Saw 9/11 and the subsequent wars.  Saw China become a world power.  Saw the European Union and Brexit both.  Saw the rise of Populist politics on all sides in many countries.  I’m seeing the Covid 19 pandemic play out in real time.  Saw the rise of robotics and the beginnings of AI.  Saw the Human Genome Project get completed.  Saw the rise of social media and tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.  Saw Apple’s renaissance.  Saw the decline of video rental stores.  I’m witnessing the decline of traditional retail (and many of my previous jobs were in retail).  I’m seeing the beginning of driverless cars (I imagine our grandkids will find that term as quaint as ‘horseless carriage’ was in the early 1900s).  Heck I’m even seeing researchers trying to slow down the aging process.  And these are just the things that are in the headlines everyday.

I don’t know if I have another forty years left in this life, but it has been an exciting ride so far.  I would love to make it to 2060, if for no other reason than to just see what else plays out.  We do live in troubling times, with the pandemic and protests turning violent on an almost daily basis.  I remain hopeful that these are the birth pains of a changed for the better civilization that makes more efforts to not repeat the wrongs of past eras.  Granted, some days it isn’t easy.

Being A Man With Mental Illness

I have spent most of my life alone.  The last time I had a roommate was my senior year of college in 2004.  Lived alone ever since.  Some days it’s all right, being free to do whatever I want and whenever I want.  Some days it is almost unbearable though.  The worst days are when I make multiple attempts to reach out to people only to be ignored.  Sometimes when I want to talk to someone, I’d rather it not be family.  As much as I love my family, they can be narrow minded and judgmental about some things.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t be my true self around them.  I severely censor myself or keep my problems to myself because I’m in no mood for a lecture or being condemned.  Irritates me that, even after twenty years of mental illness, I’m still blown off and told to “quit whining”, “be a man”, or “you’re so lucky.”  I still hear all of these quite often.  And people wonder why so many men never talk about their problems or make emotional connections to anyone.  Having a mental illness makes this only worse.

People have often asked me when I’m getting married.  I don’t usually have the stomach to tell them never.  Most of the time I want to tell them to shove off.  I never want to get married.  For one, my mental illness would make me a lousy husband and father.  Second, my mental illness makes it impossible for me to hold a job.  And let’s face it, almost no one respects a stay at home dad.  Third, I fear getting divorced and losing my family, my friends, my home, my prestige, just because I made the mistake of marrying the wrong person.  Fourth, why should I?  My entire life I heard this “I don’t need a man” or “You go girl” or “girl power”, etc.  Which I really have no problem with except that too many people build others up by tearing others down.  Why is it when I say I don’t need a woman living in my house I’m seen as weird and weak?  Why do women get to expand their roles beyond the traditional nurturers and home managers but men are expected to just stay in the moldy old days?  I don’t understand that.  It makes no sense.  What does the world really lose because I choose not to marry, have kids, or get myself an early grave trying to prove my worthiness for life at a job that ultimately means nothing?  Why do I have to prove myself all the time?  Why do I have to earn my humanity and manhood?  I really want to know.  And why, oh why, can’t we just leave people that don’t fit in alone and stop bugging them?  Will civilization collapse if everyone isn’t doing the exact same thing all the time?  No.  So stop expecting everyone to fit into some subdivision.

Changes

Haven’t written in several days.  I guess I really haven’t had much to report lately.  Had a breakdown three weeks ago but things have been going pretty decent since.  I still spend a lot of time at home.  I feel uneasy in public most of the time, usually preferring to stay home and socialize over the phone or via social media.  I’ve also been sleeping more.  I feel more refreshed when I’m awake and I get more restful sleep and stay asleep longer.  I’ve also given up coffee.  I’ve now gone three weeks without it.  I switched over to tea instead.  I think I’ve gotten more sensitive to caffeine as I age.  I certainly feel more irritable and jittery after a lot of caffeine.

I stay home most of the time anymore.  I admit I don’t socialize much in person.  But it works for me.  I don’t get much out of socializing with my neighbors as I don’t have much in common with them.  I don’t have much in common with most people anymore it seems like.  I’m not interested in politics or local gossip.  I guess I never have been.  And I certainly can’t understand why some people repeat the same mistakes over and over and expect different results.  Maybe it’s from not knowing yourself.  Some people get worried that social media and search engine algorithms know us better than we know ourselves. With as little as some people take time to examine themselves, I’m not surprised.

I do enjoy socializing but only in certain situations that rarely come up for me.  I would rather spend my days alone than deal with rude and ignorant people.  Sadly, rudeness and ignorance seems to be valued by many people.  I would rather not deal with that.  I have enough problems of my own with mental illness.  I can talk for hours about things like history, art, science, literature, philosophy, etc.  But if the conversation turns to gossip, complaints, politics, I’m ready to end the conversation after only a few minutes.

I’m fortunate that I have several friends and family members who will at least tolerate my quirks and fulfill my needs for the types of conversation I crave.  I love intellectual stimulation.  I crave it maybe as much as a drug addict craves his next fix.  I admit learning and reading are my fix.  I can spend months on end researching topics online and in books, sometimes even years.  I have spent several years now on science and tech.  Before that, I spent a few years on economics.  For awhile I dabbled in philosophy.  And I’ve always been interested in history and literature.  I enjoy learning and I enjoy talking about things I learn in my day to day studies.

Since I no longer have a “regular job” and can live decently on my disability pension, I have no reason not to scratch my itch for mental stimulation.  I make it my job to inform myself on things that my friends with families and careers may not have time to research.  Sometimes I am frustrated at most of my friends and family don’t research things like I do.  I imagine that is the illness talking.  As I don’t have traditional employment or children or a wife, and I love learning new things, I have no excuse not to inform myself on topics like tech advances and current events.

I have said previously I am not interested in politics.  What I should have said is I don’t appreciate the fighting that goes along with it.   I do find foreign policy and geopolitics fascinating.  Between modern geopolitics, the rapid advances in science and tech we are now experiencing, and the fact I can learn this with a portable computer and cheap wireless internet that is fast enough I can get videos, this is exciting times for myself.  It seems like much of what was science fiction as recently as thirty years ago is becoming reality now.  And the fact I can relatively easily access psych treatments that weren’t available when I was a child in the 1980s, I can watch this unfold in the news sites and blogs and youtube in real time.  I would say we are living one of the greatest dramas ever written right now, expect this is real life.  I find it all fascinating that things I couldn’t have imagined even twenty years ago are now occurring.  Exciting times we are living in, granted quite stressful at times too.  Stay tuned, it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.