Work, Education, Future Tech, Minimalism, and Mental Illness

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Even though mental illness has cost me any potential career, wealth, or family, I am still quite happy overall most of the time.  I would say that age 37 I’m far happier and content now than I was 10 years ago.  I have come to the acceptance that I don’t need a career to validate my life and existence.  That is something most people in modern civilization never come to realize.  I still get the questions of ‘what do I do for a living’ all the time when I’m out in public.  Anymore I just tell people I do online computer stuff from home, which isn’t a lie.  I just don’t get paid for it.  For years I lied to people about what kind of job I had.  And I felt guilty about it because the very question seemed to imply that I had to validate my existence by what I did for several hours a day.  What does it matter what I do all day as long as I’m not breaking the law or hurting other people?  I know some exceptionally brilliant people who more or less dropped out of modern society because they saw the whole idea of a 40 hour work week and family and house in the suburbs as self defeating and pointless.  I mean I don’t need to have a job paying me six figures when, as a minimalist, I can live comfortably off less than 20 grand a year.  Besides, with soon to be eight billion plus people living on our small planet, we’re going to have to learn how to do more with less anyway.

What does it matter what a person does for a living in many cases anyway?  There are studies out there and can be viewed online that state that as many as 50 percent of current jobs could be assigned to machines and done better within the next 20 years.  When this happens, and it will happen despite political interventions and social upheavals, we as humans will have to find new ways to define ourselves outside of paid employment.

And I can’t figure out why people are so scared senseless of having their jobs assigned to machines.  Practically everyone I know hates their jobs.  I have heard that old “Oh God It’s Monday” and “Thank God It’s Friday” nonsense since I was five years old.  Seems to me that griping and moaning about how much your job sucks is as American as baseball.  If I were a business owner, I think I’d install machines just so I have to deal with as few bad attitudes as possible.  Most jobs are in the service sector anymore that don’t pay as well as the old unionized factory jobs.  And most people that work in these sectors are treated poorly by bosses, customers, and even fellow employees.  I will never voluntarily work in customer service ever again.  I have enough problems of my own to be working maximum hours for little to no benefits while taking abuse from customers and bosses.  The way normal people treat customer service employees is really heartless and uncivilized.  I don’t understand why anyone would put themselves through that except for the need for money.  And I don’t need the money, so I won’t put myself through it.

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Seems to me that we are running out of low skill jobs while many high skill jobs like doctors, engineers, teachers, trades jobs, technicians, etc. are going unfilled.  Our schools, for whatever reasons, simply aren’t producing the quantities of people that are needed to keep our high tech civilizations functioning and advancing.  That concerns me.  We know my country doesn’t do a good job teaching science or math in our grade and secondary schools.  We have known this for over 40 years now.  And nobody seems interested in updating the American school systems for the high tech realities of modern times.  Our civilization cannot afford another 40 years of poor science and math education.  Why aren’t we making the changes?

Yes, our schools served us well in the industrial revolution.  But they are a poor design for the information revolutions we have been in for at least the last 30 years. Then again, with as fast as things are advancing, much of what an 18 year college freshman learns will be pointless and obsolete by the time he/she graduates from college four to five years later.  So we may have to teach kids to learn how to learn rather than give them certain facts and expect them to spit them out on a test only to be forgotten a week later.   I would love to see some kid write on her high school tests, “Why should I clutter my mind with facts I can look up on Google?” That kind of testing seemed pointless to me as a teenager and it seems even more pointless now in 2017.  Fortunately for older people like me there are mediums like youtube, khan academy, free online course through places like MIT, etc. that are keeping us more informed than we would have been in previous generations.  Used to be that a person could rote learn facts and then spend the next 30 years working on a farm or in a factory simply because the science and tech didn’t advance very fast.  Of course many people didn’t live past age 50 either, so retirement and the diseases of old age like heart disease and cancer weren’t very big problems.  Those days are as dead and gone as the draft horse and wagon.

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Unfortunately many people of my generation and the previous generations made the mistake of ending their education once their school years were over.  This we could afford when science and tech weren’t advancing really fast and people weren’t regularly living into their 80s and 90s.  But as fast as things are advancing now, it’s hurting us that our citizens and elected leaders aren’t able to keep up with the advances.  I doubt most people in my government even understand that robotics, computer programs, and AI are getting good enough that many jobs will be disappearing within the next decade or two.  My politicians are talking about bringing back old style manufacturing jobs.  As good as automation is, that’s not happening.  The U.S. is already the number two manufacturer in the world, behind only China.  Even China is automating much of it’s manufacturing now.  And when 3D printers get really good and easy to use, that’s going to end even more manufacturing jobs and retail jobs.  When I get a good 3D printer someday, I will never set foot in a Wal Mart or mall ever again.  As it already is, I do most of my shopping online.  I even get delivery pizza and deli online anymore.

