Nostalgia: It Ain’t What It Used To Be

Been spending most of my time alone the last several days.  And I’m actually quite happy with this arrangement.  And why not?  Most of my friends are going through the mid life crisis deals as my friends are in the mid thirties to early forties range.  I have a college friend who was diagnosed with cancer several months ago who’s only a year or two older than I am.  Most of my friends are struggling with debts and dead end careers, so they are constantly on edge about money.  I’ve had friends suffer through divorces.  I have a cousin whose son was diagnosed on the autism scale last year.  My best friend from my teenage years lost her mother to cancer two years ago.  Even in myself I don’t have as much get up and go as I did even three years ago.  But I am in my late 30s.  I’ll be 40 next summer yet I don’t dread it.  I don’t dread aging as much as most of my friends.  Most people think I’m weird  or lying when I say I actually look forward to being a wise elder.  I’m not lying or weird.  I’m just ahead of the curve and no longer fearing the inevitable.

I admit I don’t have much nostalgia.  I don’t long for the “good ol’ days” because, well, the good old days kinda sucked in many ways.  When exactly were the good old days?  Was it back in the 1990s when President Clinton was screwing his interns, computers occupied entire desks instead of fitting in shirt pockets, and the music of Tupac and Marilyn Manson were going to be the death of Western Civilization?  Was it back in the 1950s when using the n word was okay but Lucille Ball couldn’t say pregnant on network television and the threat of nuclear war was real?  “Better dead than red” people said back in those days.  And people were worried about the corrupting influence of rock and roll music.  Or was it in the Old West when boom towns like Dodge City and Tombstone were far more violent and lawless than any modern slum, women couldn’t vote, and bounty hunters got paid for Native American scalps?  Or was it in the Stone Age when everyone ate fresh and natural food, drank clean water, breathed unpolluted air, had no laws, no villages, half of children died before adulthood, and writing didn’t exist.  Even the 2010s will be considered the good old days in twenty years by nostalgic fools.  Nostalgia is a desert mirage.  It is imagined.  It isn’t real.  I haven’t fallen victim to nostalgia even though I’m on the door step of 40.  Hopefully I never fall victim to nostalgia.

I definitely never want to be one of these bitter and angry old men who complain about the kids.  Let’s get some thing real clear: every generation of “lousy kids” was supposed to be the death of civilization.  And it never happened.  If anything, most generations built upon what previous generations did and left science and humanitarian efforts further along than when they started.  I have zero patience for people who complain about young people.  Elders were complaining about how stupid and incompetent my classmates and myself were even when were in grade school in the 1980s.  I have never forgotten how hurtful and unfair that was.  I never will.  And for that reason I will never pull that kind of crap on people younger than me.  And it burns me to see people my age complaining about the kids coming up now.  The kids are not more unruly or weaker now than in the past.  The only thing kids have ever been guilty of is making old codgers realize that they will someday become irrelevant, they will someday die, and they will someday be forgotten.  Kids make old people uncomfortable because kids make elders confront their own hypocrisy, stupidity, and that they were too scared or lazy to try to chase their dreams.

I’m now seeing many of my cohorts becoming bitter and resentful about the bad decisions they made in their teens and twenties.  You should have left that dead end job and started your own business or moved to a different city.  Yeah, you should have majored in STEM or went to trade school instead of majoring in humanities or general business.  Maybe  you should have paid off your credit cards before they become unmanageable.  You shouldn’t have spent your teens and twenties partying, drugging, and having sex like there would be no price to pay.  You shouldn’t have put up with abusive boyfriends or manipulative girlfriends.  You should have called your mom more often.  Yeah, you shouldn’t have cut ties with your siblings.  You should have road tripped and traveled to foreign countries while you still had good health.  You should have gone to seen your favorite musician the night they performed in your hometown.  You shouldn’t have ignored that geeky girl or boy in your high school history class in favor of the school bully or queen bee.  I could go on.  But there are no do overs.  Learn and move on.  Quit romanticizing a past that never existed.  Learn from your bad decisions and be glad for the good decisions you did make.

