Things Life Is Too Short For

Going off subject for this post.  I am a self admitted recovering workaholic.  As a teenager it wasn’t uncommon for me to show up at school shortly after 7am to either work on school projects or do the off season strength training program our school encouraged it’s athletes to do.  Some nights it would be after 7pm once I got home during football season.  It was even later during speech season, which was always a winter activity.  During the winter I went to school in the dark and came home in the dark.  This would have been good training for the rat race that passes for the modern workplace had I not become mentally ill and found out through very painful experience that I couldn’t support myself through “traditional” employment.  It was tough accepting that I needed outside assistance and couldn’t afford my treatment on my own.  It was especially tough as I was raised to value the working life and being a productive member of society.  My pride took a major beating once I had to go on disability because even minimum wage work caused me such anxiety and panic problems I would vomit almost everyday before I went to work.

But back to my main point, I bring up all of this to come to the point that there are many things we do in life that simply makes no sense considering how short and finite a human life truly is the grand scheme of civilization, let alone the cosmos.  The fact that I was on the fast track to working myself into a potential early grave even as a fifteen year old high school freshman from middle of nowhere Nebraska before that express train got derailed by schizophrenia.  I know now at age 38 I would have worked myself into a mid life crisis had I not gotten sick just by my obsessive nature and by the way I was encouraged into doing more than expected by my elders and peers.  I see many of my classmates and peers now in their mid to late 30s working jobs they don’t like to pay for trinkets and houses they never truly wanted to impress people they don’t even like.  I’ve also seen several of my classmates and friends go through divorces, bankruptcies, and other problems.  A month ago I had a cousin who was only about ten years my senior die from brain cancer.  A friend’s mom died from cancer a little over a year ago and she was only in her fifties.  My own mother might be dead if it weren’t for her pacemaker.  Sheesh, I  myself would probably be dead or in prison if it weren’t for my psych medications and counseling.  The fact is, life is more chance and even dumb luck than we care to acknowledge.  I, like many of my fellow Americans, too often like to think we are more in control of our own destinies than we truly are.  For every Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs who makes it big starting their own businesses, there are literally thousands (if not millions) of self employed business people like my dad and grandfathers who run small businesses for over thirty years and are never known beyond their friends, families, communities, and customers.  In short, life is too short to be obsessing over work and chasing the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Even John D. Rockefeller said those who work just to achieve riches will never achieve riches.  Besides life being too short to just work yourself mad, I’m presenting a list of other things life is too precious and short to waste on.  So here goes:

Life Is Too Short and Too Precious to Waste On

 

Jealousy

Keeping Up With The Neighbors

Running Up Debts to Buy Trinkets and Junk

Petty Vendettas

Arguing Over Opinions

Putting Up With Abusive Significant Others

Putting Up With People Who Play Mind Games

Watching Cable News Every Night

Bing Watching Shows on Netflix on Sunny Days

Not Returning Your Mother’s Phone Calls

Not Spending Time With Old Friends

Worrying About Things That You Individually Can’t Do Anything About

Worrying About How You Look to Others

Worrying More About Your Image than Your Character

Skipping Your Kid’s Little League Games to Work Overtime

Arguing With Your Significant Other Over House Chores And Past Wrongs

Working Too Much (I think when I’m on my death bed I might say something like, “Dang, wish I had an actual career” just to lighten the somber mood)

Not Saving Your Old Love Letters or Birthday Cards

Not Throwing Away Your Old Bank Statements or Tax Returns

Not Laugh

To Try To Save The World By Yourself

Putting Up With Reckless People

Arguing With Rude People

Arguing With Stupid People

Worry In General

Internet Trolls

Bad Drivers

Alienating Friends And Family Over Political and Religious Differences

Kissing Up To Bad Bosses

Complaining About Coworkers

Staying At Poor Fitting Jobs

Staying In Ill Fitting Relationships

Worrying About Being Alone (it’s far better to be living alone than married to or even dating someone who makes you feel miserable)

 

I could go on for hours with this list.  But some of the things I don’t think people should waste their time on I’m sure many readers would disagree with me and would probably even anger friends and family.  I do self censor at times, simply because discretion is in too short supply among many writers and content creators online.  Just because I have the freedom to write something or another doesn’t mean I should or will.  Just because something is permissible doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.

