Worries About My Friends and Our Near Term Future

I worry sometimes.  Namely I worry about my friends and people younger than I am in general.  I worry about most of my friends struggling in life.  Most of my friends are buried in debts, mostly student loans, that they will be lucky if they ever pay off.  And most of my friends weren’t that dumb with their money or life decisions.  Most of my friends went to college because 1) we were told that was a path to a decent career and 2) we looked around and saw that there were no jobs that paid decently requiring only a high school degree.  Long gone are the days when someone could get a job as a factory hand or farm worker in their early twenties and hold onto that job for over forty years and retire with a paid off home, pension, and health insurance.

I’m seeing my friends struggle in their day to day lives.  Most are working a full time job and a part time job or a side gig.  Almost none of them own houses.  The only one of my close friends who owns a house is a high school teacher in a small town.  And he didn’t buy his house until he was in his late 30s.  They don’t own houses simply because they can’t afford a house and student debts.  I also have friends who have had medical emergencies.  One friend had to file for bankruptcy for medical bills.  One friend is fighting cancer, divorced, lost her children, and is still on the waiting list for disability.  Another friend of mine got a master’s degree only to find the best job she could get in a mid sized city doesn’t pay even 40 grand a year.  Her husband also works a low paying job and moonlights as an Uber driver.  He too has lots of student debt.

Now I know some unsympathetic people will be thinking, “well, that’s what they get for not majoring in STEM or going to the military.”  Well, one of my brother’s best friends pulled straight 4.0 all the way through high school and college and still got rejected for a state medical school at least three times before he was accepted.  As far as I know, he now has a decent career working in a medical lab.  Another of my brother’s friends didn’t finish medical school and residencies until he was in his thirties because of finances and run around from the schools.  Now he works as an emergency search and rescue doctor.  One of my cousins went to trade school for two years to become an electrician.  He worked for a couple railroads, got married, has four kids, and owns a small acreage in rural Nebraska.  But, he is now essentially self employed due to the inconsistent nature of railroad employment and his wife has had medical problems to where I think she had to give up her job as a nurse’s aide.  Another cousin works in web development.  Even though he has had to work for several different firms and sometimes take free lance work, he is doing alright because he has skills that are in demand.  At least for the time being.

Can we really expect most people to become doctors, nurses, webpage designers, computer coders, engineers, tradesmen, etc?  Yet that is all I hear out of “experts” and “business leaders.”  While I think it admirable that people like Mike Rowe want to encourage more people to consider the trades like plumbing, electrician, welding, carpentry, etc, I fear that too much emphasis on the trades will eventually lead the same problem that people who majored in business, law, humanities, liberal arts, etc. are facing now.  Twenty years ago, we were told to go to college and get a degree.  Many of us did only to find that every kid in the developed world was given that advice.  Now the degree doesn’t go nearly as far as it did even forty years ago, primarily because of so many people having degrees.  Then the kids were told “get a masters” or “do unpaid internships”.  Many did only to find that they had six figures in student loans to qualify for jobs that will never pay enough to pay off the loans, let alone pay off a house or even start a family in some cases.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if young people or my friends are angry about this setup.  Because while some jobs have been outsourced to cheaper places, many more were taken over by automation.  I have a friend who works in a call center for a bank.  I fear it’s only a matter of time before his job gets automated.  And, of course, no one in power cares about the twenty and thirty somethings struggling.  They didn’t even care about the  forty something auto or steel workers who lost their jobs to machines and outsourcing.

And it’s no longer just the US or Europe that is outsourcing and automating jobs.  Even China is automating and outsourcing.  Just a few weeks ago I bought some shirts online that were made in a small African country I had to look up on a map.  The US and Europe are just further along in this transition to a highly automated economy.

And of course, the US doesn’t have very good social safety nets or any empathy for those who lost their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet.  My elders like to brag about how well America is doing, how well we take care of our own, and how we are a great Christian nation.  If we cared about our own, than we wouldn’t be having an opioid crisis, mass shootings every day, increasing rates of mental illness, increased suicide rates (especially among middle aged men), and protests in every major city on a daily basis.  For our boasting about being such a Christian nation, we certainly don’t care about those who are misfortunate and had a rough go. Such hypocrisy.

I have no idea how many times I was told “get a job you bum”, “man up”, or “McDonalds and Wal Mart are hiring”.  I, and millions of people in my age bracket and lower did everything we were told.  We still struggle.  And we don’t have any empathy from anyone, not our rulers, not our businesses, not our parents, not our schools, not our churches, and not even from each other.