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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.

 

Random Thought on an idle Friday afternoon

With it being a Friday, I am reminded of posts by friends of how much they love weekends and how much they hate their jobs. Maybe I got lucky by having a severe mental illness and being on disability. Perhaps I did, especially with how much I read about how people hate their jobs and their spouses. I also probably got lucky in that becoming disabled made me not marriage material. Yet, as it were, losing everything civilization told me to value made me fearless and optimistic. Once you lose everything, you are free to do anything it seems.

History of Humanity in Less than 100 words

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.

The Way A Different Mind Works

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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.

Optimism for The Future in the Face of Constant Pessimism

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I haven’t posted regularly on my facebook or twitter accounts since September.  I just got tired of all the fighting and negativity.  But the thing that bothers me the most about social media is how much of what I try to communicate gets lost in just text.  Most times I don’t wish to come across as snarky or combative, but that’s how so many people interpret what I write.  Maybe facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. wouldn’t be so negative if people had to post video and audio rather than just text.  Put a voice and face to the comments and let the world know they aren’t talking to a machine or subhuman entity.

I gave up on using social media for anything than shamelessly promoting my blog three months ago when I came to the painful conclusion that most people were never going to share my optimism or joyful outlook.  And the weird thing is I am more optimistic than ever even though I almost never convince anyone of reasons to be optimistic.  I am definitely not an optimist by nature or upbringing.  I almost never heard anything positive about the world or the future from my parents, teachers, bosses, or elders while growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  For quite sometime I was wondering why if most people were so pessimist about the future, then why were they having kids.  I could never figure those kinds of contradictions out.  I know very few people even in December 2017 who don’t have kids because they are worried about the kind of future these kids would have.  Most people that don’t have kids that I know can’t biologically have kids.

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Like I said, I am not an optimist by nature.  I had to make myself into one.  And I did it with little help from mass media, popular culture, or my elders.  Most of what I learned about what was going right in modern civilization I had to actively seek out through secondary sources and rigorous research.  I learned more science, technology, psychology, history, philosophy, literature, and economics on my own with an internet connection and five years of daily youtube viewing than I ever thought possible after spending eighteen years in traditional education.  Then again, it should be noted that is simply impossible for any kind of formal education system to teach everything a person needs to know for living just within the system itself.  With life expectancies going into the eighties in some countries (and even the sixties in some of the poorer developing nations), it is simply impossible to be able to say “You know what you need to know for the next fifty to sixty years once you’re turned out into the world at age eighteen.”  No, the best thing an education system can do in this day and age of long life span and ever changing tech and social norms is to foster the never stop learning attitudes and mentalities.

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In the mid to late 2000s when I was struggling to adapt to my mental illness and working low wage remedial jobs I could have done as a high school dropout, I was quite angry about my time in formal education.  For several years I was convinced that doing well in high school and college was wasted effort if all I was going to do with my life was push a mop in a courthouse or sell carpet for a billion dollar company.  After a few more years of maturity and seasoning, I found out to my pleasant surprise that my years of working hard in school and loving learning weren’t misspent.  The biggest thing my years in formal education did was awaken in me a love for learning and a desire to continue doing so.

Sadly, many people don’t have a love for learning.  Tragically most of those people are going to get left behind in the waves of science, technology, geopolitical, and social changes that have only recently begun to gain momentum.  The old ideas of graduating high school at age eighteen, getting a union membership, getting a job in a factory, getting married at age twenty two to someone from your hometown or college, etc. aren’t feasible anymore.  And sadly, many people can’t or won’t adapt.  But we’ve had changes in the past eras.  I imagine many people didn’t adapt during the Renaissance or Industrial revolutions and got painfully displaced.  Same things are happening now as we move to a more connected, digitalized, fast paced, and informed world.  National borders don’t mean as much now as they did even when I was a child back in the 1980s.