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Taking The Roads Less Travelled to Live A Life Rarely Lived

Feeling quite well overall.  In fact I would say that I’m quite happy overall much of the time.  Yet living alone because of my mental illness, I really have no one to share this happiness with.  Most of my friends, at least the ones in my age bracket, are married with children and in the middle of careers.  I have several friends who are now divorced and struggling with life.  I have a hard time relating to these friends simply because I never married.  Even before I realized how serious my mental illness truly was, I didn’t have much interest in getting married.  Growing up, I saw that many married couples were unhappy and having money troubles.  Three of my best friends’ parents and three sets of my cousins’ parents went through divorces while I was growing up.  It just seemed insane to me that my elders were chastising me for being leery about marriage when I was watching marriages getting picked off on a regular basis.  I’m so glad that my parents didn’t pressure me into getting married or having kids.  Now I’m watching some of my classmates go through divorces or having money problems in their late 30s.  And I don’t have those problems.

I don’t feel guilty about avoiding the problems that many of my friends and family members have or had.  It seems that most of the really good marriages I see out of my friends and family members came when the couple in question didn’t marry until their late 20s or even mid 30s.  People can say that marriages in the “good ol’ days” lasted a lifetime.  But many lifetimes didn’t last that long.  And most people in bad marriages stayed in mainly because they had no choice, especially when mobility was extremely limited and there weren’t many career options, especially for women.  Many people in the old days married more than once, not due to divorce, but because of the death of the spouse.

And let’s not kid ourselves, people change over the years.  People develop different interests over the years.  People develop different values over the years.  I am definitely not the same person now that I was fifteen years ago, let alone five years ago.  And one of the things that keeps me getting out of bed every morning is the idea that I can and will change over time given enough time and effort.  Having said this, the person you marry at age twenty three isn’t going to be the same person ten years later, let alone forty.  I tried to tell this to my classmates when we were in college, but many of them were like ‘love is forever’, or ‘love is all you need’, or ‘who broke your heart’.  But here we are fifteen to twenty years later and some of my friends and classmates are finding out there was some truth in my theories.  I’m not cynical by any means.  I’m actually more optimistic than most people I know.  I just see trends earlier than most people.

Even though I had a few really cool friends in high school, by and large my teenage years were difficult.  In fact, in many ways, they sucked.  I loved scholarly pursuits and I loved to play football at the same time.  That made me an outcast among my teammates by itself.  My best friend in high school was a girl, and most people couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that it was possible to befriend someone you found attractive and not have sex with them.  I suspect the big reason I didn’t get many dates in high school was because my best friend was a girl.  But, looking back on it years later, I’m glad I did it the way I did.  I do regret not keeping in contact with most of my other friends, but these guys aren’t the type to hang out on facebook or go to reunions anyway.  I wanted to get good grades and good test scores in school, so that made me a nerd.  I knew right away I didn’t have the hand coordination to go into the trades, so crushing it in academics was the next best thing.  And I got excellent scholarships because of my dedication to academics.  Sure there were many I didn’t qualify for because of affirmative action and equal opportunity deals.  But rather than complain about what I couldn’t control, I did what I could.  Namely take difficult classes, do well in those, nail the college board exams, and go to a college that would offer me good academic scholarships.

Even though I didn’t graduate in my preferred field of the biological sciences, I did graduate with a business degree with an emphasis on management and economics.  I had no delusions that I was going to be the next Wolf of Wall Street, but I really wanted to teach personal finance and investing classes at the college level.  That was before I realized I would probably need a doctorate in order to even consider having any job security in the academic world.  Well, I didn’t want to go into student debt to do that.  And I could tell my mental illness was getting worse even in my mid twenties.  So I applied for disability insurance and moved to low income housing.  I worked a part time job for a few years, mainly to prove to myself that I could.  In mid 2012, I decided to leave the regular work world to concentrate on my writing and personal scholarly pursuits.  I didn’t need to work as I could live off my disability pension.  I can do this because I have zero debts, zero family obligations, have cheap hobbies, and I am a minimalist.