Unionizing is not an option like it was a hundred years ago because most jobs can or will be outsourced or taken over by machines.  Sure we are on the road to an automated economy where most of the grunt work is done by machines and computers.  But, what is the point if 1) we don’t ditch this idea that everyone has to be defined by what they do for money, 2) most people can’t afford anything beyond the basics because most jobs are done by machines, 3) we have few social safety nets to make up for the fact that most people aren’t able to work in fields that can’t be easily automated.

We may need some things like universal health care, universal basic income, free continuing education, complete overhauls of tax systems, and a general overall shift in public attitudes towards work and compassion for others.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not in the US.  I don’t think it will happen in the US in my lifetime simply because most of my countrymen don’t have empathy. Our leaders certainly don’t.

I do believe if our species can survive this transition, which is probably the greatest transition since people settled down and started farming instead of hunting, fishing, and gathering thousands of years ago, our descendants can have a really cool future where creativity and science can bloom.  But, I fear the transition will be a lot tougher than it has to be simply because of many people’s attitudes towards work and their fellow man.  I fear we will lose a few generations and much of their gifts in this transition.  But I guess we as a species lost short term to ultimately be better off when the Industrial Revolution began back in the late 1700s.  I do have great hope for the long term outlook for civilization and our species, but I fear it will be brutal getting there.  And the fact that I won’t live long enough to see the fruits of the seeds being planted today fills me with great sadness.

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Paranoia Returning

I haven’t been doing as well the last few days as I have been in previous months.  I’m feeling excessively paranoid and just wanting to be alone all the time anymore.  I don’t even enjoy talking on the phone.  Other than a couple friends and a couple futurist groups, I have given up on socializing on facebook.  Just seems to me that everyone wants to be irritable and riled up all the time anymore.  And it makes me sick.  Makes me wonder why bother being an optimist or trying to stay in a good mood.  Everyone else it seems is in always in a lousy and angry mood, why should I be any different?  I just don’t see any happiness or genuine joy in the world anymore.  I’m just scared all the time anymore.  I’m scared of my neighbors, I’m scared of my landlords, I’m scared of my family, and I’m scared of even friends and acquiantances anymore.  It’s like empathy doesn’t exist anymore.  I just want to stay home and sleep all the time anymore.  And even in my dreams I am tormented.  But at least my dreams aren’t real.  My paranoias might not be reality either, but they just as well be as that is how powerful the human mind is.  I’m just too tired and burned out to stay angry all the time anymore.  That anger has given way to genuine fear and anxiety.  I am tired of being full of fear all the time.  I used to believe the future would be really cool if we could get past our short term issues.  I no longer believe that.  I think the dystopians were right and the future will be worse than even now.  I’ve observed people in my own life since I was a child and rarely do people change for the better over the years.  Most actually get more angry, greedy, irritable, and hateful as they age.  At least, that’s the impression that I have gotten over the years.  I’m tired of always being sad and depressed.  I’m tired of seeing nothing but hate and anger in everyone I meet anymore.  People like that just as well be back in the Stone Age.  And maybe that’s where we are heading.  I hope not.  I guess I’m writing just to get things I’ve kept bottled up for weeks now.  I’m scared if I had the traditional psych breakdown where I vent for a couple hours that I’ll get the cops called on me and I will definately then be evicted.  I’ve always had the fear of being evicted from my apartment too.  Had that for years.  I doubt it would be any better if I owned my own property.  I’m just paranoid to a disabling degree.  But such is the nature of schizophrenia.  And I still have no understanding of people who don’t believe that mental illness exists.  But some people are just ignorant and lack any kind of empathy.  If you have no empathy, than I won’t deal with you.  The world needs empathy, compassion, and a willingness to forgive and let a few things slide more than ever.  And I just don’t see this happening, at least not where I live.

September 23, 2017

After several rougher than usual days, I’m starting back on the mend.  Feeling depressed, anxious, and paranoid really drains me.  I still don’t socialize much other than phone calls and blogging.  I have recently gone entire days without leaving my apartment.  And it saddens me.  I am afraid to travel, so I don’t get to see many friends or family.  I don’t even like driving across town to buy groceries and house supplies anymore.  I’m just so afraid and paranoid much of the time anymore.

Maybe the problems I traditionally have in late summer finally caught up to me.  I just usually want to just curl up under a heavy blanket and try to sleep much of the time.  It’s usually hunger that causes me to get out of bed.

