On Minimalism or Why I’m Not Pessimist Even Though I Don’t Have Money or Job Security

one-69528_640

I have never learned the fine art of being able to let go and no longer care.  Maybe that is another trait neurotypical people are born with that we the mentally ill aren’t. Even though one of my favorite comedians was George Carlin, I have never been able to bring myself to the nihilist thinking of if the world is going to fall apart then I’m going to enjoy the ride down.  I think I’m more of an idealist in that I know we as a species have problems, issues, and baggage but we can compensate for said hangups and move onto something better.  I guess I never quit dreaming and seeing what we can as a species accomplish.  I missed the memo that said I had to be a pessimist and a grump once I became a man.

The scientists, engineers, doctors, and humanitarians of the world have done some really amazing things just since I was old enough to start paying attention twenty five years ago.  And twenty five years is just a blip on the radar of human history.  I would have been life time hospitalized in 1966.  I wouldn’t be blogging in 1986 with the audience I now have (I appreciate all my visitors).  I wouldn’t be able to keep in contact with my college friends in 1996 nearly as easily as I do now.  My father always told me one of his greatest regrets was not keeping in contact with his college and Air Force friends more and taking more photos when he was in school and overseas.  With Facebook I hear from people I was just casual friends with on an almost weekly basis.  I have even had good conversations with people I have never met in person.  But because we have similar interests we can connect quite easily.  With my cell phone I can cheaply talk to friends and family at all hours or call for emergency help.  In the late 1980s about the only people who had cell phones were Wall Street tycoons.  And as good as my $99 Wal Mart cell phone is, I don’t even really need it as much as I used to.  Anymore I can most of my banking, order books through Amazon, order clothing (I have an odd size so I have to special order sometimes), and even get pizza and deli delivery via the internet.  If I were so inclined to get back into the dating game, I’d just go to any one of a number of internet dating sites and let their algorithms match me to a woman with similar interests.  None of this was possible when I was growing up.  It is an excellent time to be alive.

For years I have heard that my generation of Americans was going to be the first that was worse off than their parents.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re worse off only in certain areas.  Sure GenXers and Millenials have higher levels of student loans and more job insecurity than did the Boomers and World War 2 generations.  But what money we do have can go much further than in the past.  You really think Andy Griffith could have accessed an entire encyclopedia of knowledge on his rotary phone in the 1960s?  You think that Archie Bunker would have as good of a chance to survive cancer in the 1970s?  Sure many of the high paying manufacturing jobs have left Europe and North America, but blame technology and automation as much as China or trade deals.  Just Google the monetary worth of manufactured goods in the U.S. or E.U. and compare it to before the beginning of automation.  It’s probably higher now though done with fewer laborers.  Yes you may be discontent with your job as a convince store clerk or a fryer cook at KFC, but with as cheap as many things are getting now, you may not need the $40,000 a year job right out of college to have an alright life.

i_love_being_an_adult_gel_mouse_pad-rdf5772e3730c4232bec1f092b56c2455_amb63_8byvr_324

I make less than $15,000  per year from all sources.  But I still have two computers, an automobile, a cell phone, a good wireless internet connection, no debts, and I’m not going hungry.  Yet according to the U.S. government statistics I am living in poverty.  But I have pretty much everything I want and definitely everything I need.  I don’t need the four bedroom house with the picket fence (especially not when I have pay home owners’ association fees, property taxes, shovel snow, and fix my own plumbing when the pipes break at 3 am on Sunday morning).  I think the ideas of having a large house in a good neighborhood, a mini van and an SUV, lots of trinkets to impress people I don’t care about, a stressful job that could be automated or outsourced at a moment’s notice, a marriage that is always strained because of not enough time with the wife and kids, are overrated.  I never got the memo that said I had to have all of that to be happy and content.  I don’t have any of those “hallmarks of success” and yet I don’t feel like less of a man because of it.  Some people may think less of me because I don’t have a lot of money, a prestigious job, a trophy wife, children, a big house, or a SUV.  But that is their hangup and a reflection on them, not me.