For years people told me I was crazy for not getting married, not wanting to have kids, not wanting to pursue the regular nine to five grind, not wanting to go bar hopping on the weekends, and not spending my money on crap I didn’t need to impress jerks I didn’t like.  But I’m not even forty yet and I’m already starting to see benefits from being wise and not screwing up.  The only really sad thing about this is that I find myself not having much to talk about with when I’m around my old friends.  I don’t have a job I can’t stand.  I don’t have problems with money.  I don’t have a spouse or girlfriend I have personality clashes with.  I don’t have an ex I’m send alimony to every month.  I’m not making child support payments on kids I never get to see.  I was able to separate the gold nuggets of wisdom tossed my way by my elders from the mountains of b.s. that some people tried to jam down my throat.  I sometimes find I have more in common with members of my science and futurism groups on facebook than I do my classmates and even some of my friends.

People think I’m odd because I get along fabulously well with my parents, at least the ninety nine percent of the time I’m not having flare ups with my schizophrenia.  Sure they were demanding and tough on my brother and I when we were kids.  Sure they told us harsh truths about ourselves, the world at large, and didn’t give us the whole Disney fantasy fairy tale stories kind of childhood.  As a little child in the early 80s I knew who Ronald Reagan was before I did Mickey Mouse.  At age seven I could identify Carl Sagan before I could most movie stars and musicians.  It made no sense to me as a kid as it seemed that some of my school mates were more care free and happy than my brother and I.  We may not have been raised like warriors but we certainly were raised like scholars.

Now that I’m an adult I am grateful for the way I was raised by my parents and extended family.  I am grateful I struggled socially as a teenager as that made me develop skills that some people never had to.  I’m glad I got see what could go wrong in dating relationships and marriages without having to experience these tragedies first hand.  I’m glad my best friend in high school was a girl.  I’m glad that she and I are still good friends twenty years later.  That probably wouldn’t have happened had we tried to force the friendship into a romantic direction.  I’m grateful for the failed relationships and dead end jobs.  I’m thankful I moved out of my hometown.  I’m grateful for the years I lived alone.  I’m grateful I got out of debt.  I’m grateful for loving to read and write.  Reading and writing give me a joy that I never found in any romance, job, etc.  I’m especially thankful for the early struggles in my teens and early twenties with mental illness and bad jobs.  I’m glad those struggles came in my youth rather than my current middle age.  I don’t have a mid life crisis because I had my crises in my teens and twenties, learned from said crises, and adapted accordingly.  I’m glad I didn’t have it easy early on socially, work wise, mental health wise, etc.  I’m grateful for the early struggles.  I’m glad I had to face loss in my early twenties as opposed to my late thirties.

Reinventing Myself While Living With Schizophrenia

 

I admit I don’t have good social skills.  Never have and probably never will.  Part of it may have come from growing up in a rural town of less than 500 residents without much in the way of diversity or culture.  That and I didn’t know many people who shared my interests in science, science fiction, and fantasy type stories until I went to college.  To this day I have never bought a comic book.  I was 31 before I played my first D&D game.  I didn’t read any Issac Asimov or Arthur C. Clark until a couple years ago.  I didn’t sit down and watch an episode of Star Trek start to finish until I was in my thirties.  And besides the D&D, I enjoy all of these things.  I would have loved to discovered this stuff twenty five years ago.  Most people in my childhood hometown were interested in mostly farming, hunting, football, church, and politics.  I can discuss such things but they do get old after even a few minutes and then you’re just rehashing reruns of reruns.  While I didn’t hate my hometown as a child, I was quite bored and always felt like I didn’t fit in.  As a result I didn’t socialize except when I was forced to.  It’s not that I don’t like people.  I love people.  I just have a wide range of interests that growing up where I did just wasn’t able to satisfy.

I suppose in some ways now that I’m on disability insurance and don’t have to work a regular job (not that I could with my depression, paranoia, and anxiety), I feel like I’m getting a second chance at my adolescence.  Sure I’m in my late 30s, don’t have the physical strength I did at age 18, and I’m not interested in trying to get laid, but in some ways I still feel youthful.  I am enjoying my thirties far more than I ever did my teenage years.  In some ways, I feel like my thirties are kind of like my adolescence in that I have different possibilities every day as to how I want to spend my days.  And I don’t have to deal with bullies or irritable elders yammering on about how the ‘cold cruel world’ is going to kick my idealistic butt.  I had my butt kicked many times in my teens and twenties by my mental illness and trying in vain to find a job so I could be considered a ‘productive member of society’ or considered a ‘real man’ by fools and jerks whom I really couldn’t care less about.

