My Journey To Being An Advocate For The Mentally Ill

My birthday is coming up in a few days.  I’ll be 37 years old this year.  That would have made me a senior citizen in the Stone Age.  Of course if I would have developed schizophrenia at most points in human history, it probably would have been a death sentence.  As it is I have found what works and what doesn’t in my life with mental illness.

I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in the autumn of 2000.  I was in the second year of my pre med studies in college.  Even though I had been having problems with depression and anxiety for a few years before, I was still able to do well in school and keep up a strong front.  I still don’t know how I did it.  But in my second year of college, it all collapsed.  I couldn’t handle stress anymore.  I was having constant panic attacks.  I would have breakdowns where I called home and yelled at my parents at least once a week.  Looking back on it, I should have gone to the mental hospital right then and there and not tried to gut out college at the same time.  As it was I withdrew from college at midterm of the spring semester and took a few months to adjust the treatments and pull myself together.  After the disaster that my second year of college was, I knew I’d never get into any med school with my grades.  So I switched over to business because, let’s face it, everything involves money and commerce.  I still thought I could be employable in the right situation after college.

During the last few years of college I became interested in economics and finance.  I applied for several jobs like financial planner, insurance sales, insurance underwriter, loan officer at a few banks, etc.  I took the obsession I previously had with science and was able to transfer it to business and economics.  It paid off to be curious for me.  I graduated in spring 2004 but, like many college seniors, I had several job interviews but no offers when I left school.  I didn’t realize just how common that was until I started talking to people over the internet a few years later.

After a few failed attempts at careers in various fields, (retail sales, academia, manufacturing), I applied for disability insurance.  This was in 2006.  I had just lost my job at the university and been forced to leave the masters’ program.  Here I was on a waiting list for disability, on a waiting list for low income housing, with no job, no confidence, and no money.  If it wasn’t for my parents help for the first half of 2006, I would have never made rent on my apartment.  But that wasn’t all for 2006.  My longtime college girlfriend and I broke up and I failed at a couple minimum wage jobs, one of which was at Goodwill.  If you can’t succeed at Goodwill, then you are really screwed up (or so I thought).  In the late summer I checked myself into the mental health hospital.  Stayed there for a week.  By this time I was at my lowest ebb.  I had no job.  My illness wasn’t allowing me to hold a job.  I had no real income.  I was living off food stamps though no mess ups of my own.  I had no idea when social security was coming through. I was on high risk insurance that was costing my parents a lot of money so I could stay on my meds.  I never could have afforded them on my own.  I came to the conclusion I would never hold a career because of my mental illness.  I came to the second conclusion that I would never marry and have a family because of my mental illness.  I was really sad and depressed during this entire time.  I really thought I’d never be happy or amount to anything ever again.  I’m glad I didn’t cross the line into becoming suicidal at this time.

Those rough years of my mid to late twenties when I came to the conclusions I would never hold meaningful employment or have a family really sucked.  But they were also when I was writing a lot, granted not as focused as I am now.  Before I got serious about my blog I wrote hundreds of poems, largely in the style of Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, and I also did complete rough drafts for two novels.  The novels were nothing really special, just kind of like Jack Kerouac for Millennials.  I was working on notes for a science fiction novel at this time too.  I also read every day to try to help me find a literary voice.  I read dozens of authors, ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Ayn Rand, Chuck Philhanuak to John Grisham, Alexandre Dumas to Mark Twain, Adam Smith to Nietcheze, etc.  I tried to teach myself Spanish at the time as well, but the only Spanish I know is how to ask for directions and order simple meals.  But as my ‘traditional’ side was falling apart, I was finding other ways to find meaning in my life besides work and dating.

I started writing down my thoughts and experiences with mental illness in my late twenties.  I was submitting some of my poems to be published in literary magazines.  I got a few of them published but never made any money.  I eventually wrote a few dozen short essays about life with a mental illness.  I was reading The Federalist Papers at the time and kind of modeled the book of mental health essays on that.  I put the files on a print on demand service.  I sold a few dozen of those books, mostly to friends, family, and interested mental health facilities.  After tasting a little success with those essays, I thought they might make good blog entries.  And my first few blog entries were from that original book.  Since it’s been several years since I updated that book, I probably ought to rewrite it and repost it.  And since I now have a dozens of blog entries on the subject of living with mental illness, I definitely have new material for another edition.