Sure I make less money than my parents did (and many of my friends can claim the same thing).  But we definitely have more flexibility, more adaptability, more connectivity, better access to knowledge and information, and less of our budgets are going to basics like food and rent.  Even with as little as I make only half of my money goes to food and rent.  And I don’t even get food stamps.  Take heart GenXers and Millenials, even though you may never have the job stability or the money your parents and grandparents had, you definitely have more freedom and flexibility because you are not as tied to one area.  And you GenXers and Millenials will find out that once you get your debts completely knocked out (which will take time and discipline), you will find you can live on much less than you thought and you suddenly have lots of options.  My parents are tied to their small farming village because they would have to sell their house, their acreage, their cars, and most of the trinkets they acquired over the years of being tied down.  Me, besides my bed, my dresser, my book shelf, and my two couches, I can throw everything I own in my car and be moved within a few hours if need be.  And being able to do so much more online now, I can easily transfer to a new bank, new insurance company, and find pretty much whatever I need wherever I wind up.  I wouldn’t give up my freedom and flexability so I could be tied down just because I have a house and some money.  Freedom and flexability are currency in the information age.  I wouldn’t want to live in the past.  I would go nuts from the lack of freedom and lack of options.

 

Advertisements

Socializing One on One (We Are Not That Different)

 

I have been trying to figure out normal people for most of my life.  I have tried to find a basic statement to make sense of my fellow man, much like Einstein’s theory of relativity or the equation Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration.  The only real conclusion I have come to can be summed by Tommy Lee Jones in the first Men In Black movie when he said, “The individual is smart, but people as a group are stupid, panicky animals.”  Ever since I was a young child I have found taking my fellow humans one on one much easier and enriching than dealing with crowds, groups, or cliques.  I have always gotten along with most of my school mates and elders when working with them one on one.  Not so much when they were in large groups.  People have always seemed more civil and easy going if I could talk to them one on one or even in small groups. Sadly we seldom ever get to talk with our neighbors, extended family members, coworkers much on a one to one basis.  There are times I’ve had more in depth conversations with people from different nations over Facebook than with people in my apartment complex.  I like the digitized friends I have in some of my interests pages groups on Facebook more than I do my own neighbors.  But I didn’t have much say in who my neighbors were.

Some of my happiest memories from junior high and early high school came from the weekend ‘lock in’ parties that my school and church participated in.  We’d have movies, snacks, board games, card games, and just stay up all night and chat with the fellow school mates.  I used to get into those extremely in depth conversations with my classmates I may have not had much to do with on a regular basis during the course of a school week. I would talk with people I thought I had nothing in common with until my voice was raspy and my throat hurt. Those times made me realize that everyone else has their own problems, fears, and hangups.  We as students, or the community as a whole, may stick us in groups like jocks, nerds, cowboys, preppies, party animals, thugs, basket cases, beauty queens, conservatives, liberals, artists, rich, poor, etc.  All the window dressing and nonsense aside, people actually have far more in common with each other than we are lead to believe by our culture and leaders. One guy at these lock ins told me that he was under constant pressure from his parents to be a great athlete because his father was a great athlete years before.  Another kid told me that even though she came from a devoutly religious family she had her skepticisms and doubts.  A third kid told me even though he came from a wealthy farming family he had little interest in farming once he was done with high school but would probably do so to please his parents and grandparents. One kid told me he was envious of how smart I was and I told him I was envious of how popular and handsome he was.  Who would have ever guessed?  Another kid I was envious of because he got excellent grades, was handsome, and wasn’t lacking in confidence by any measure (not that I could tell at least) that he was envious of me because of my smarts, my not being afraid to take unpopular stands, and because of my friendship with my female best friend.  One way he put it went something like, “Neither of you has to worry about ever finding dates for the weekend.  You can always ask each other.”  Another guy told me about my female best friend, “You two go together so well you get along better than most married couples.” I may not have had a lack of dates in high school, but they were usually with the same girl and always casual.  I had far more dates in high school than college, but most my dates even in high school came before my mental illness took full effect.  But too much stress is placed of finding love and trying to get laid, especially in high school.  I miss those lock ins and opportunities to get to know my classmates on a less structured and formal basis.  It’s about the only thing I miss about junior high, but I definitely would love opportunities to get to know my neighbors better.  Perhaps we in the modern world suffer from too much structure and formality.  Maybe that is why we are more irritable and short tempered than we should be.