My teens and twenties, besides the mainly truly happy times I felt in college because I got to work with smart and interesting people every day, by and large were lousy.  In fact, they sucked.  I pretty much spent my twenties going from one dead end job to another, one ill fitting relationship to another, finding out that the real world doesn’t make sense and isn’t supposed to all the while having psychotic breakdowns every few months along the way.  By the time I qualified for disability insurance at the age of 28 I realized that there is no set script to life.  I didn’t have to follow anyone’s script for me.  I could feel free to change my script anytime I want.  And I have.

Every one is free to change their life as long as they are willing to make sacrifices here and there.  Anyone who hates their thankless job could stride up their boss tomorrow, quit in a blaze of glory, and live the life of a nomad who answers to no one but their own limitations and nature itself.  But almost no one does because they aren’t willing to sacrifice their incomes, their prestige, their families, their McMansions, etc.

You can do what you like and are good at, it’s just what are you willing to give up to get there?  I have my freedom and I live quite happy in spite being on disability.  But I had to be inflicted with schizophrenia through no misdeeds of my own, give up ever having a traditional career, give up the shot at getting rich (it isn’t just monks and priests that take the vow of poverty), give up any shot of ever having a family or any kind of romance life (again, clergy aren’t the only ones who take vows of celibacy), and it can be quite lonely at times.  But I value my freedom.  I value my intelligence and wisdom.  I strive every day to make myself smarter, better read, better cultured, and wiser.

But it all came at a price.  It was a price that, at age 16 before I started having my problems with schizophrenia, I would have said ‘no way am I paying that price.’  I paid the price for my freedom and wisdom.  And, as it is, I am thankful I took the paths I did.  Statistically speaking, people with my diagnosis usually wound up lifetime institutionalized, homeless, in prison, or dead at a very young age for most of history.  I’m happy I beat the odds.  I’m happy I didn’t become just another statistic.

Everything else from this point in my life is just chicken gravy as far as I’m concerned.  So yes, I am going to be happy.  I am going to share my joy with other people while they gripe and moan about their jobs, their spouses, and humanity in general.  And if people think I’m overly optimistic or a hopeless Pollyanna, well it was one rugged process surviving from age eighteen until my early thirties when I finally learned to say, “screw others expectations, I am doing what I want.”  And I didn’t come to this conclusion all at once.  It was a gradual evolution.  My physical health may be not what it once was, but I am far happier now than I was ten years ago.  And that is mainly because I learned to let go of others’ expectations and a type of regular life that was never going to materialize.  In short, dance like no one’s watching; no one is.  Everyone else is too busy with the petty concerns of their own lives.

My Education as a Writer with Mental Illness

 

I readily admit to being eccentric.  I was such even as a child.  In my more active years, I used to pace in the back yard for hours on end regardless of the weather just making up stories in my head.  I’m sure this concerned my family some (and made me a butt of jokes among the school yard bullies), but I had an overactive imagination as a child.  I was too scared to actually put any of this into writing.  I guess I was paranoid even as a child.  I used to make up all sorts of stories and characters.  I kind of kick myself now for not making notes on some of those stories as I think some of them might have made decent science fiction or fantasy stories.  But I never considered a career as a writer because I had heard so many horror stories about English and humanities students condemned to working minimum wage jobs after college.  As it is now, the middle class is all but gone.  I may have been happier as a double major in English and History rather than trying to be a medical scientist.

I guess now that I know myself much better at age 38 than I did at age 18, I know now that I am really a writer/story teller who is interested in science, rather than a scientist interested in writing.  And I certainly am not the economist or sales man I studied to be when I studied business after it became clear my mental illness wouldn’t allow to go to medical school.