I don’t even have to go back to school to learn new things, thanks to online learning.  For all I know, our grandkids’ generation may be able to have all their education online without having to set foot in a classroom.  I’ve already learned as much online through five years of rigorous study on youtube and khan academy as I ever did in my years of formal education.  And I absolutely love it.  Maybe one of the reasons I’m not scared of the avalanche of changes our civilization is and will be facing in the next couple generations is because I have had to reinvent myself several times because of mental illness.  We as a civilization will have to reinvent ourselves to avoid destroying ourselves.  Maybe my schizophrenia inadvertently sling shot me ahead of most of the crowd.  We are heading towards some really cool things in the future, but whether or not we as a species make a successful transition is not certain mainly because we are stumbling around without much of a plan to manage the transition.

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Drama Free Living

It’s been quite quiet for me this summer.  I haven’t had any flare ups or episodes.  I haven’t even heard my neighbors arguing for weeks.  Somedays I wonder if I even have neighbors it’s been so quiet in my complex.  About the only time I see any of my neighbors is when I leave my apartment to run errands.  I don’t sit outside too much anymore just because it’s been so hot.  Fortunately we have only another six to eight weeks of hot weather left.  But I have been enjoying the peace and quiet.  I also enjoy not having flare ups or dealing with stupid and rude people all the time.

I used to have to deal with a lot of drama at work and in some friendships.  I haven’t dated for several years  simply because the drama and ups and downs just got old.  Having schizophrenia while trying to date adds a whole another level of difficulty.  And I came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.  I have enough problems as is.  I also had to cut negative people out of my life.  Sure it meant ending a few friendships and being real careful about who I let into my life.  And it also means much alone time.  But it’s alright because the peace and quiet is worth it.

Another thing that helps me is that I am debt free.  That is why I can live as a minimalist and not work.  I just live on my disability pension.  Right now I can budget it out that I don’t have to resort to credit cards to make it through the month.  I don’t have to take a thankless and stressful job because I don’t need the money.  As far as I’m concerned, the biggest reason to work for someone else is the money.  Being an employee, especially in today’s ever shifting and toxic work environments, doesn’t seem to be much more than glorified serfdom.  Why should any employee give loyalty to a company when the job can be taken over by machines, outsourced overseas, or just given to a younger person for lower wages?  If you’re going to be an employee, it’s best to go to the highest bidder.  An employer won’t look out for you.  An employer doesn’t care about you either.  Neither do most of your coworkers, at least that is my experience.  A boss isn’t going to help you develop your career.  You are on your own on that one.  I can do this blog without getting paid for it because I don’t have to worry about income or paying off debts.  And I absolutely love doing this blog.  It doesn’t really seem like a job because it isn’t drudgery like I was used to in my working days.  It feels more like a hobby that evolved into a life mission.

Since I don’t have debts and am content to live a minimalist life, I am quite free to write about what needs to be written.  Life with a mental illness isn’t pretty much of the time.  It is lonely, it can be frightening, it can be long bouts of depression and sadness, and sometimes I have found myself mourning over the career and lifestyle that never was because of this illness.  But, having this illness made me resourceful and creative.  It also made me smarter.  It made me think about many things that most people never have to.  It made me ask questions that most people would never think to ask.

Right now I’m dealing with a stretch where I haven’t had any real drama for months.  It helps that I have been able to largely avoid toxic, negative, and stupid people.  That’s no small accomplishment living in tight quarters like I do.  I’m pretty content to just stay home much of the time anymore.  I have gotten to where I feel naked without a good internet connection.  I imagine that’s going to become more common in the next several years.  I’m just ahead of the curve.  And I don’t have to submit to a bad boss or bad coworkers or unreasonable customers to make money because I don’t need the money.  I can get by just on my disability pension because I don’t have debts or expensive tastes.  I won’t spend a hundred dollars on a pair of jeans or two hundred dollars on a pair of sneakers or buy a new iPhone every year or a different car every three years.  I am content with what I have.  I love being a minimalist.  And that has helped me create a life with little to no drama in spite my mental illness.

