Improvements and Accepting New Realities

Been sleeping more the last several days than usual.  I had been gone weeks where I slept no more than 3 hours at a time.  Now I’ve been sleeping longer but I don’t wake up as stiff and sore.  Maybe the weight lifting and healthier diet are beginning to pay off.

Overall, I feel decent physically.  I have fewer unexplainable aches and pains and I get better quality sleep than was my normal the last several weeks.  I changed my diet too.  I no longer drink soda pop, not even diet.  I eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  I occasionally go meatless for a day or two to give my guts a rest.  I lift weights three times a week.  I don’t sleep in my recliner as much these days.  Overall, as the weather has warmed up I have started feeling better physically.

Mentally I’m doing better.  I still occasionally have issues with irritability and depression.  Fortunately they usually pass after a few minutes of ranting to myself.  I still don’t socialize much, as I am still a little paranoid about dealing with rude and angry people.  During the winter, there were days it was bad enough I didn’t even want to socialize with anyone even online or over the phone.  I don’t call my family as often anymore.  But when I do, the conversations usually last longer and go more in depth.  I still call my parents at least once a week.

I’ve been enjoying the warmer days.  I have my windows open most of the time now, except when it rains or we have bad winds.  I leave my drapes open except for when I sleep.  I don’t watch much for tv anymore, haven’t since New Year’s.  I spend much of my free time reading, watching educational videos, listening to audiobooks, messing with my computer, and participating in my tech enthusiasts’ groups on social media.  I don’t socialize with even close friends as much as I normally do.  I still drop in on them every few days.  But it seems like most of my friends have just been having problems lately, whether with work or relationships.  Since most of my friends are in the age range of mid 30s to early 40s, I imagine many are going through mid life problems now.  I have so far managed to avoid the mid life crisis.  I had my crises in my mid to late twenties.  It was in the 2004 to 2008 years that I painfully had to realize my schizophrenia and anxiety would never allow me to hold a long term job, get married, have children, have any kind of prestige, or any kind of money.

At one time, namely 2006, I had the goal of finding my niche and being off disability before 2015.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Here it is in 2019 and I am still on disability.  But I have come to acceptance in that regard.  I had to change a lot of priorities and completely reexamine everything I was taught and believed over the years.  I came to realize that people are defined by their careers only because they allow themselves to be.  We were brainwashed since childhood to believe a human’s worth was in what they did to earn money.  I had to find out the painful way that there is far more to living and life than earning money and working.  It was only then I came to realize the obvious: the most important and influential work in the world is not paid or even respected by many people.  That work is, of course, being a parent.  The second most important job in the world is being a friend and support to other people.  I will never get to be a father, but I can be a friend and support person with the best of them.  And this is alright with me.

Even though I will probably never have much for money or any kind of prestige or be in any kind of romantic relationship, I am alright with all of this.  I made my peace with this several years ago.  Having a mental illness made me face my limitations and accept that I had to adapt.  I will never become the scientist I wanted to be as a child, but I am alright with that.  I have found my niche as a blogger, friend, support person, and confidant.

Updates and Random Philosophy on Living

Haven’t had a great deal to report the last few days.  We’ve had lots of snow and it’s been quite cold.  Too cold and snowy to go anywhere unless necessary.  So I’ve been staying home, catching up on my reading, and taking long naps in the afternoon.  I’ve been sleeping a little more during the days, but mostly to pass the long drawn out cold days.  I still go to bed around 10pm and am usually awake for good by 5 or 6am.  My apartment is feeling quite like a regular home now rather than just the monk’s chamber I let it become the last couple years.  It helps that I put a few pieces of art done by an old friend and have a regular cleaning person come in once a week and help me keep on top of things.  Still have a few unresolved maintenance issues, but those will be knocked down before too long.  Rome wasn’t built in one day and I won’t be pulling out of my depression and anxiety induced exile and isolation all at once either.  It is coming along though.

