Rant on “Quit Whining and Man Up” and observations about socializing

Been kind of depressed and irritable for the last several days.  Haven’t been sleeping well either.  About the only thing going really well for me is my renewed diet.  I am eating less than I normally do and getting more activity.  I get my activity in the afternoons even though I’m in the habit of sleeping until noon again.

I also no longer want to socialize.  And this time I don’t feel guilty for it.  I am tired of people who are in foul and angry moods trying to drag me down into their own mindlessness and petty vendettas.  Unfortunately, anymore, if it weren’t for negativity and fighting, there would be few conversations and certainly no social media.  I hate how I just can’t have a civilized conversation with even people I partly agree with anymore.  And good luck trying to talk to anyone who doesn’t view the world the same way you do.  I’m beginning to think that many people have mental health problems just because of the way we treat each other and the stress of modern living.  Granted, a person doesn’t have to be chronic like those of us on disability to have problems.  I have had a mental illness for almost twenty years now.  And only recently are people starting to talk about the effects of stress, anxiety, and chronic mental illnesses.  For the first several years of my diagnosis I didn’t talk about my mental health to anybody.  And I think I lost several good friendships because my friends didn’t understand that my depression and anger were nothing personal, they were manifestations of the sickness.

For the first several years of my illness I just didn’t talk about it, not even to friends or employers.  Back in those days mental illness was shrouded in more mystery and ridicule than even now.  I have no idea how many times I was told to ‘suck it up’ or ‘man up’ in those early years.  ‘Man up’. Now there is a stupid phrase I can’t figure out.  What does it even mean?  Is there really only one type of manliness?  And why is it the only type of virtues in a man we appreciate are those that involve the John Wayne frontier mentality that violence is the only way to solve all problems?  I think this is stupid, very stupid.  A mentality like that will make our species extinct.  And quite honestly, I enjoy living too much to sit idle while this type of barbarian behavior is honored and encouraged.  I would rather not go back to the Stone Age.  I hated all the ‘Mad Max’ movies and I definately don’t want to experience them in real life.

Another thing, we don’t females to ‘woman up’ and we don’t tell senior citizens to ‘young down’ nor do we tell terminally ill people to ‘hurry up and die.’  It’s little things that normal people just take for granted that I don’t understand and that I often see the dumbness and hypocracy in.  But most people seem pretty cool with dumb things and hypocracy anyway, at least when it comes from sources they like.  Unfortunately I never understood this line of thinking.  It’s probably why I have problems socializing with the public at large.  And of course having a chronic mental illness that people are still ignorant about doesn’t help either.

In closing, as a thought experiment, I was wondering what would happen if someone (or a group of individuals) just went about their daily lives being as rude and condescending to physical people as we are to people in our online interactions.  I would love to see some psychiatrist conduct this experiment.  I think the results would be either very interesting or very disturbing.

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Optimism for The Future in the Face of Constant Pessimism

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I haven’t posted regularly on my facebook or twitter accounts since September.  I just got tired of all the fighting and negativity.  But the thing that bothers me the most about social media is how much of what I try to communicate gets lost in just text.  Most times I don’t wish to come across as snarky or combative, but that’s how so many people interpret what I write.  Maybe facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. wouldn’t be so negative if people had to post video and audio rather than just text.  Put a voice and face to the comments and let the world know they aren’t talking to a machine or subhuman entity.

I gave up on using social media for anything than shamelessly promoting my blog three months ago when I came to the painful conclusion that most people were never going to share my optimism or joyful outlook.  And the weird thing is I am more optimistic than ever even though I almost never convince anyone of reasons to be optimistic.  I am definitely not an optimist by nature or upbringing.  I almost never heard anything positive about the world or the future from my parents, teachers, bosses, or elders while growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  For quite sometime I was wondering why if most people were so pessimist about the future, then why were they having kids.  I could never figure those kinds of contradictions out.  I know very few people even in December 2017 who don’t have kids because they are worried about the kind of future these kids would have.  Most people that don’t have kids that I know can’t biologically have kids.