Since I’m starting to read much more again, I’m beginning to get the urge to try my hand at traditional writing again.  I absolutely love blogging and I used poetry in my twenties to learn how to write and tell stories.  But perhaps it is time to venture into new possibilities with my writings.  I’ve had some of my poems published in small literary journals in the past. I did write the rough drafts of two novels when I was in my twenties.  I made outlines for science fiction novels but never wrote anything serious.  Once I even tried my hand at writing crime drama, and my only experience with crime was when I helped my boss catch a couple shoplifters during my first day on the job when I was in college.  I wish I had kept my rough drafts of my old novels.

I became interested in writing as a means of story telling during my freshman year in college when I qualified for a place in an advanced English course.  I find out I loved writing stories and essays in that class.  I made some pretty good friends in that class too.  One of those friends became a blogger too.  I regret that I lost contact with her and everyone else in that class over the years.  Even though I didn’t dive head first into writing after that class ended, I did become interested in literature.  I must have spent as much time reading in the college library as I did studying for my business and economics classes during the last three years of college.  I became so dedicated to pursuing this course of self study that I let much of my old college life go.  I left my fraternity even though I had lots of friends in that group.  I stopped dating to pursue knowledge.  I guess I knew even early on that learning and story telling were the true loves of my life.  Besides, fighting a mental illness I would have probably made a lousy husband and father.

I more or less lived in the library the last three years of college.  But one of the purposes of formal education should be to at least give kids the tools to learn new things should they wish to once they leave school.  I felt my formal education, first at a rural public school and then at a private college in York, Nebraska, did just that for me.  And I am grateful every day that I wake up for being able to make it through college without any student debt.  With as expensive as college is getting now, and how wages simply aren’t keeping up, I whole heartedly recommend against going to a four year college unless you are going for a STEM degree or can be guaranteed to get out debt free.  I’ve seen too many friends crushed by student loan debts, robbed of their peace of mind, and working jobs they can’t stand just because of said debts.  And much of what I learned in college can just as easily be learned with a few years of hard self study via the public library system, ebooks, and youtube videos.  I dare say that I learned more in five years of hard self studying via the public library and youtube videos than I did in my formal education.  But it was the formal education that planted that desire and need for knowledge and wisdom to begin with.  These are some of my thoughts on my education and path to enlightenment as the school year starts again.

College Years and How I Became a Blogger

Blogging has turned into a dream come true for me.  I can write about my problems as a mentally ill man, tell what works for me and what doesn’t, and now I’m even making a few dollars a month at it.  I never expected any money from this blog or really any of my writing work.  I enjoy what money can do as much as anyone, but I really don’t need a large bank account or stock portfolio to stroke my ego.  As long as I can keep the rent current, have food in my pantry, my medications stocked up, and stay out of debt, I am fine with what I make just off disability pension.  It may seem kinda boring and dreary life for some as I really can’t afford to travel much anymore or that I don’t have any family of my own.

I travelled a lot in my younger years and I went to a small college with a larger than usual foreign student body.  Since there were less than 600 students in our entire college, we were forced to interact with people of many different backgrounds if we wanted to have any kind of social life.  It was a good college for someone like from rural Nebraska who wasn’t personally exposed to many different cultures.  It was in college that I found that I had some talent for writing.  That’s where I started writing poetry and drafts for novels.  I also read many of the classics of American and European literature while there.  I also dabbled in some Eastern philosophy like Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu.  Granted this was in the early 2000s before youtube and most of social media really connnected people.  I imagine I could learn the same things now on my computer as opposed to spending entire days in the campus library.  But being exposed to different ideas from different eras of time and different nations inspired me to tell my own story.  And apparantly my story of my life with mental illness is resonating with some people.

Discouragement

I spent several days at my parents’ place last week.  I was needing the peace and quiet and a little encouragement.  Unfortunately the encouragement left as soon as I got home. I have been convinced for years that the environment a person lives in and the type of people they are forced to associate with on a day to day business can greatly effect a person’s happiness and overall well being.  Most people have thought I was full of it for believing this as the majority of people I know believe you can will yourself out of depression, mental illness, and a bad situation.  You can’t will yourself out of mental illness anymore than an amputee can will his leg back.  In this day and age of advanced medicine and science, the people that think such things think them mainly because they choose to remain ignorant about science, technology, and illness.