I started blogging through wordpress in 2012 shortly after I left my last ‘traditional’ job.  I didn’t get much for visitors early on because I had no focus for the blog and I wasn’t posting regularly.  In early 2013 I decided to focus the blog specifically on mental illness.  My audiences have grown slowly but steadily over the last few years.  I started a Facebook page to promote the blog.  I also have a patreon account a few months ago and I already have a sponsor through there.  And I’ve also made a little money since I monetized this blog.  I’m not breaking even yet with what I spent on advertising this blog, but it’s getting closer all the time.  I recently broke 14,000 all time visitors from 100 different countries.  And this is with only four years of work, a microscopic advertising budget, a niche topic, and 50 percent of the world’s population still not online.

I’ll be 37 in a few days.  And I already had a larger reach with my writing works than I ever thought possible when I first seriously started writing in 2004.  That’s been only thirteen years.  I think I’m going to keep at this and see what I can develop with this blog and my writings over the next thirteen years.  I say all of this to point out that young people in their late teens and early twenties shouldn’t sell themselves short at all.  At age 23 I would have been content to be a loan officer at a bank or an insurance salesman.  But I know I wouldn’t have been content doing such work.  I wouldn’t be doing what I’m really good at.  And let’s face it, in this day and age a person can make money doing almost anything thanks to the exposure of the internet if they put in the time and lots of effort to get noticed.  I’ve already accomplished more than I thought I could as a writer thanks to the internet, especially when I started out I was just writing poetry out in notebooks.  And now after running this blog for four years and getting some audience and dozens of positive emails, I know I’m only scratching the surface of what can be done.  I never would have thought this possible when I first applied for disability insurance.  Mental illness is one of the few things that is still discriminated against with little to no protest.  I intend to be part of changing that.  I’m not going away.  The mentally ill bloggers and you tubers aren’t going away either.  We will not be silent and suffer needlessly anymore.  Consider this a declaration of war against mental illness stigma.

 

Advertisements

Thoughts on Upcoming Graduations and Future Possibilities

College graduations are this weekend in my home state.  Some days it’s hard to believe that it’s been thirteen years since I finished college.  Other days it seems like it was somebody else’s life.  I am definitely not the same person I was then.  Back then I believed I could still work in spite my mental illness if I found the right situation.  Over the next several years I worked a variety of jobs; retail clerk, sales man, teacher’s aide, factory worker, loading dock worker, cook, dish washer, janitor, and now blogger.  Besides the teacher’s aide job, none of these jobs had anything to do with what I studied in college.

In my younger years, I was kind of resentful that I didn’t find a good paying job in the field I studied.  For awhile I believed that college was a waste because of this.  I really don’t feel that way anymore.  After studying science and tech advances for the last few years, I know now that it’s impossible to spend four to five years in college and expect to have a career in that field for the next forty years.  The science and technology is advancing too fast anymore.  Entire new industries are being creating and being destroyed every year anymore.  It’s foolish to tell an eighteen year old kid fresh out of high school that what they major in has to last them until age sixty five.  Most eighteen year olds don’t know what’s even available, let alone where their true strengths lie.  When I started college I never saw myself becoming a writer and blogger.  There were very few blogs in 1999 when I started college.  There weren’t even social media sites, good search engines, youtube, netflix, etc back then.  And that was just eighteen years ago, not that long ago.  Who knows what will change in the next eighteen years.  I might not even need to use a keyboard to write a blog by 2035.