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Like I said, I am not an optimist by nature.  I had to make myself into one.  And I did it with little help from mass media, popular culture, or my elders.  Most of what I learned about what was going right in modern civilization I had to actively seek out through secondary sources and rigorous research.  I learned more science, technology, psychology, history, philosophy, literature, and economics on my own with an internet connection and five years of daily youtube viewing than I ever thought possible after spending eighteen years in traditional education.  Then again, it should be noted that is simply impossible for any kind of formal education system to teach everything a person needs to know for living just within the system itself.  With life expectancies going into the eighties in some countries (and even the sixties in some of the poorer developing nations), it is simply impossible to be able to say “You know what you need to know for the next fifty to sixty years once you’re turned out into the world at age eighteen.”  No, the best thing an education system can do in this day and age of long life span and ever changing tech and social norms is to foster the never stop learning attitudes and mentalities.

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In the mid to late 2000s when I was struggling to adapt to my mental illness and working low wage remedial jobs I could have done as a high school dropout, I was quite angry about my time in formal education.  For several years I was convinced that doing well in high school and college was wasted effort if all I was going to do with my life was push a mop in a courthouse or sell carpet for a billion dollar company.  After a few more years of maturity and seasoning, I found out to my pleasant surprise that my years of working hard in school and loving learning weren’t misspent.  The biggest thing my years in formal education did was awaken in me a love for learning and a desire to continue doing so.

Sadly, many people don’t have a love for learning.  Tragically most of those people are going to get left behind in the waves of science, technology, geopolitical, and social changes that have only recently begun to gain momentum.  The old ideas of graduating high school at age eighteen, getting a union membership, getting a job in a factory, getting married at age twenty two to someone from your hometown or college, etc. aren’t feasible anymore.  And sadly, many people can’t or won’t adapt.  But we’ve had changes in the past eras.  I imagine many people didn’t adapt during the Renaissance or Industrial revolutions and got painfully displaced.  Same things are happening now as we move to a more connected, digitalized, fast paced, and informed world.  National borders don’t mean as much now as they did even when I was a child back in the 1980s.

Sure it’s a chaotic time for many people, especially for people and institutions that aren’t adapting to the new realities.  Politicians in my home nation are talking about building walls to keep out illegal immigrants and refugees and bringing back traditional manufacturing jobs to this country.  To which I reply “planes can fly over walls” and “3D printing”.  Sadly, many people want to deny such changes are already here and will resist to the point of being left so far behind they’ll never catch up.  I see it every day just in my own community and circles of friends and family.  I decided that I was going to adapt and welcome the changes regardless of what my friends, family, and neighbors were going to do.  Some cool things are happening and I don’t want to get left behind or wallow in fear and anxiety for the rest of my life.  I deal with fear and anxiety enough in my own mental illness.  I won’t allow external forces to add to these.

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The pains and joys of being a geek with mental illness

I still don’t socialize much.  But that’s because I don’t feel like I need to.  Some of my best friends I can chat with over Facebook or the phone.  Besides, all some people want to chat about are mundane things like the weather or pointless gossip.  Conversations without any real intelligent substance really weigh on me.  They sap my energy and often aggravate me.  And the longer I’ve been out of school, the worse it gets.  Sure there were quite a few people who, when I went to school, thought education was for losers and being ignorant was cool.  But, good grief, now that I’m an adult those people are in the vast majority.  I was always told that more wisdom came with age.  Not necessarily so.  I know people in their sixties and seventies who are less mature and intelligent than some junior high kids.  It’s tiring and sad to see stupidity and ignorance being championed in my culture.  I see it in my daily life and I see it when I log onto the internet or watch my tv: ignorance is praised and wisdom is condemned.