I don’t get encouragement from being around my neighbors.  Haven’t for a long time.  I certainly don’t find encouragement when I try to contact even close friends and family online anymore.  Even family and close friends too often act like barbarians online, and don’t even get me started on random strangers and friends of friends.  About the only real intelligent and rational conversation and interactions I have anymore on my tech enthusiasts groups and my parents.  And my parents are both advanced in age and not in great health, so they will probably be dying within twenty years.  When they go, I’ll lose the vast majority of my social outlets and supports.  Tell me again why I want to live to old age?

I’m not sorry for being discouraged and sounding off about it.  Why should I?  Everybody else feels free to gripe and complain and generally drag anyone within ear shot into the cesspool that is socializing.  Even Superman has his kryptonite.  And lately I have been exposed to near lethal doses of it.  I’m tired from fighting and not seeing any results.  I’m tired of trying to encourage people with good news that doesn’t make the press only to be told I am a liar and that I’m a peddler of fake news.  I’m tired of always having to keep my head down in the dirt when we as a species were meant to reach for the stars.  Normal people are discouraging, you really are.

I Want To Shake Things Up and Get More Active Again

whybenormal

My back has healed up.  I’m back to essentially a more normal routine.  Because of the colder weather and being housebound for two weeks, I got to do some thinking about changing things in my life.  I have essentially been in a rut for the last couple years where it’s pretty much the same old every day, day in and day out.  I haven’t done any real traveling for almost three years, spending much of my time self educating via youtube and Khan Academy and reading books.  I gained back the weight I lost within two years of my car accident back in 2015.  Now I’m getting more serious about my health again.  I don’t eat fast food anymore.  I’m starting to get out of my apartment more and walk a little every day.  I do arm weights three times a week.  And about the only things I drink anymore are water and coffee.  I feel like I’m beginning to see some results.  I started this new routine shortly after New Year’s.  Because my back slowed me down for two weeks, I just cut back on what I ate.  I’m to where I now eat meat only once a day, usually for breakfast.  The rest of the meals I eat things like spinach leaf salads, soups, peanut butter, and meatless pasta.  I think my routines are starting to work.  I feel like I have more energy.  I feel more mobile.  I’m starting to have fewer aches and pains.  And I am sleeping better too.

I’m also thinking that after I have lost some weight, I’m going to have to get out and about more.  I am in desperate need of shaking up my routines and adding more spice to my life.  A few years ago I said that I would like to do some traveling eventually.  I still have my savings that I built up a few years ago.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to see my old college friends again.  I don’t have a definite time line set just yet as this is still in the dreaming before making plans phase.  I have always wanted to get my passport and travel through Europe and see places like Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, London, etc.  Part of me would, if I get back to the same weight I was in college, love to travel on some of the old Silk Road from eastern Europe to China or vice versa.  When I was in high school I spent a couple weeks in Mexico with my Spanish class.  It was the most enjoyable vacation I had in my entire life.  Now that I am an adult, debt free, committed to getting back into good physical health, and have a little bit of a savings, I’m going to have to do this traveling before I get too old to enjoy it.  Since I am single, have a safety net in my disability pension, and I can do my blog from anywhere that has WiFi internet, I’m starting to hear the faint beckoning call of the open road again.

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I did a little traveling every year.  My senior year of college, my parents and I went to San Antonio for Christmas.  I got to see The Riverwalk lit up for Christmas, visited the Alamo, got to see one of the Air Force bases my dad was stationed at during the Vietnam War, and got to see my Nebraska Huskers play a post season bowl game.  And an old college friend and I used to go to Denver to see Colorado Rockies baseball games, one of those games being a World Series game.  Spent all winter paying off the cost of that quick weekend trip, and even though the Rockies lost the Series, it was worth the trip.  I visited an old college friend in Minnesota for a week several summers ago.  I was amazed at how beautiful Minnesota is (I wouldn’t care to fight their winters). My friends and I used to go to minor league baseball games every summer.  We were able to get front row seats, a couple hot dogs, and a couple soda pops for less than $25 a person.  Just thinking about these old times while I was house bound for the last two weeks got me to realize just how much I missed travel and seeing different places.