As far as telling an eighteen year old kid that they have to stay in one career field for their lives, that’s asinine.  These kids graduating high school this spring won’t hit even our current retirement age until the mid 2060s.  We can’t realistically train these kids for lifelong careers when we don’t know what will be available by then.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this year will be working in vertical farming, yet in 2017 this tech is still in development phases.  Maybe some of these kids will be robotics mechanics.  Perhaps some will become technological nomads and just go wherever the work takes them.  Have lap top, will travel much like the hired guns of the Old West.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this spring will work on building moon and Martian colonies.  Maybe some of these kids will be among the first to have their children genetically modified.  I don’t know.  But I doubt few of them, if any, will be able to make careers as truck drivers, fast food workers, retail clerks, telemarketing, book keeping or most manufacturing.  These jobs will be among the first to be automated.

And ironically, no one else knows exactly what the future of work holds for these kids leaving high school either.  Tech gurus like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, etc. can have good ideas but we realistically can’t foresee what will and what won’t happen in the next twenty, thirty, or forty years. And politicians can say they want to revive blue collar manufacturing jobs, but that’s not going to happen in spite their best efforts.  We can’t go back to the past and trying to do so will only make the transitions to a higher tech world civilization even harder and delay the inevitable.  For all I know, by 2065 the basics of life could be cheap enough that working may optional for some people.  Maybe the only real jobs humans can do will be in science research and space exploration.  Of course I could be completely wrong and World War III knocks humanity back to the Stone Age.  What I do know is that as much change as I have seen since graduating high school in 1999, even that change is going to be dwarfed by what’s coming in the next couple generations.

Mental Stability With Schizophrenia Is Tough and Other Thoughts

I have been mentally stable for weeks now.  It is a welcomed relief to not have to fear having mini breakdowns everyday or risk having major setbacks because of relatively minor problems.  I may have given my readers the idea that taking medications and going to regular counseling sessions are enough to stabilize the mentally ill.  If only it were so.

Many, if not most, mentally ill people are worse off than I am.  A significant percentage of homeless people are untreated mentally ill people.  Just today I read an article about a homeless lady from Oregon who recently died from hypothermia.  She was homeless because she fell two months behind on her rent at a low income housing complex.  No one informed her family members she was being evicted or having mental health problems.  This lady, like me, had schizophrenia.  Like me, she had been a model resident in her complex for several years before the mental health problems came back.  I sometimes find myself afraid that something similar could happen to me.  I have some setbacks, I get in trouble in my complex, I get evicted, and no one bothers to inform anyone who could help me out.  I have also seen statistics that one fourth of people killed by police officers are mentally ill people having psychotic breakdowns.

This is one of the reasons I am paranoid about cops.  I appreciate that they have a brutal and often thankless job but I am still afraid of them.  Some may say “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”  If only that were true.  I have had plenty of experience of authority figures, coworkers, peers, and even my own parents just telling me off over things I wasn’t guilty of.  I used to get yelled out for being too sad and even too happy.  It was like I was supposed to have the emotions of a pile of garden tools.  I’m not unemotional.  I have strong feelings and opinions, especially when I don’t share them.  I have enough white noise and hallucinations going on in my mind even on good days that getting in my face and yelling at me doesn’t calm me down or motivate me.  If anything I want to severely hurt anyone who raises their voice to me.  The Marine drill instructor, alpha male jock, kick ass and take names approach does not work on me.  It never has and it never will.  It only makes me more angry.

I am scared of people who yell and scream a lot.  I am scared of people who love violence.  I am scared of people who think violence and war will solve all problems.  I am terrified of stupid people in large groups.  One of the reasons I hate socializing is that I don’t like being vulnerable or dealing with the unknown.  I have to admit that somedays I don’t want to leave my apartment simply because I am afraid of people in general.