Was it always this way that smart people were ostracized?  Is it this way in other cultures and times?  Since I’ve been out of the USA only once in my life, I really have no first hand experience with other cultures other than my own.  And in my culture, intelligence simply isn’t valued.  I have felt out of place among my own people and culture for as long as I can remember.  People thought it odd that my friends and I liked to talk about history, science, and current events more than school yard gossip and popular culture.  I was good at speech, drama, and knowledge bowl competitions, but I got far more recognition from being a mediocre football player.  And my school was more academically inclined than most schools in my region.

I have always felt like an outsider.  And developing a mental illness in my late teens only made it more pronounced.  But I suppose that being an outsider as a kid made me resilient enough to navigate a serious mental illness.  And it’s this sense of being an outsider that allows me to endure long stretches of time in solitude.  It’s this sense of being an outsider that frees me to go against popular norms and look at problems in different ways.  It’s the sense of being an outsider that took away a lot of old fears that held me back in my younger years.  I don’t fear looking like a fool.  I don’t fear being wrong because I can learn from being wrong more than I can always giving the teachers the “right” answers.  Besides, all grades measure in school is how good a kid can conform to the existing system.  Well, the existing system is becoming obsolete and is going to get changed before too many years.  It is unavoidable.  Why measure fact retention when I can look up any fact on google and wikipedia within a few seconds?  In future generations, kids are going to have to be taught to be problem solvers and deep thinkers. It matters less that, for example, that Sacramento is the capital of California than say, why Sacramento and not Los Angeles or San Francisco.  Or instead of knowing that Columbus sailed for the Americas in 1492, it would be better to explain how he was able to convince the Spanish throne to give him the funds, how he kept his crew motivated when setting off on a potential suicide mission, or what effects there were by the Europeans meeting with the Native Americans.  In the automated future, fact retention and unthinking obedience is going to matter much less than creativity and problem solving or skills that computers can’t master yet.  And it can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

In many ways, the geeks and nerds won the culture wars.  Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have much more influence and money than even Michael Jordan or David Beckham.  Geeks and nerds coming out in force is probably why there have been so many comic books made into movies the last several years.  Heck, even video gaming is becoming a competitive sport.  But I guess if bowling and poker are, why not video gaming?  Science and tech are gaining in influence and prestige while aspects of our past like war and poverty are going in decline. We are very fortunate that there hasn’t been any major wars between developed nations since the end of World War II.  I fear such wars would go nuclear.  So it’s a great development that we as a species are starting to lose our stomachs for violence, war, and bloodshed.  Practices like human sacrifices and near constant raiding and war used to be the norm not that many generations ago.  Such practices are considered barbaric relics of when our civilizations were less mature.  And it’s largely thanks to the geeky outcasts and their science and tech advances.

I want to end on a positive note.  I am grateful to be a geeky outsider.  I hated it as a teenager, but it was for the better.  It made me better able to deal with mental illness, it made me more self reliant, and it made me study more.  I’m much better read now than I was before I became mentally ill.  I’m glad I’m not normal.  I’m glad I’m not ignorant.  Ignorance and normal are both overrated.  In fact, both ignorance and normal suck.

Socializing, the Internet, and Mental Illness

Got a few things done over the weekend.  I renewed my lease on my apartment.  I did this because my lease was going to expire in May and if I do move it won’t be until late summer at the earliest.  Also got new license plates for my car.  My state changes the designs every few years.  And for the first time in years Nebraska has plates that aren’t sensory overload 🙂  Simple is good sometimes.

I’m still feeling quite stable mentally.  I think I finally cured my problems of sleeping too much.  I usually sleep only six hours a night now and nap for an hour in the afternoons.  Haven’t felt any real depression or anxiety for a few weeks now.  I go sometimes get lonely as I don’t have much for intelligent conversation in my apartment complex.  Outside of my landlady, I don’t get much for interesting conversation.  Most people in my complex seem to be content to complain about how they don’t get enough in social security or about the antics of fellow tenants.  Well, it’s not my fault some of these people spend so much money on cigarettes and lottery tickets.  And it’s also not my fault that some people allow themselves to worry themselves sick over things that don’t matter.  It just gets old after awhile having the same conversations about the weather or who did what to whom.

