Nostalgia: It Ain’t What It Used To Be

Been spending most of my time alone the last several days.  And I’m actually quite happy with this arrangement.  And why not?  Most of my friends are going through the mid life crisis deals as my friends are in the mid thirties to early forties range.  I have a college friend who was diagnosed with cancer several months ago who’s only a year or two older than I am.  Most of my friends are struggling with debts and dead end careers, so they are constantly on edge about money.  I’ve had friends suffer through divorces.  I have a cousin whose son was diagnosed on the autism scale last year.  My best friend from my teenage years lost her mother to cancer two years ago.  Even in myself I don’t have as much get up and go as I did even three years ago.  But I am in my late 30s.  I’ll be 40 next summer yet I don’t dread it.  I don’t dread aging as much as most of my friends.  Most people think I’m weird  or lying when I say I actually look forward to being a wise elder.  I’m not lying or weird.  I’m just ahead of the curve and no longer fearing the inevitable.

I admit I don’t have much nostalgia.  I don’t long for the “good ol’ days” because, well, the good old days kinda sucked in many ways.  When exactly were the good old days?  Was it back in the 1990s when President Clinton was screwing his interns, computers occupied entire desks instead of fitting in shirt pockets, and the music of Tupac and Marilyn Manson were going to be the death of Western Civilization?  Was it back in the 1950s when using the n word was okay but Lucille Ball couldn’t say pregnant on network television and the threat of nuclear war was real?  “Better dead than red” people said back in those days.  And people were worried about the corrupting influence of rock and roll music.  Or was it in the Old West when boom towns like Dodge City and Tombstone were far more violent and lawless than any modern slum, women couldn’t vote, and bounty hunters got paid for Native American scalps?  Or was it in the Stone Age when everyone ate fresh and natural food, drank clean water, breathed unpolluted air, had no laws, no villages, half of children died before adulthood, and writing didn’t exist.  Even the 2010s will be considered the good old days in twenty years by nostalgic fools.  Nostalgia is a desert mirage.  It is imagined.  It isn’t real.  I haven’t fallen victim to nostalgia even though I’m on the door step of 40.  Hopefully I never fall victim to nostalgia.

I definitely never want to be one of these bitter and angry old men who complain about the kids.  Let’s get some thing real clear: every generation of “lousy kids” was supposed to be the death of civilization.  And it never happened.  If anything, most generations built upon what previous generations did and left science and humanitarian efforts further along than when they started.  I have zero patience for people who complain about young people.  Elders were complaining about how stupid and incompetent my classmates and myself were even when were in grade school in the 1980s.  I have never forgotten how hurtful and unfair that was.  I never will.  And for that reason I will never pull that kind of crap on people younger than me.  And it burns me to see people my age complaining about the kids coming up now.  The kids are not more unruly or weaker now than in the past.  The only thing kids have ever been guilty of is making old codgers realize that they will someday become irrelevant, they will someday die, and they will someday be forgotten.  Kids make old people uncomfortable because kids make elders confront their own hypocrisy, stupidity, and that they were too scared or lazy to try to chase their dreams.

I’m now seeing many of my cohorts becoming bitter and resentful about the bad decisions they made in their teens and twenties.  You should have left that dead end job and started your own business or moved to a different city.  Yeah, you should have majored in STEM or went to trade school instead of majoring in humanities or general business.  Maybe  you should have paid off your credit cards before they become unmanageable.  You shouldn’t have spent your teens and twenties partying, drugging, and having sex like there would be no price to pay.  You shouldn’t have put up with abusive boyfriends or manipulative girlfriends.  You should have called your mom more often.  Yeah, you shouldn’t have cut ties with your siblings.  You should have road tripped and traveled to foreign countries while you still had good health.  You should have gone to seen your favorite musician the night they performed in your hometown.  You shouldn’t have ignored that geeky girl or boy in your high school history class in favor of the school bully or queen bee.  I could go on.  But there are no do overs.  Learn and move on.  Quit romanticizing a past that never existed.  Learn from your bad decisions and be glad for the good decisions you did make.

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

 

Featured Image -- 6676

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

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

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

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

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

Donations to Expand ‘A Life Of Mental Illness’

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

$1.00

Mental Stability With Schizophrenia Is Tough and Other Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

images.jpeg

 

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

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

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