One of my fellow tenants had a birthday party the other day.  About ten of us went to her party.  It felt good to be socializing again when people weren’t being irritable and rude to each other.  It just seems that most people I meet in person anymore are more short tempered and on edge than usual lately.  I was talking with an old friend of mine who lives here and he’s noticed the same thing.  So I’m not the only one noticing the subtle and not so subtle changes.  One of the reasons I don’t socialize much in person anymore is precisely because so many people I meet are in irritable and short tempered moods.  The fact that almost no one I know in person shares my interests in science, history, philosophy, and literature makes things even tougher.

It is true that social media and my smart phone are the bulk of my socializing now.  I know most people will think this is sad but I actually love social media and communications tech.  They have given me access to people with similar interests and concerns that I wouldn’t have had in high school.  My teenage years, other than a handful of confidants I could tell even my darkest secrets to, were quite lonely.  As an adult now near age 40, I have more social interaction than at any point in my life besides my college years.  And it is exactly because of social media, internet, and communication tech.  I know many people condemn what social media can be used for and think we would be better off without it.  I call their bluff on that.  I call the bluff on all nostalgics who are fearful of change and want to go back to the past.

I know many people, especially in my USA, are nostalgic about the past when only one income could support a family in a house in the suburbs.  Yet you don’t hear the same people decry the lack of opportunities for women, high taxes on rich people and large businesses, lack of variety in entertainment and fashion, Jim Crow laws, Cold War paranoias, cost of even long distance phone calls. I ran up long distance bills over $100 two months in a row as recently as 1999 because my two best confidants lived in other towns.  My parents were not amused by that.  Yet, here it is in 2019 and I talk to far more out of town people, and even out of country people, then I could have ever imagined even my wildest Star Trek optimist fantasy.  And twenty years isn’t that long.  It’s just enough time to get a newborn baby to adulthood.  The world has changed that much.

Social media, like all other tech changes, is a tool that can be used to go great good or great harm.  Nuclear energy provides a significant source of power to civilization with relatively quite few facilities.  Yet the same tech can be used in weapons that can end all life on our planet.  Mass media can spread the ideas of personal freedom, self responsibility, civic duty, and show our similarities to billions of people quite easily.  It also empowered some truly sick and depraved monstrous people just in the last one hundred years.  Religion can give people hope, a connection to something beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and a sense of taking care of others in even the darkest times humanity ever faced.  It can also justify some truly evil actions.  Even farming led to humanity going from only a relatively few people who managed to survive the ice ages in isolated bands to being the masses we are now making plots to travel off world and settle other planets.  It has also led to the extinction of many other species, the decline of biodiversity, war, easily transferable diseases, and a loss of connection of most people to the natural world.  And yet, I wouldn’t give up any of these advances among any others.  Even the same chemicals that make the fertilizer for our food crops can be used as deadly poisons and weapons of mass terror and destruction.

Changes are a constant of human existence.  Changes even in nature are constant too.  With human existence, change will continue to come.  In fact, they will come even faster and be more disruptive than at any point in history in the lifetimes of all but the oldest people in our civilizations.  These changes can be delayed but they will come whether we are as individuals or nations are preparing or not.  We no longer live in a world where only one nation or race has the monopoly on knowledge and progress, as if we ever did.  The old ways of doing things, the ancient appeals to religious, gender, racial, national, socioeconomic, ageist differences and discriminations are losing the effectiveness they had in the past.  Even homeless people in our largest cities and farmers in the poorest countries in the world have smart phones and access to the collective knowledge gathered through the trials, bloodshed, tears, and revolutions of history.  This is a level of computing power that not even the U.S. Department of Defense had as recently as 1980, the year I was born.

Yes, information tech has greatly advanced just in my lifetime.  Some will scoff and say, this hasn’t translated into any other aspect of life.  I can’t afford my rent even on two jobs but I’m supposed to be happy with having access to Google and Facebook.  Give it time.  Other aspects of our lives will catch up eventually.  It is tragic that many people go homeless in my country while thousands of houses and apartments sit vacant and idle waiting for someone to call such places a home just because of the prices.  Individual workers are more productive now than ever yet wages have barely budged in my country in terms of inflation since at least the 1970s.  My critics will say even with communication tech advancing as well as the social progress we’ve made, our standard of living has actually gone down.