I admit to isolating more than is healthy.  At least more than is healthy for most people.  But I never really have enjoyed socializing.  Let me take that back, I enjoy socializing with certain types of people.  I enjoy socializing with intellectuals, avid readers, and people with a wide range of interests.  I just don’t get that very often.  I have never gotten that very often, especially when growing up.  I did get to socialize a great deal with interesting, intelligent, and well read people when I was in college.  College was the happiest five years of my life.  Unfortunately it was also a temporary environment.  I have never met the range of people and intelligences I met in college since.  It’s not even close.

The older I get the less chances I have to socialize.  Many of my well read college friends now have careers and families, so I don’t get to see them very often.  Even my friends without children I don’t get to talk to as often as I would like.  Right now the big thing saving my sanity and keeping my social life alive is participating in group forums on Facebook.  Sure I’ll never get to meet those people as we are spread all over the world, but I still get to have some kind of socializing with people I can relate to.

I don’t enjoy going to bars on Saturday nights.  I don’t enjoy talking about sports or politics for hours on end.  I never cared for people who complained about their jobs or spouses.  I guess I am ultimately not someone you would want as a dinner guest.  I just have little use for small talk about mundane nonsense.  I imagine that makes me look like a show off to most normal people.  But I’m really not showing off that much of what I know and can remember.  I actually have to dumb down around most people.  And I can’t stand it.  That’s why I love the internet so much.  I can much, much easier meet with people with similar interests than I could ever have imagined twenty years ago.  The internet is a social God send for me.  I don’t think I’d be as stable without the interactions I get from others through it.

Dealing With Stupid People While Having A Mental Illness

I readily admit I get frustrated when the people I am around on a regular basis do and say stupid things and then keep repeating these mistakes over the course of months and years.  I know I shouldn’t be angry with people just because they aren’t smart.  Some people are just dumb and they are never going to become Mensa material no matter what you do for them.  That is probably the hardest fact of life that I have ever had to accept.  I can handle people not having empathy.  I can handle people being greedy.  But for some odd reason I have had a very tough time coming to the acceptance that some people are just dumb, have always been dumb, and are never going to be interested in the intellectual things like science, technology, history, philosophy, literature, etc. that I am.

Being smart has always come easy to me.  I can’t remember ever not knowing how to read because I pretty much taught myself how to read.  I can’t remember ever having to be forced to read because I read so voraciously on my own. I still do. I actually had to be forced to put down my books and go outside with the neighborhood kids against my will.  I suppose my parents were afraid that I would be one of these really smart people who had lousy social skills.  Well, that happened anyway.  Yet I don’t mind having below average social skills.  Most of the stuff average people like to talk about, like politics, sports, the weather, farming, work, celebrities, etc., I find quite boring.  As much as I enjoy baseball, I wouldn’t have much of a stake in the games if I didn’t have a fantasy league team.  As much as I enjoyed the violence of football when I played as a teenager, I wouldn’t watch any games if it didn’t give me anything to talk about with the average person.  I don’t personally follow politics much except if politicians make noise about cutting science programs.  Cutting science programs will hurt nations long term.  Much of what was the computer and information revolutions came about because of the space programs in the 60s and 70s.  I am not really happy with my current crop of politicians who are cutting science funding and just want to pull up the draw bridge and isolate from the rest of the world.  Who would have thought twenty years ago China and India would be leading the world in developing and implementing nonpolluting technology?  When my parents were children, their parents used to tell them “there’s starving kids in China who would love to eat what you complain about.”  I wonder if Chinese and Indian parents tell their kids “keep studying and going to school, there’s dumb people in America.”