I am not really a misanthrope.  I genuinely love intelligent conversations that are calm and non argumentative.  I have yet to have an intelligent conversation with a dog or a house plant.  And I imagine it will be a long time before a computer can be a worthy substitute for human conversation.  I don’t hate people, I just can’t stand it when they do stupid and cruel things.  Now I know that people are no more cruel and stupid then they were in past generations.  If anything they were probably dumber and less compassionate before mass media and universal education.  I just hear about stupid and cruel actions more just because I am more connected than past generations.   Years ago, for me to hear about a homeless mentally ill person dying of hypothermia, it would have had to happen in my hometown.  But as it is we are more connected now than ever.  That isn’t going to change.  If anything we are going to get even more connected and involved in the lives of complete strangers living all over the world in the coming years.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am convinced that one of the reasons people will fight with others is because we can’t see where the other person is coming from.  I think it was a lack of open communication and intermingling that lead to peoples and nations in past ages to fight wars against each other.  Personally I would rather do business with a foreigner or have dinner with him than fight him in a war.  In all honesty, people have far more in common then they know.  It’s this fear of the unknown that keeps peoples apart.  It is my hope that in coming generations these barriers will continue to be broken down through mass communications and trade.  It’s kind of tough to go to war against a country when you are doing a lot of business with a potential foe.  Perhaps in future generations they can say that it was the internet and international trade that led to the end of massive wars.  I may be a dreamer but I am definitely not the only one who can see a better future than what we have even now in January 2017.

Rant About Working and Money

buckminster-fuller-earn-living-technological-breakthrough

I’ve been feeling quite calm and content since Thanksgiving.  I really haven’t left the complex that much but I do keep myself occupied.  I still watch a lot of educational videos on youtube and curiosity stream.  Most people will find me odd for saying this but I love learning new things.  Sure the things I learn may not help me make more money or land a dream job, but so what?  Why does everything I do have to have a dollar sign attached to it?  Why can’t I do something just to make myself smarter and more interesting?  I know plenty of well to do people who haven’t voluntarily read a book since high school.  But these people are one dimensional, boring, and really don’t know what’s going on in the world outside of their workplace.  You may make a lot of money but that doesn’t make up for the fact you may be boring, uninteresting, a bad parent, or your marriage is falling apart.  Most of my critics think I’m wasting my time and efforts learning extemporaneous things and not doing practical things like chasing women or complaining about my coworkers.  But I don’t care.  I’ve reached the age where I’m focused on what I need to do to advance my work and purpose and everything else is just background noise.

As it is I consider this blog and my own enlightenment my career now.  I don’t care that I don’t make much money from it.  Besides money isn’t backed up by anything tangible as most countries haven’t been on a gold or silver standard for generations.  Your money is fake.  Your money is less real than a porn star’s body parts.  And that is why I don’t care that I don’t get much money from this blog or my other outside projects.  My critics just love to brag about how much they work in one breath and then complain about how much they hate their jobs in the next.  Robots and automated programs will be taking many jobs within the next twenty years.  Someday that job you lord over others to brag about how much you are earning your keep will be taken over by machines.  Then what?  Then you will be in the same place with the “welfare bums” and “lazy idiots” you have damned for generations.

I really have no patience for people who brag about how much they supposedly work and about how irreplaceable they are.  Screw you, we are all replaceable.  There have been tens of billions of humans that have lived in the history of our species, individuals are not that special.  Many jobs will be replaced by machines within the next generation.  Many millions of people will be unemployed without their consent.  And here you are complaining about people that can’t find jobs to support themselves or resorting to welfare programs.  Well, screw you!  We will probably all be on some kind of tax payer sponsored support within the next thirty years, especially when automation takes off.

Many people think we’re going to bring back millions manufacturing jobs and it’ll be like the go go 1950s once again.  First of all, most manufacturing jobs are getting to the point that machines can do them better than any human can.  Even Chinese factories are putting in robotic manufacturing processes as we speak.  It’s not like an average person just out of high school is going to work the same factory job for forty five years and then get a pension anymore.  Those days are as dead as the horse and buggy.  And it’s stupid and pointless to try to bring those days back.  If we are to compete on a world stage, we’re going to have to update our entire education system and retrain millions of workers.  It angers me to think that I spent my educational career in a mediocre system that didn’t challenge me or even try to prepare me to compete on a global scale.  Heck I feel like I was cheated by my school systems.  There is more to life than whether you can throw the football a long way or become prom queen.