In spite my recent issues I attempt to stay optimistic.  Granted I haven’t been real successful at this lately.  I attempt to avoid angry and irritable people as much as possible.  It would be better for me and everyone involved if I just wasn’t as sensitive to these kinds of things as I am.  Yet, for better and worse, it is how I am wired mentally.  Losing my sensitivity, compassion, and empathy would involve destroying who I am mentally.  It would mean being someone I have never been.  I just can’t do it.  I now understand why I never succeeded in a workplace environment.  I just have too much compassion and empathy.

Relapse and Feeling Vulnerable

Been having some truly down days for the last week.  Finally had a breakdown a couple days ago.  I hate those.  Seems to be the only way out of those is to just rant and rave to an empathetic person, namely my parents.  I am thankful I didn’t have said breakdown in public, otherwise I’d be in jail or dead.  It saddens me to read stories like the one about the kid at Georgia Tech getting killed by police while undergoing a breakdown. Now I know most people don’t care about the mentally ill, I get that.  It’s tough to relate to problems you can’t see or imagine.  But it does scare me that this kid could have been me if past situations were a little different.  Now I don’t hate police officers, I have a couple in my extended family.  I know they have a difficult and thankless job.  But I just fear them.  I fear people with power.  I’ve seen people with power abuse it too many times.  Makes me fear that power is supposed to be abused and that normal people respect those that abuse power more than those that don’t abuse their power.

I guess that I am still depressed and fearful.  I know it’s not manly to feel fear and depression.  It’s seems like it’s not manly to feel anything at all.  My breakdown wasn’t helped any that I finally had to deal with internet trolls on my blog’s Facebook page.  I didn’t write back to them, I just blocked them.  Seems to be the only real effective way to deal with fools and bullies online.  Seems to me that Facebook brings out the worst in people.  As much as I love science and tech, I truly fear for our species when mind reading tech is perfected.  I fear this far more than I do AI our automation taking millions of jobs.  Maybe we won’t solve our current problems.  I just fear what the average person is capable of anymore.

Reflecting on the Past before My Birthday

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On June 14th, I’ll be celebrating another birthday.  I’m getting to the point where I’m almost halfway done with my life, considering normal lifetime expectancy.  I’ve also lived over half of my life with schizophrenia at this point.  The biggest thing I have figured out over these 35 years of living as a human is that the only true certainties in life are change and unfairness.  We can make all the plans we want for our lives, but nothing goes exactly to plan. There will always be snags, problems, opportunities missed (and taken), and changes in direction.

When I was 16, I had the next 30 to 40 years of my life planned already.  I was going to graduate from high school, then college, then medical school, then go on into medical research, get married, have a couple kids, own a house in the suburbs of a large city outside of Nebraska, make well over six figures, and help develop something that would benefit humanity through my research.  Besides graduating from high school and college, none of that happened.  For years I was brutal on myself thinking “It’ll all fall into place when you get your big break” or “People less intelligent and less ethical than you are having good careers, why can’t you get things together”.  I spent my twenties after college going from one remedial job after another, finding out the hard way that my ability to handle stress and interpret social cues and understand social norms were all severely damaged by schizophrenia.

For those years of struggle, I thought I was a failure and not trying hard enough.  I would get panic attacks and bouts of nausea before I had to go to work every morning.  It got so bad I had my stomach scoped to see if I didn’t have some underlying gastro intestinal problems.  I didn’t.  I also had to spend years listening to the whole “all your problems are in your head” nonsense.  Everything we experience is merely electrical signals interpreted by our brains, so no kidding it’s in my head.  It’s in all of our heads.  Telling someone with a mental illness it’s in their heads is cruel and does nothing for them.

I was also told the whole “have faith and it’ll help you” nonsense.  I won’t even address that subject except to state I had more faith than everyone I knew until my early twenties and I still developed a mental illness that destroyed my productive ability.  I still get these feel good memes that oversimplify while not addressing root issues.  I even had someone I thought was a friend tell me, to the effect, I wasn’t a real man because I didn’t have a job or a family.  I still deal with ignorance and cruelty after eighteen years of mental health problems.  Granted it doesn’t ware on me or anger me as much as it did ten years ago, but it still hurts.

Seen and experienced lousy things, horrible hallucinations, and harbored horribly violent thoughts in eighteen years with schizophrenia.  But I did learn to not discount kindness and empathy when it does come.  I also learned the value of real, genuine friends, something that not many people have at all in their circles of friends.  Hopefully the struggles, disappointments, and good friends of the first 35 years will prepare me well for the next 35.