Sure it’s a chaotic time for many people, especially for people and institutions that aren’t adapting to the new realities.  Politicians in my home nation are talking about building walls to keep out illegal immigrants and refugees and bringing back traditional manufacturing jobs to this country.  To which I reply “planes can fly over walls” and “3D printing”.  Sadly, many people want to deny such changes are already here and will resist to the point of being left so far behind they’ll never catch up.  I see it every day just in my own community and circles of friends and family.  I decided that I was going to adapt and welcome the changes regardless of what my friends, family, and neighbors were going to do.  Some cool things are happening and I don’t want to get left behind or wallow in fear and anxiety for the rest of my life.  I deal with fear and anxiety enough in my own mental illness.  I won’t allow external forces to add to these.

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Seasonal Aspects of Mental Illness and My Working History With Mental Illness

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I’m adjusting nicely to the summer.  Traditionally summers have been my roughest times of year.  I would usually be more paranoid and irritable than usual this time of year.  I could usually count on at least one psychotic breakdown every summer, usually in late August or early September.  Both times I went to the mental hospital were in early September.  So there is a seasonal aspect to my schizophrenia.  Having dealt with this illness for close to twenty years I have figured out that there are times of year that are worse than others.  July and August are always tough.  The holidays season can be tough unless I avoid crowds and lots of stimulation.  Winters and springs are always pleasant and productive times for me.  I do a great deal of writing and reading in the winters and springs.  Spring has always been a favorite time of year for me.

But this summer so far I’m doing well.  I think it helps that I usually spend a lot of time out of the heat and avoid stressful situations and people.  Granted this means a pretty lonely stretch of the year where I don’t socialize much in person.  Yet, I still keep in contact with family and friends via phone calls and internet.  Facebook is a large means of promotion for this blog.

As it is, I don’t have a regular job.  Haven’t for five years.  Before I decided to devote myself to this blog and being an advocate for the mentally ill who couldn’t speak for themselves, I worked a variety of jobs.  Over the years I have worked as a salesman, a teachers’ aide at a small university, a factory worker, a janitor, a loading dock employee, a fast food cook, a waiter, and a tutor.  Even though this blog doesn’t even break even, I consider it the most rewarding job I ever had.  I have gotten many dozens of comments that have stated that I am helping them or helping them understand loved ones with mental illness problems.  I have been doing this blog for over four years, which is as long as I held my longest job.  Used to be I’d get serious anxiety attacks before I went to work and even while I was at work.  Many of these would be bad enough that I would vomit before I went into work.  After years of fighting these anxiety issues, I decided that working a traditional job wasn’t in my future.  I thought I needed to change course because I was making myself miserable over minimum wage jobs and dealing with rude and unreasonable people.  I have a few horror stories from my time working in retail and fast food.  I’m sure most working in these industries have far more.  As it was, I came to the conclusion that regular work wasn’t worth it anymore.  It it wasn’t for Disability Insurance, I would either be homeless, in prison, or dead.  So it bothers me anytime someone talks about wanting to eliminate these programs.  What kind of “advanced” civilization doesn’t care about the weakest and most vulnerable among their citizens?

I did not end up on disability by my own doing or choice.  I originally went to college with the idea of going to medical school and becoming a medical research scientist.  But my problems with mental illness got so severe in college that I had to change paths and even take a semester long break.  I finally graduated with a business degree.  The reason I chose business was that I wanted to be employable as soon as I left college.  Even though I love writing and reading, I had heard horror stories about liberal arts majors working minimum wage jobs because they couldn’t find work in their fields.

It turned out that I’m grateful I didn’t succeed in sales or find a banking job like I thought I would after graduation.  I know now that I would be miserable wearing a suit and dealing with people day after day.  At least with a blog I don’t even have to leave my living room.  No shirt, no shoes, no problems I suppose in my chosen field.

In closing I’m doing well despite it being a traditionally rough time of year for me.  I think the medications changes I undertook a few weeks ago are working.  And after twenty years of mental illness, I have figured out that there are some things that can make even tough situations much more bearable.