We aren’t going to bring back the “good ol’ days”, and they weren’t that good to begin with.  I have no patience with people who have an overabundance of nostalgia for the past and think that the old days were some magical time where people respected others and an honest day’s work meant an honest day’s pay.  In most cases, an honest day’s work meant you didn’t get whipped by your slave masters for most of history or beaten by your alcoholic husband.  I hate nostaliga and I am really sick and tired of people longing for a past that never existed in the real world.  Do your homework already!

I guess I shouldn’t rant that much about people who won’t do their homework.  But it does get old after awhile.  It does scare me that even though I’m a schizophrenic on disability pension I do more homework into the state of science, technology, and world affairs in a typical day than most people do in a month.  The internet is a great tool to learn cool and great things.  Use it for some constructive purpose already.  The internet was not designed just so you could troll people who don’t agree with you.  Dealing with stupid people who think they’re something special because they have the internet (which they had nothing to do with in making) gets tiring and discouraging from time to time.  I guess this  is one of those times I’m just discouraged with so many people in my life acting and thinking like a bunch of barbarian brutes.  I will feel better eventually but I just need to vent right now.  Even mentally ill people should be allowed to have moments of weakness.  Screw the stiff upper lip at all times!

 

Reading, Learning, Advances, and Hope

Ever since I changed medications back in March I gradually started reading more.  For several months before I changed my psych medications I had little interest in reading.  I had gotten rid of some of my books.  I still had several hundred ebooks and I kept my books I wanted to reread.  But I hadn’t been reading much for a long time.  I had just lost interest in reading.  I was watching a lot of educational videos on youtube and netflix.

Now it was quite unusual for me to lose interest in reading.  I have known how to read even from my earliest memories.  I didn’t have to be encouraged to read as the village library was a second home to me.  While most of the neighborhood kids were playing basketball or throwing around the football during our summer afternoons, I was spending my time at the library.  I never really did like fantasy books or get too much into fiction.  But I absolutely loved books about different animals, different plants, different nations, and the high achievers of history.  Reading so much nonfiction during my summers off from school really helped me in my classes once school started.  Sometimes I would read ahead in the textbooks because I wanted to know what would be covered next.  I read ahead especially in science and history books.  I didn’t have to be encouraged to read.  I had to be forced to put down the books and get physical activity with the neighborhood kids from even an early age.

I read because I thought learning something new was entertainment.  It actually makes me feel good physically to learn new things.  Reading a good book and learning new ideas gives me a high that no booze, money, or woman could possibly give me.  I know I’m weird for loving learning, at least I’m weird in my culture.  But I certainly wouldn’t want to ever be where I couldn’t read.  That’s why I would prefer to go hard of hearing rather than lose my eye site.  It’s sad that not very many people continue their education after high school or college.  For me that’s when my self education really took off.  I’ve learned more history, economics, philosophy, biology, chemistry, and literature since graduating college than I did when I was in school.  Being in school laid the foundation but my love of reading took it to levels that not many achieve on their own.  I would rather read a book than go to a nightclub.  I have always been that way.

I know some people think they were born in the wrong era and would have been happier in medieval times or in the old west.  I don’t look to the past like that even though history was one of my best subjects in high school.  Part of me wonders at what excellent things my five year old nephew will see in his lifetime should he live to be in his late nineties like my grandmother.  I think about some of the changes she saw just in her lifetime.  She went from being in awe of Henry Ford’s automobile to having a Facebook account that she used to keep up with friends and family.  She didn’t even have indoor plumbing in her house until after she was married.  My grandfather used to trade in his car after it had over 50,000 miles because it was wearing out.  Now a car can last much longer even with minimal maintenance.  My five year old nephew will never know a world before the internet or basic automation.  He will never know a world where we didn’t know the human genome.  He will probably never own a music CD.  If self driving cars gain wide spread acceptance, he might not even need to own a car or even have a driver’s license.  I can’t imagine what he will see in his lifetime, let alone his children’s lifetime.  For me things have gotten really interesting just in the last twenty five years.  I wouldn’t want to live in the past.  I would be even more ridiculed in the old west because of my reading.  I would have been burned at the stake as a heretic in medieval times.  I would have been a terrible hunter in the Ice Ages.  My only hope then would have to become the tribal medicine man providing I didn’t kill myself from doing experiments with poisoned plants and mushrooms.  In short I love learning and seeing advances.  I love seeing the advances I have seen just since I was old enough to pay attention thirty years ago.  I can hardly wait to see what advances come by the time even I’m an old man.  It’s things like these advances and seeing people becoming less accepting of violence, sexism, bigotry, and cruelty that give me hope for the future of my species.