I know that before I can fulfill these dreams of traveling, I have to lose some weight.  I have done it before.  And by God I can do it again.  I know it’s going to take at least a few years before I can get to doing the travel overseas like I dream of doing.  But I have pretty much gotten to where I have played all the computer games and done most of the self study I care to do.  I took a couple years doing that and I have gotten it out of my system.  Now it is time for a different chapter in my life.  It’s time to lose some weight and prepare to hit the road again.

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.

Midnight Ramblings and Optimism

Have had my days and nights backwards for the last couple weeks.  Been getting most of my sleep in the mornings and staying up most of the night.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to be negatively effecting my mental stability.  If anything this has been the most stable summer I’ve had in years.  Granted this sleeping during the days while being up most of the night is putting a cramp on my social life.  But I didn’t have much of a social life to start with.  So I spend much of my nights listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I listen to mostly non fiction science books and some science fiction.  I still don’t watch much tv.  I’m not even really that excited about football season this year.  But I am looking forward to cooler weather.  I am glad I have made it through most of the summer with no real problems.

Perhaps I am having fewer problems because I socialize less than I have in previous months and years.  I leave my apartment only to run errands and even then I make it a point to run them in the early mornings or late nights to avoid crowds.  I have made a point of avoiding angry, irritable, and rude people in person and online.  Of course this does limit how many people I hear from or talk to.  I really don’t talk to many people anymore, mainly my family and a few friends.  Sure it gets kind of lonely but fortunately the loneliness doesn’t last long.  I’m glad I don’t have to rely on other people to keep me entertained.  Sometimes I am my own best company.

In spite not socializing much I am still optimistic overall.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown much this summer.  But anymore with the internet, I can still keep in contact with friends and family.  And I can keep myself occupied with free audiobooks, free online courses, and free music online.  I would have had to spent thousands of dollars for the things I have read or listened to online just fifteen years ago.  And I can get all this for a dollar a day in internet service fees.  And I love it.  I wouldn’t trade living here and now (unless I could be wisked a couple hundred years into the future and be exploring strange new worlds like Star Trek).  And I have some of my family members and a few of my friends to be the same way.  My best friend from high school (whom I’m still great friends with) loves speculating on future science and social trends when she’s not discussing Game of Thrones.  But I guess she gets tired of me talking about baseball and computer games, so that makes us even.  My thirteen year old nephew is going to be working with robotics and 3D printers this year in his junior high.  And to think I was impressed with the old Apple II GS when I was growing up.  I often joke with my niece and nephews that they might not need drivers’ licenses.  Now it’s looking like even I might not need a drivers’ license in ten years.  Wouldn’t hurt my feelings that much.  Sure we don’t have flying cars like Back To The Future said we would, but even that movie didn’t predict the Internet boom, smart phones, or renewable energy starting to become affordable.  I wouldn’t even have cable tv except it comes with my apartment.

What I’m getting at is that right now in 2017, despite the bad news we’re constantly hearing on the news channels and our online news feeds, we’re still living in some pretty cool times.  It is, in many ways, a good time to be an average person.  Sure I may not be able to ever afford a house like my parents or brother.  But I don’t need a large house in an affluent suburb with the picket fence and two car garage.  I can currently live quite well just in the apartment in the small college town I’m in.  I currently don’t need much to live a decent standard of living that even the kings and industrialists of 1900 couldn’t have imagined.  It is not, however, a good time to be a control freak or spiteful hate monger.  We’re always probably going to have problems like these but, unlike in past eras, the overwhelming general consensus is that being a dictator or hateful person are bad things.  For most of civilization’s history, the idea of the ‘divine right of royalty’ or having hatred of people different from your own little group was pretty much unquestioned by the vast majority of people.  We have made progress as a species.  And we will continue to make progress even if people take it for granted or don’t pay attention to it.  The only reason that we don’t hear about the good going on is simply because good news doesn’t sell.  Good news doesn’t sell only because we as a species are not wired to pay much attention to good news.

