Stop Telling Me How Lucky I Am

Kind of burned out on people lately, including friends and family.  But the strange thing is I’m also burned out on loneliness too.  Spent more or less months trying to avoid angry, rude, and irritable people.  And when I do make an effort to socialize, most people just want to complain and moan.  Being that I am actually making an effort to find out what is going right in my life and the world in general, this doesn’t give me much to talk about with even close friends.  And lately it seems EVERYONE has been having bouts of anger and depression.  Even my close friends are so negative it just sucks the life out of me.  My moments when I’m the most happy is when I’m isolated and just not hearing from anyone.  It’s been this way for a long time.

I don’t know what happened to people, at least my friends.  It seems like everyone just got irritable and angry all at the same time.  And it doesn’t matter what my friends’ circumstances, married friends are angry, divorced friends are angry, elderly friends are angry, family members are angry, etc.  About the only halfway content people I talk to are single facebook friends and my own mother.  Seriously,, what is bothering everyone?  I really truly want to know.  What is it?  And oddly, when I have bouts of irritability and depression, my friends and family get scared senseless thinking I’m about to have a psychotic breakdown.

I never understood why I, with a mental illness, am held to higher standards than everyone else.  If I get angry, I’m having a breakdown and not just a lousy day.  If I’m overly happy, it’s a mental quirk and not just a winning streak.  If I want to be alone, I’m being anti social and not just needing to recharge.  And my personal biggest pet peeve by far, since I don’t have to work being on disability pension and I have a supportive family, then I am freaking lucky.  Seriously?  I mean, seriously?  I lost almost everything and people tell me I am lucky.  What gives people?  I lost my chance at a career before I could even begin fulfilling my potential, I lost my shot at getting married, I lost my shot at having children, I lost any shot at any kind of prestige, I lost my honor, I lost most of my friends, I have a college degree I will never use in any kind of job or anything else, I have a phobia of leaving my apartment complex, I lost my ability to read people, I lost my ability to trust people, I often have flashbacks to bad experiences in my past, I’ll be in poverty for the rest of my life, I lost my physical health because of my mental illness, and I’m probably going to die younger than most of my friends, peers, and family.  Tell me exactly where the lucky part comes?  I seriously want to hear it.

I’m told I’m lucky because I get several hundred dollars a month from the government because I can’t work.  Yet, in the next breath I’m told I’m unmanly, a freeloader, and a drain on humanity because I receive disability.  Which is it?  As far as everyone who is defined by their job and takes pride in how much their work sucks, millions of jobs will be taken over by machines within the next fifteen years.  We are set up to see more science, tech, and social change in the 2020s than we saw in the previous forty years.  If I wasn’t so worried about social problems and potential civil war in my country, I would actually hope and pray that people who tell homeless and disabled people “get a job you bums” end up losing their jobs and everything they worked for.  People like that don’t have empathy or compassion.  And getting kicked in the gut by forces beyond their control is the only way stubborn fools like this are going to learn.  You too may find out you are more subject to the whims of chance than you could have ever imagined.  I certainly had to.

The worst part of being told how lucky I am is when my friends tell me this.  I’m lucky because I’m not divorced or have kids I can’t afford.  No, I was smart in not marrying someone I wasn’t compatible with because I wanted to look good to self righteous jerks who don’t have to live with my decisions.  I was smart in not having promiscuous and unprotected sex that resulted in years of child support payments for kids I rarely get to see.  I was smart for ending dead end relationships and not chasing women I had nothing in common with just because they were attractive.  I was smart to not take on student loans once my scholarships fell through.  Yet people tell me I’m lucky because I don’t have a small fortune in student loans.  People tell me I’m lucky my parents helped me out in college.  Yet, these same people won’t acknowledge how hard I worked in high school and college to get the grades I did (not like they care anyway).  No one knows how many weekends I spent at home doing homework and getting ahead in my classes, while many of my classmates, peers, and rivals were spending their weekends getting drunk, getting stoned, getting laid, and generally partying themselves senseless.  Spent most of my weekends doing homework and trying to make myself a better human being in my teenage years.  The only break from that routine was spending a few hours in church every Sunday.  I didn’t get to enjoy my teenage years as much as most people, but I also didn’t make many of the bad decisions either.  And for this I’m passed off as being lucky.  What my friends call being lucky I choose to call being smart.

And I especially love how people tell me I’m lucky my parents helped me with college.  Sure, my parents made decent money.  But they made that money because they were smart, worked their hands and minds to the bone, didn’t have any kind of social life during their working years outside of church, etc.  And we are condemned as lucky.  No, what most fools call being lucky is really more accurately called not being stupid.  My family knew many years ago the days of massive amounts of high paying blue collar jobs requiring only a high school degree were going to end, as they did.  My father knew even in grade school there was no future in the share cropping my grandfather did.  Even my grandfather, who never even went to high school knew this clear back in the 1950s.  Some may think my grandfather a hypocrite in pushing my father and his sisters so hard in school when he himself never went to high school.  No, grandfather was being smart and didn’t want my father or my aunts to fall into the same trap he did.  He wanted a better life for his kids.  Most parents used to not only want this but actually try to make this happen.  In my family it was enough to push my family from generations of dirt farmers and shop keepers most my family was to the medical professions of my parents to the engineering professions of my brother and his wife in only a few generations.  It was enough to ground me and make me smart enough to manage a serious mental illness and look almost normal to anyone who doesn’t really know me.  So, tell me I’m lucky if you wish.  But you will never know how smart and hard I and generations of my family had to work for you to damn me as “lucky.”

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

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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.

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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.