 

Revisiting the ‘Good Ol’ Days’ (They weren’t all that good)

images.jpeg

 

For years, even before I became mentally ill, I’ve been listening to people complain about how bad the state of the world is and how everything was better in the ‘good ol’ days.’  I’ve done blog posts on it in the past with Why I Am Grateful of Tech And Science Advances, Technology Advances and U.S. Presidents, and Reflections On Being a Recovering Doom Junkie. I don’t believe the nonsense that the past was some golden age were everyone was respectful, no one was stupid, the world was at peace, and wealth gaps between rich and poor didn’t exist.  Folks, the past wasn’t that great for the common man on the street. It was even worse for the common woman in most cases.  In many past civilizations,as many as half the children born didn’t live to see adulthood. ‘Utopia’ was a work of 16th century fiction by Thomas More, not a real place in some to be recaptured past. It’s as if everyone thinks that the entire world was like Mayberry in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ until about the last forty, thirty, twenty years.  But seriously, is our collective amnesia so bad that we think that the times we grew up in were nothing but peaceful and prosperous?  Are we so forgetful that we think that it was only the current younger generation that invented promiscuous sex?  No town in America (or anywhere else) was ever like Mayberry.I have never seen African Americans on Andy Griffith.  Being a town in the southern U.S. in the late 1950s, surely there would have been some.  No towns, besides maybe a few small farming villages in Nebraska and Kansas, were ever that white bread.  The 1950s were an age of purity and good values?  Please.  Does the Korean War, duck and cover drills, The Great Chinese Famine, McCarthyism, the quiz show scandals, western movies and tv shows that were (by today’s standards) blatantly bigoted towards Native Americans, and the Beat Generation culture of excessive drugs and sex as written about by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, etc. ring a bell?  Times weren’t more moral and more peaceful in the old days, they were merely less televised and exposed.

As far as having more moral and competent leaders in the old days, think again.  People today think it was shameful that President Clinton was getting sex from one of his interns or President Bush exaggerating to get a war in Iraq, etc.  But politicians and rulers have always fornicated and lied to their subjects.  Thomas Jefferson probably had an affair with at least one of his slaves.  Charlemagne had at least four wives and was almost constantly at war during the 8th and 9th centuries.  Even the Bible said King Solomon of Israel had seven hundred wives and yet praised him for being a man of great wisdom.  And this was before Viagra and Barry White albums. Abraham Lincoln, as a young man, accepted a challenge to a duel and set the rules of the contest to the death so that he would have won had not his friends talked him out of it. Pope Urban II exaggerated the abuse Christians received at the hands of the Turks to garner support for the First Crusade.  William Randolph Hearst was spinning news stories and outright lying long before anyone even thought of inventing cable news or alternative media.  As far as businesses like Microsoft, Facebook, Monsanto, BP, Google (who made most of the research for my blogs possible), Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, the defense contractors, etc. being favorite whipping boys for anyone against the abuses that can be perpetrated by big companies, then heaven help you if you ever knew about Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, the East India Company, the Potosi Silver Mines, etc.  So not even was our business practices always ‘an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.’  These are but a few examples to show that, in many ways, things were actually worse and less civil in the past then they are today.