Minimalism, Optimism, and Freedom with Mental Illness

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In the classic movie ‘Forrest Gump’, there was a line that went like “there’s only so much you need and the rest is just for show.”  After a couple of years of practicing minimalism I know that is a fact.  There really is only so much a person needs to really be content in life. I don’t have any music CDs or DVDs because I have all of that held by my computer via my subscriptions to Netflix, Curiosity Stream, and Spotify.  I have my books but I am seriously considering buying a Kindle or another cheap e-reader and putting a bunch of free books on it.  I don’t have a lot of trinkets in my house.  Besides a few art pieces done by friends and my framed World Series ticket stub from when my Rockies made the World Series I don’t have much for decorations.  The only real extravagance  I have for decorations is the world map where I put in push pins in every country I had a visitor from.  I have food in my fridge and pantry.  I have some emergency supplies so I could ride out a blizzard or emergency for a few days without power if need be.  I have my car which I use mainly to buy groceries and run occasional errands.  I’ve gotten to where I usually buy gas only once a month unless I’m making road trips during the summer.  I banked some of my insurance settlement money as another emergency fund.  I already had an emergency fund that I keep outside of the bank.  My medicaid covers my medications and psych doctor visits.  I have learned how to live on what social security pays me.  I have zero for debts.  I have two computers and central heating.  Heck, I dare say that even though I’m on social security disability insurance and officially living under the poverty line for U.S. standards in 2016, I live better than the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts did back in the late 1800s.  Thank God for technology and knowledge.

I’m sorry if I sound like I’m bragging.  But I am happy that I have gotten out of debt, stayed out of debt, didn’t end up in a bad relationship or divorced paying child support for kids I’m hardly ever allowed to see, and avoided a lot of other problems that could have come with being mentally ill.  I’m glad I don’t have kids because I fear passing on genetic tendencies for mental illness and I know with schizophrenia I would have made a lousy father.  I am glad I got out of debt and learned how to have cheap tastes because I don’t have to take a job just for the money.  I don’t work right now because I really don’t need the money.  I also don’t need the headaches of office politics and putting up with whiny and lazy coworkers.  I left my last job because I didn’t need the money and the job was becoming more of a headache than it was worth.  Being in the position where I don’t have to accept a lousy job or put up with coworkers’ nonsense is a sense of power that not many people I know have.

Some of my critics will no doubt say that I can do this only because I am on the government dole.  Years ago with mental illness, I’d be locked up in an insane asylum and probably costing the taxpayers more than I am now with less effective results. With me living in the community on disability, my community was able to get several years of labor and taxes out of me that they wouldn’t have gotten fifty years ago.  The community also received my blog entries, which from messages I have gotten from readers, are making a difference.  Some may think I am spoiled by being able to live in the community and take psych medications at tax payer expense.  What’s wrong with that?  Everybody alive today benefits from inventions and innovations they had nothing to do with.  Everybody with electricity today had little to nothing to do with the research that people like Michael Farraday, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and George Westinghouse did back in the 1800s to make electric power possible.  A significant percentage of the people living today would be dead or never born if it wasn’t for anti biotic drugs.  Surely that doesn’t spoil anyone or make them less productive.

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Because of advances in science and technology along with advances in the social safety nets, I can live pretty well off very little.  I have access to much of history’s music through Spotify for only ten dollars a month.  I have access to the world’s cumulative knowledge and wisdom won through centuries of toil, tears, and blood through a wireless internet collection that costs only one dollar a day.  I don’t need in encyclopedia for research when I have wikipedia and search engines.  I don’t need to write letters to friends when I can just hit them up on Facebook.  I don’t need to buy a newspaper when I can go online to get my news or craigslist.com for classified ads.  I can reach an international audience with this blog for pennies a day in advertising and I have a much further reach than when I started writing a dozen years ago.  Back then I wasn’t known outside of the few people who bought some of my print on demand poetry and essays books.  Much of what I am doing right now would seem like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers type of science fiction magic to my grandparents generation back in the 1950s.  Even the Wal Mart special smart phone I have is more advanced than Captain Kirk’s mobile communicator from the original ‘Star Trek.’  And I have access to all of this and more even though I am a minimalist, on disability insurance, a single man, and living in a smaller town in a largely rural farming state.

Because my hobbies and entertainments don’t cost much I don’t need that much money.  Splurging for me is going to a sports bar with a couple college friends when they come to visit.  Or buying $60 worth of used books on amazon or picking up a couple cheap computer games.  Extravagance for me is going camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota or the mountains of Colorado.  A good time for me is getting to see my nephews and niece. I may not have a large income, a big house, a fancy car, a designer wardrobe, or prestige.  But I have come to realize over the years with a mental illness I don’t need these things to be content and happy.  I need only a fraction of the things I was told I needed to have a decent life when I was growing up.  I really don’t have to make any more major purchases for the foreseeable future.  Other than the ups and downs of my mental illness I am living quite well.  Now that the insanity of the election has passed I may not have to worry about so many ups and downs anymore.  Life is going well for me.