I Enjoy Adulthood Even With Mental Illness

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I must admit, I love being an adult.  I love the freedom involved.  I love having my own money and getting to decide how I get to spend it.  I love that I don’t have to answer to authority figures I didn’t choose.  If a boss was giving me static at a job, I could always look for a different job.  If a landlord was giving me a hard time, I always had the option of moving to a different place.  I love that I can do things like vote and go to casinos.  I enjoy that I don’t have to feel guilty for expressing my opinions and having my likes and dislikes.  I like that I can read whatever I want.  I love having privacy.  I enjoy not getting yelled at for trivial things like when I was in school or living with my parents.  I like the fact that I can avoid people who give me too much static.  When you are in school, you just can’t avoid bullies or sadistic teachers.  Sure I’ve had bosses and coworkers who were jerks and whiners, but at least I had the option of finding another job if I didn’t connect with said bosses or coworkers.  Changing schools is a lot tougher.

Even though I have been living with schizophrenia since at least age seventeen, I have found that it is getting easier to work around it the older I get.  The bad periods don’t last nearly as long nor are as intense as they were in my early twenties.  In my late 30s, I have come to the realization that I don’t have to be defined by what job I have or if I have a wife and kids or not.  I am not my job.  I am not less of a human being because I am not married.  Sure I still deal with people that tell me “mental illness is fake” or that “you’re not a real man.”  But as an adult it is much easier to blow those jerks and losers off and ignore them.  You think I’m faking mental illness, then screw you.  It’s not my job to meet your standards.  It is so much easier to not be bothered by criticism as a 36 year old than when I was 21.  I just hope that the older I get, the symptoms will become even less severe and I will care even less about naysayers and idiots.

I still isolate a lot and avoid socializing with my complex mates.  But I think I’m more mentally stable because of said lack of socializing.  When I was a kid people used to tell me I was being “anti-social” and had “attitude problems” because I didn’t like going to high school sporting events and county fairs.  There really wasn’t much to do in my farming village besides school events, church activities, and county fairs.  There was only one movie theatre in a fifty mile radius from my hometown. I didn’t enjoy watching people throw balls around much as a kid.  As an adult I really don’t have to feel guilty for not watching such things.  I do watch some college football and basketball tournaments just to give myself something to talk about with other people.  Most people still don’t like discussing science and technology in casual conversations.  But I haven’t been to any sporting events in person besides minor league baseball games in almost five years.  And I don’t feel the least bit guilty or anti-social because of it.  And as an adult I have these options.  That’s more than I had as a kid.

I don’t really understand people who are nostalgic about their youths or the past.  I might be a little nostalgic about growing up if I had more friends, was bullied less, and wasn’t so much of a social misfit in my school.  I am kind of nostalgic about my college years because I knew lots of smart people, had lots of interesting conversations, could do things at the spur of the moment with no planning, could study what I felt like studying, and had the legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood.  College was much more stimulating and enjoyable than grade school or high school.  Sure I never got to use my degree in a job, but I blame the schizophrenia for that completely.  And I am grateful everyday I can keep in contact with old friends through Facebook.

I love living in the here and now of May 2017.  Sure getting to this point was rough dealing with schizophrenia for almost twenty years.  Sure my physical health took a beating because my mental illness and the side effects of the psych medications.  But after twenty years of schizophrenia I have figured out how to deal with bad days and psychotic breaks.  I have also learned how to enjoy the small things of life more than many of my mentally stable friends and family.  Happiness for me is watching a sunset, or eating chicken wings at a sports bar with college friends, or seeing my niece and nephews for a few hours, or talking with my parents about history or technology, or reading internet sites like futurism.com or bloomberg.com about trends in science and current events.  I had my ups and downs with schizophrenia.  I had many breakdowns when I took a lot of grief out on my parents and friends.  Fortunately those breakdowns are getting less severe and shorter as I age.  I have had to go to the mental hospital twice. But both times I was self committed and my longest stay was one week.  I may not be able to hold a forty hour a week job, but at least I tried several different lines of work before I came to the conclusion that traditional employment wasn’t in my future.  And it’s not shameful to not hold a full time job, especially if you have a disability or find other outlets to give back to people.  I can still drive a car, I can still buy my own groceries, pick up my medications, keep appointments, and more or less live on my own even with mental illness.  Some people can’t claim that.  In short I love being an adult.  And I wouldn’t want to go back to my youth, even though I had more friends and better health in college.  Being an adult rocks.  It really does.