Be careful about wishing for life to be like it was in the past.  Because it often wasn’t that good at all, unless you were a lord, noble, sultan, robber baron, or chieftain.  Yet in many ways I live better today, have better access to health care, better access to information, better entertainment, better fitting clothing, and better sanitation than the richest men of one hundred years ago and better than most middle class people in the 1960s.  It’s getting late as I write this so I should think about going to bed.  Yep, tonight I’m sleeping on a spring mattress (something no king or sultan of Medieval times had) wearing comfortable sleep clothes made of manufactured fabrics and processes that didn’t exist two hundred years ago, and with the warmth of central heating (something not even the richest man in the world had in 1900).  Yes life is good.  And should you try to think that things can’t possibly get any better or that we are on ‘the eve of destruction’, well every generation has thought it was the last one or that these were for sure ‘the end times.’

 

 

Thoughts On 2015 and Looking Ahead to 2016

Another year has come to pass.  We humans have survived yet another lap around the mother star.  2015 has had, like all years, it’s ups and downs.  Some really cool stuff happened like the sending a space probe to Pluto, vertically landing a rocket (I knew I should have bought SpaceX stock several months ago), and discovering water on Mars are just a few of the highlights I can think of right off hand.  This was ‘the future year’ of Back To The Future II.  My enjoyment of the internet and wearable electronics outweigh my disappointment of not having a flying car and not having a computerized Ronald Reagan taking my order at a 1980s nostalgia restaurant.

Looking back on 2015, I accomplished most of my goals.  I set goals every year instead of resolutions.  I actually write down my goals (i.e. make at least 30 blog posts, get my amateur radio license, get rid of my clutter, etc.) and I rewrite them at the end of every month in a journal just to remind myself to keep going.  The two goals I’m most proud of are getting my Amateur radio license and having more visitors to this blog in 2015 than 2014.  The only real goal I didn’t accomplish was losing another sixty pounds.  I started off well as I lost fifteen pounds in the winter months to start 2015.  But things fell apart about late May.  Having a college buddy visit for a whole week in June when we went out to eat and hit sports bars several nights in a row didn’t help the cause.  Things got even worse after the week in the Black Hills for Matt’s wedding.  I’m not blaming my lack of staying on track with diet and exercise on my best friend but friends do sometimes get you in trouble.  But those are the friends you should hang onto.  If the worst Matt causes me to do is eat like a horse for much of a summer, well there are worse things he could have involved me in.  But he’s one of these tall guys who’s skinnier than a rail and can eat whatever he wants and not gain an ounce.  He’s only a few pounds heavier than when he graduated college thirteen years ago.  I simply won’t even try to keep up with guys like him anymore.  In August, my last living grandparent died.  Went through several weeks of pulling all night internet research and computer game marathons at least three nights per week.  That caused even more weight gain and mental health issues.  My car wreck in late October didn’t help the effort any as it made exercise nearly impossible as I had a few weeks of chronic back pain.  But that’s all cleared now.  It wasn’t until mid November did things return to a sense of normal.  And now I’m where I started 2015, at least weight wise.

I also decided to get somewhat more cultured in 2015.  To this end I watched a few foreign movies on Netflix.  Also watched some classic movies like Citizen Kane, some Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, and saw 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The only Stanley Kubrick movie I saw previously was Full Metal Jacket.  I guess my impression of 2001 was it looked like a mashup of Jane Goodall, Buckminster Fuller, and Carl Sagan on bad acid trips.  This was the sixties after all.

For 2016 goals, I want to lose at least sixty pounds.  I also want to post to this blog at least forty times.  I want to have more visitors to this blog in 2016 than 2015. I want to write poetry again as I’ve been lazy about that for two years.  I want to revive some of my older writing ideas.  In years past I wrote rough drafts for two truly lousy novels. I’m going to see if I can find those old files and dust off the cobwebs.I want to continue to save at least ten percent of my monthly pay.  I’m saving up in part because I want to take a couple good old fashioned American road trip in a few years.  I haven’t been to the East Coast before.  That is one place I want to visit.  I’d love to see autumn in New England and visit some of the old Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  Sometime within the next five to seven years I’d love to visit the Deep South too.  I have a couple college friends from Alabama who are always raving about the barbecue places and good diners down there.  Here in Nebraska, we don’t really have a specialty besides steaks and prime rib.  In short I have a few goals for 2016 and beyond.