 

Cleaning My Apartment, Minimalism, and Tying Up Loose Ends

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Spent the last few days cleaning my apartment and rearranging for when the new carpet is getting installed.  My landlady talked about painting the walls of my apartment while they were at it.  So my apartment is going to be getting some much needed updating pretty soon.  I may have to be out of my apartment for a few days while the work is going on.  But I’m glad that this is going to get done finally.  I’ve been in the same apartment for ten years without any major updates.  This job is going much easier ever since I became a minimalist.

I cleaned up some files on my computer while I was cleaning my apartment.  I got rid of a bunch of my e-clutter and free e-books I was never going to read.  So many books but so little time.  I had to update some programs on my iPod.  So I now have some free space on it and am listening to more music now.  Music has traditionally been therapeutic for me.  But I had gotten out of the habit of listening during the last couple years.  I no longer have any music CDs as it is all on e-files now.  I haven’t bought even e-file music for almost a year.  For the most part anymore when I want to listen to music I use free services like Pandora or You Tube.  It still amazes me how much cool stuff can be found online as long as you are willing to look.  I don’t even have DVDs anymore.  I get all my movie viewing on Netflix and Amazon.  Anymore I have adopted the attitude of let the computer hold my “stuff.”  I have grown to hate clutter as much as I hate cleaning.  And I can reduce clutter by reducing how many things I actually own.  With the exception of my two couches, my dresser, my bookshelf, and my bed, everything I own I can get into my four door sedan within a couple hours.  I am definitely not a hoarder.  With a one bedroom apartment I can’t afford to be.

Not having visual clutter in my apartment does a great deal for reliving stress.  I usually don’t have to clean very often simply because I don’t have much to clutter my place.  It’s great feeling.

 

Mid Winter Cleaning

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Since I’m feeling ambitious with more consistent sleep, I’ve decided to clean my apartment and get rid of some clutter.  I went somewhat minimalist a year ago, so there wasn’t as much clutter to get rid of this year.  After dusting what furniture I still have (I have decluttered enough I now need only one bookshelf, a tv stand, a couch, a chair, and an all purpose large table in my living room) I vacuumed the place entirely at least three times.  I have that lovely light beige carpet that shows dirt and dust real bad.  It’s a pain to keep clean.  Still have to work on my small kitchen.  I’m doing all of this cleaning now because our apartment complex is having a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inspection next month.  In case HUD decides to check random rooms, the management here is inspecting all apartments in two weeks.  We had a preliminary inspection before Christmas.  All I really had was minor issues that could be remedied within a few hours of cleaning.  Just because I’m a bachelor doesn’t mean my place is as filthy as a Neanderthal cave.

With paranoid schizophrenia I am naturally a little concerned about letting people I don’t associate with regularly just look around my apartment.  With our preliminary inspection last month I didn’t know what our new manager would be looking for.  It usually takes one annual inspection before I know what a manager will and will not look for.  A previous manager didn’t like that I had “too many electrical cords” on my floor.  But they weren’t tripping hazards.  Another didn’t like that I had my couch against my living room window. Claimed it was a hazard in case the fire department had to come through my window. Another was a stickler about dust and carpet cleanliness.  I got hammered on the carpet because the carpet is probably thirty years old and has needed replaced as long as I’ve lived here.  Not even a Rug Doctor can save carpet that old.

It’s always been nit picking and moving the goal every time a new manager comes in.  I’ve always been annoyed by subjective standards that aren’t quantifiable.  That’s why while I liked doing one act plays and speech in high school, I didn’t care for the competitive end of it.  Seems to me the difference between bringing home first place and finishing dead last is the judges more than the actors or speakers.  One time my brother and his best friend did a humorous duet skit that was unbelievably funny. But they were doxxed by one judge at districts and denied a shot at the state tournament because one judge didn’t like that they made a passing reference to homosexuality.  But this was twenty years ago.  As far as speech and acting went, if my audience went home enlightened and entertained I felt I did my job. I never cared about any judge whose opinions and motives I can’t even guess.

