Thoughts on Changes Since Childhood

I’m currently at my parents’ house for a couple days for the Thanksgiving holiday.  My brother, his wife, and their four kids are here too.  We have seven of us sleeping in the basement but at least I get my old bedroom.  That way I can retreat and regroup if need be.  But my brothers’ kids are well behaved and old enough they shouldn’t give me many problems.

This is the first time in months I have been back to my old childhood home.  A lot has changed in this town since I moved out in 2005.  For one, all of my old high school friends have moved away.  The cousins that stayed have families of their own.  Most of my old teachers have retired or moved to bigger schools.  All my grandparents and a couple of my uncles have died.  My old grade school was torn down.  The retail store I worked in during the summers went out of business.  In many ways this isn’t the same town I grew up in during the 80s and 90s.  I haven’t been getting back to my parents’ place much the last several years as none of my old friends live around here anymore.  In many ways, this is no longer my town.  It doesn’t feel like home and it hasn’t for several years.

I bring up growing up and the changes my parents’ place have gone under because, with my mental illness, those years I grew up here seem like someone else’s life.  I started having problems with depression and anxiety when I was seventeen.  I was doing quite well in school and involved in many different activities.  It seemed like I was on the fast track to a career and life of my dreams, at least that was until the depression and anxiety started.  Twenty years later, my seventeen year old self wouldn’t even recognize the thirty seven year old man I am now.  I imagine my seventeen year old self would have seen who I am today as a failure.  Back then I knew nothing of mental illness and disability.  Like many teenagers, I also didn’t have as much empathy as many adults who have had their ups and downs, wins and losses.

If nothing else, fighting this mental illness for twenty years has taught me how to have more empathy for people different than myself.  It has taught me patience and how to accept things I can’t change.  It has taught me that, contrary to popular belief, life isn’t about keeping up with other people.  Life is mainly about competing with your self and being the best you that you are capable of being.  He who dies with the most toys is just as dead as anyone else in the cemetery.

I haven’t been giving much time to reflecting on the past for the last few years.  I have mainly been focused on the present and future possibilities.  I normally have little use for nostalgic thoughts.  But I’m sure having them now that I’m at my childhood home for the first time in months.  I guess the nostalgia has shown me how much I lost because of this mental illness.  Yet, in spite of the life that never was, I think I still have a great deal to stay alive for.  I’m interested to see what the next twenty years in this life of mental illness will show me.  I can only guess what changes will have come by the time 2037 rolls in.

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I’d Rather Be Eccentric and Interesting than Acceptable and Boring

 

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Still getting out of my apartment a couple times a day and spending a few minutes socializing with my neighbors.  I still find normal conversation boring and mundane, but I tolerate it like getting stuck in traffic because I’m expected to.  Most people I have met can tell right away I’m not like most people.  I don’t enjoy talking only about the weather, sports, how much I hate my job, how idiotic my coworkers and neighbors are, politics, etc.  I’d much rather talk philosophy, poetry, history, tech advances, science, international news than talk about the weather or my work.  Half of the time when I’m listening to someone prattle on about the same things for the hundredth time, I have to remind myself to fake interest and act like this conversation is actually fascinating.  I hate to say it, but I find some people mundane and even boring.

Most people go through life without taking any real risks or standing out in any way.  Seems that many people when they were teenagers were content with their C’s and D’s on their report cards, going to ball games on Friday nights, and spending their weekends trying to get laid or getting drunk and stoned.  I never saw what was so great about being normal.  I was that smart guy on the football team that knew right away he needed to do his homework because there was no way he was going to get a scholarship.  I was the guy who considered it a personal failure every time he didn’t get an A on a test.  I was the guy who’s best friend was a girl.  She still is my best friend.  Even though I got good grades, I was still sometimes skeptical of what of my teachers taught me. I knew some really smart kids in high school and college who did poorly grade wise because they were skeptical of the teaching but didn’t play the game well enough to get the good grades.  I was rather skeptical of a lot of what I was taught, particularly in the non science and math fields.  But I gave the answers I figured the teachers were looking for while doing my own reading and research during the weekends and summers.  I still spent time with my friends, but my friends had the same nerdy likes and interests I did.

Developing a mental illness when I already had a reputation for being eccentric and odd didn’t help my social life any.  But considering how small my windows of opportunity for socializing with like minded people were in my youth (before the internet got really big), my social life was going to be lousy anyway.  My parents used to worry about how little I socialized and how little I enjoyed school and church activities.  It’s not that I am anti-social, I can be social for hours on end with like minded and interesting people.  I just can’t stand chit chat and normal conversation.  I find it too restricting and too predictable.  I found out pretty early on that most people were quite predictable if you spent enough time around them.  People in general don’t like change.  In fact, most people are scared senseless of changes.  I learned this when I was telling people about science and tech advances and what was actually going right in the world.  I got almost no positive responses out of anyone besides my mother, and I think she was doing that mainly to humor me.  Most people told me I was a liar or we would never live to see these advances.  Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen the rise of the internet, the rise of genetically modified crops, the decline of communism, the decline of network and cable television, the rise and fall of CDs, DVDs, movie rental places, and most brick and mortar companies in direct competition with internet companies like Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook, etc.  Even me, living on disability pension, can enjoy most of these advances that not even the richest man in the world could have enjoyed in 1985.  Do not tell me we aren’t living in cool times.

I know most people reminisce about past eras and would rather live then than in their current times.  I know people who would have loved to live in Medieval times.  I couldn’t do without toilet paper long enough to be burned at the stake as a heretic to live then.  Others pined for the Old West era.  Many places in the Old West had violent crime and homicide rates higher than even modern day Chicago.  I’d probably get shot for sneezing during a poker game.

I admit that I was always one of these people who wondered what life in the future would be like.  I guess if I am nostalgic, it’s for things that haven’t happened yet or might not happen at all.  I imagine a few hundred years in the future if our civilization has built colonies on other planets, solved poverty, ended war, ended pollution, have intelligent machines, etc., that there will be people who will be envious of us living in the early 21st century when many things started coming together and poverty, sickness, war, etc. became less and less.  And yet most people walking the streets today are oblivious to the wonders going on in the here and now.  It’s for reasons like that I am glad that I am not normal.  I don’t wish normal upon myself or any of my friends and family.  I love being eccentric and looking at life a different way.  I may not be highly accomplished or influential, but at least I don’t completely blend in to the background.

Donations to Expand ‘A Life Of Mental Illness’

I've decided to do an experiment to see if I can get a little money for doing this blog. I have sold hard copy books of poetry and mental illness essays that were the inspiration for this blog in the past. Being paid for this work would be a dream come true

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