I never had a tolerance for ignorance.  And it’s especially tough having a mental illness and living in low income housing when I am not surrounded by many smart people.  I do most of my socializing online anymore because I can at least superficially connect with people who share my interests.  For years I have struggled searching for people with the same intellectual pursuits I have.  My therapists and I have struggled finding ways for me to find social activities for someone with my interests.  I finally came to the painful realization that I am not going to meet many people I can relate to, at least not in traditional senses.  Some of my best friends I interact with mainly online.  The internet is my social life now.  I’m glad I live in an era when it’s available as much as it is.  Had I lived in the dark ages, I probably would have had to join a monastery.  Even then I’d probably be burned at the stake as a heretic.  I am happy that science is really advancing.  And it doesn’t bother me as much as it normally would that many of these advances are now not happening in my own country.  I really don’t care if it’s an American, a Chinese person, an African, etc. who comes up with the next huge breakthrough.  We all share the same planet so we just as well learn to work and think beyond national boundaries.  I hope that the anti intellectualism I see so prevalent in my time and place is merely a passing fad.  And even if it isn’t, there are plenty of places where intelligence is valued and science will progress.  The future is already happening, it’s just not evenly distributed.

The Curse of Being Intelligent with a Mental Illness

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I’m still sleeping more than I would like.  But I really think I often sleep just out of boredom or lack of stimulation.  In some ways I feel like a zoo animal where I have my basic needs met yet I feel something fundamental is missing.  I speak of course of social interactions.

As much as I enjoy being an adult, one of the things I miss about high school and college is being around intellectually stimulating peers and taking challenging classes.  Now that I’ve been in the ‘real world’ for thirteen years, I now realize just how rare and special those interesting class discussions and all night conversations really were.  It saddens me that I’ll never have that back.  I didn’t lose that from lack of trying to keep social networks up.  I lost many of my friends from moving out of state, starting careers, starting families, etc.  It’s painful not to have intelligent conversations.  I crave intellectual and mental stimulation every day.  I can’t go through a day without reading a book or online journal.  Learning is my drug of choice.  It gives me a jolt that no drug, woman, booze, or money could possibly give me.

Now that I am an adult starting to get a little gray in my beard, I am painfully realizing just how rare intelligent people and good conversations are.  Few people in my low income housing complex talk about anything besides how they don’t enough money from disability and gossip about fellow residents.  And it gets quite boring really quick.  After about five minutes of hearing such drivel I’m ready to go back home and watch youtube.  It’s absolutely frustrating not having interesting people to talk to.  I am not hard wired to just sit on a park bench, smoke cigarettes, and complain about how bad the world sucks.

Intelligence has been both a blessing and a curse for me.  Being smart has allowed me to keep writing a blog inspite of a severe mental illness.  It has also helped me stay out of money problems.  I have friends who make much more than I do but their finances are worse than mine because they couldn’t stay out debt or just bought junk they don’t need to impress jerks they don’t like.  But intelligence has also murdered my social life.  For some odd reason, most people I have met over the course of my life (especially since I left college) just hate intelligence.  And it’s frustrating.  I wonder if a hatred of intellectual things is just a rural thing, an American thing, or if it’s just cross cultural and smart people are just condemned to have lousy social lives while benefiting an ungrateful humanity with their accomplishments.  Mental illness is lonely enough.  Being intelligent with a mental illness is a double curse.

 

 

 

 

Rant about Politics, Education, Science, Technology (or PEST)

It’s been a few days since I last wrote.  That’s because I’m beginning to feel some of the anxiety and depression I felt back in late summer and fall again.  I am convinced this is because of most of my friends wanting to only talk about politics.  I am sick of hearing about politics.  Most politicians know less about science and technology advances that are and will impact our world than even I do.  A politician can’t build a power plant or bring back jobs once automation has made those jobs redundant and pointless.  Politicians, at least here in the USA, can’t even update critical infrastructure or balance their own budgets.  And it saddens me that my country is getting to where we don’t lead the world in many areas of science and technology.  Who would have thought twenty years ago that China would be offering to lead the world on developing clean and renewable energy or artificial intelligence or genetics?  I am embarrassed by politicians of both major parties.