I’m not worried at all about these inspections anymore.  The first couple years I lived here I was.  I was paranoid enough back then I thought I was on the edge of getting evicted at any time.  I didn’t know the rules to the game of living in low income housing and disability insurance I do now.  I have been around long enough to see that the only sure ways to get evicted in low income housing is to not pay your rent, break the law, or keep a house so awful it’s a health hazard.  So annual inspection one of those things that it’s just a minor inconvenience to be endured for a short time.  But that’s pretty much the sum of my last few days.

 

Minimalism and The Schizophrenic Mind

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Years ago at one of my first jobs my supervisor made a remark about how disorganized my work space was.  I replied something to the effect “My work space is immaculate compared to Einstein’s.”  My supervisor replied “Can you imagine how much more he would have accomplished if he was half way decluttered?”  My boss had a point.

I am not a neat freak by nature, but I haven’t let my apartment get college frat house cluttered for several years. I found a middle ground.  If I say so myself, my place looks pretty good compared to some of the bachelor (and even bachelorette) pads I’ve seen.  Since I live in a complex with dozens of units, there is a minimum standard I have to keep at all times.  I’m not about to get evicted over something preventable.

One thing I have noticed since I became serious about health and exercise is that every aspect of my life has improved.  Everything from my finances, my appearance, my mental stability, and the cleanliness of my apartment have improved.  I have achieved a cleaner apartment through practicing minimalism.  Minimalism is really just getting rid of clutter and things I don’t absolutely need.  Last summer I took an inventory of everything I had in my apartment and looked at everything I hadn’t used in the last twelve months.  If it had been longer than that since it was used, it immediately went away.  It may have been given away to neighbors or it may have gone to Salvation Army, but it was gone.

I got rid of a lot of clutter immediately.  Books I hadn’t read, clothes I hadn’t worn, DVDs I could watch on Netflix or Youtube, CDs were backed up on my computer and thumb drives (I literally do not own any music CDs), decorations for holidays, all furniture except a dresser, a night stand, a couple chairs, a couple small couches, and light weight computer desk were gotten rid of.  Most of my ‘stuff’ was given away.  Some things like worn out shoes, flip flops, and socks went to the dumpster.  After this first round, my books with sentimental value, my classic literature books, and history books were kept on two tall book shelves.  I have gotten to where most of my reading materials are on my iBooks files.  I do have a short book shelf that serves as a stand for my printer and computer programs.

The second wave of the minimalist project involved giving away all canned food in my pantries I wasn’t going to eat.  I will not buy anything I know I won’t eat.  I don’t care if it is on sale.  I’ll pay a little extra if I know it will be eaten.  I had to get rid of most of my old clothing as I had lost a lot of weight.  I now have only ten shirts, three pairs of gym shorts, a couple pairs of sweat pants, a couple pairs of jeans, a couple dress shirts, a couple winter coats, and a couple light fleece coats for clothing.  That’s about it.  I also have only four pairs of shoes, a couple walking shoes, a pair of dress shoes, and a pair of steel toed boots.  I own four lamps.  Put in brighter energy saver bulbs and use more natural sunlight.  I got rid of most of my dishes.  I literally have maybe three plates, three bowls, four cups, and a half dozen spoons, forks, and knives.  I don’t even have a toaster or electric skillet.  If I want toast and pancakes, I go to the all night diner.

This sounds drastic, but it has simplified my apartment and my life. It has led to less stress, less anxiety, more peace, more contentment, and even better finances.  I no longer feel a need to buy stuff I don’t need to impress anyone.  No need to keep up with the neighbors.  The neighbors are probably more broke than I am even if they make more.  It’s because I don’t buy anything I don’t absolutely need.

I’m not done even yet.  I would like to eventually get all my books to fit onto one book shelf and get rid of the other shelf.  For those wondering how I entertain guests, there are literally dozens of restaurants, sports bars, parks, etc. in my small town that have furniture, food, HD televisions, and wifi.  I got to where I saw no point in having things I would use only a few times.

One thing I didn’t minimize was my emergency preparedness materials.  I still have first aid kits, flash lights, a crank up radio, etc.  If we get snowed in or flooded in for a few days I’m the guy who remembered toe nail clippers and a Swiss Army Knife.  Some things I don’t shirk on.

My mental well being and money situation really improved once I got rid of most of my clutter and quit looking for contentment in owning things.  It is such a good feeling to see how little clutter I have in my closets and on my floors now.  It’s a good feeling to have some emergency money.  It all gives peace of mind to an otherwise anxious and distressed schizophrenic brain.  If I can’t be organized in my mind, I’ll do it in my outer surroundings.