I don’t understand normal people.  I don’t understand how masses of people can look at facts and ignore them or even outright deny them because of the person stating said facts.  Facts don’t change because of beliefs.  You can ignore the reality all you want but eventually you won’t be able to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

I have been following politics since the late 1980s.  Since then I have heard the statistics that state that my country has one of the worst overall education systems in the developed world.  We have known this for over a generation.  Yet no major overhauls to the way children in the U.S. are educated has happened. We won’t even consider looking at what other countries do in their educational systems.  My country is going to have to radically overhaul education real soon because the information and automation revolutions will make many of the skills stressed in the current system useless.  We have seen these changes coming for years yet not even the current politicians in power seem too eager to update education for the realities of the 21st century. That’s why I, and many other people in my country, have resorted to self educating ourselves by the internet.  Learning is not boring.  It’s just presented that way in traditional education.

Too many people and politicians are ignorant when it comes to science and technology.  We have known for years about the risks of burning carbon based fuels in terms of climate change and unhealthy air to breathe.  Even if climate change isn’t happening, only a fool would deny that people are getting sick and dying from breathing the toxic fumes emitted by coal plants and gasoline powered automobiles.  That alone should have made people pour much more research money into developing alternatives.

I don’t understand some people’s love affair with oil.  Some people seem to think that we never will find anything better than oil and that we can keep using it for thousands of years.  Climate change or not, oil is a limited resource. And some people don’t acknowledge that science can and will find answers to replacing oil whether they like it or not.  I have to think had these people been born in the mid 1800s , they wouldn’t have wanted to give up their kerosene lamps for electric lights or their stagecoaches for railroads. Or if they were born during the Renaissance they wouldn’t have given up their swords for muskets or would have considered the printing press the work of the devil. But there are always going to be people who don’t want to change anything and some who are nostalgic about a past that wasn’t that great to begin with.  I guarantee that in the future there will be people who won’t want to colonize the moon or other planets just because they fear and hate technology.

I don’t understand normal people’s obsession with politics.  And I’m sure most people don’t understand my obsession with learning and science.  Science classes have always been my favorite classes.  I had to take a detour from my desired science career and studied business and economics while I was in college.  As it turned out this study of economics turned out to be a several year diversion from my true passions.  I don’t regret studying economics as it made me much better at budgeting limited money and resources.  But looking back on it I am glad I didn’t find a job in business or economics and especially banking.  I would have hated working in a cubicle and having to wear a suit every day to work.  As much as I enjoy what money can do, I also know that having a great deal of money wouldn’t mean much to me.  It wouldn’t make me feel successful or like more of a man.  Who defines what is a “real man” anyway?  Seems to  me that those goal posts are constantly shifting.  The only winning move seems to me is to not play at all.

If I suddenly had a couple million dollars, I’d probably move to Silicon Valley, rent a small apartment, try to get involved in some small start ups, hang out with really intelligent and science minded people, and essentially live off the interest of my low risk investments.  I wouldn’t buy a sports car, a large house, or even get married.  But I always thought Northern California would be a cool place to live.  Then again I don’t know.  It’s not like I fit in even with people I have lived with my entire life.

If there is a point to these rants I suppose it’s that I simply don’t understand normal people.  I don’t understand why normal fret and stress over things that are trivial but don’t care at all about potential serious problems or opportunities.  Straining at gnats but swallowing camels as far as I’m concerned.  But at this point in my life I am glad that I am not normal.  I don’t desire to be considered normal even if I am somehow cured of schizophrenia.  Normal doesn’t change the world for the better.  I want for my life anyway, for most people that encounter me and my works to be better off for it.  I don’t want to be some political hack or among unthinking crowds.