For many this is true, at least in USA.  Our standard of living hasn’t caught up with our efficiency, tech, medical, and social advances.  At least not yet.  We are still in the process of a great change, one that is even more chaotic and impacting than the Industrial Revolution was two hundred years ago.  In short, we have science fiction like technology, industrial era education, renaissance era governing, legal, and business institutions, Bronze Age spirituality, and Stone Age bodies and psychology.  Of course there are going to be conflicts.  We will work these out, it just won’t happen nearly as fast as many people want.  Changes like we are going through took centuries during the start of farming, generations during the renaissance and industrial ages, and now on the scope of only years.  No wonder people are stressed.  We are not experiencing the death of our species or our civilization no matter how much some people fear or even want.  We are in transition.  And I welcome this transition and it’s highs and lows.  Stay tuned.  Things are only going to get more interesting and chaotic, yet full of opportunities too.

Fighting Battles Against The Pessimism of My Friends and Family

Been isolating for most of the last week or so even though I desire to have conversations and interact with people again.  Yet a paranoid part of me is fearful of socializing.  When I make it a point go out of my apartment and socialize, I am usually met my irritable and angry people.  Many of my fellow tenants are in foul moods, even more so than usual.  That’s why I don’t socialize with my neighbors.  The very few times people make it a point to interact with me, they are usually upset over often trivial tripe.

I admit I wasn’t raised to be an optimist.  I almost never heard anything positive about life or the world in general even while growing up in a prosperous family during the prosperous 1990s.  Now it just seems like everyone is wanting to fight over the pettiest and stupidest nonsense.  I see it in my friends and family social media posts every day.  I hear it almost every time I call friends and even family on the phone.  I hear from my neighbors every time I step out of my apartment to run errands or even pick up my mail.  And I am burned out.  I’m burned out on all socializing.  I just want to stay home, read my books, and mess with my computers anymore.  I have no interest in interaction with rude, angry, and stupid people.  And people think I need to be on anti psychotic medications.  There seem to be plenty of people out there who probably could stand to be too if their rhetoric in public conversation is any indication.

I am not a optimist by nature.  I used to be a real pessimist, especially in junior high and high school.  I had friends and school mates, when fed up with my moaning, would say things like “drink yourself happy like everyone else” or “snap out of it.”  One of my buddies in college, when I was complaining about constantly being rejected when I asked women on dates, had enough and asked, “Zach, do you believe in God?”  I said, “Yeah”. He then answered, “If God wants you to have a woman in your life, he will miracle you one in a way even you can’t mess it up.  If not, well nothing you can do about it.”    Well, I never did have much success with dating, but I am better off on my own most of the time considering the circumstances.

Over the years of observing things happen in the world and in my own life, by the time I hit my early thirties I came to acknowledge a great truth about life in general.  This truth is that most of what we worry about almost never happens or turns out to be more manageable than previously thought.  Even the tragedies of life, like a range fire, can provide nutrient rich soil for new life and possibilities.  I am actively looking for the positives that will come from our current state of affairs in civilization as a whole.  I saw the UN’s report on climate issues stating that we have only a generation or two to start cleaning things up or we’re going to have to deal with serious consequences.  I understand that many of my friends and readers don’t accept the science behind climate change, but they don’t have to.  Most scientists, many business leaders, and people that can and will make a difference do and are making changes as I write this.  We don’t really need even the majority of people to approve of the changes that are being made.  Sheesh, it was only a small percentage of the population in the American colonies who fought in the Revolution against the British.  And I must say, I’m glad they did.  It was only a small portion of the population back in the late 1800s who wanted to enact voting rights for women and get rid of child labor.  It eventually happened.  I’m glad these things happened.  People who fight against scientific, social, humanitarian, tech, etc. progress usually find themselves on the wrong side of history.  Change is happening all around us.  It can be delayed but it is inevitable.

I’m tired of pessimists in general.  I’ve been surrounded by them my entire life.  I was forced to listen to them growing up because we had no internet to expose the facts and because, well, I had no choice in the matter of who I socialized with growing up in such a small village.  Before the internet, all I knew about of the outside world was what CNN and Fox News bothered to tell my naive Nebraska farm boy ears.  And once I started looking around and seeing most of the predictions of hell on earth not coming to fruition, I became quite angry.  I had spent years not being told what was going right.  I could have made different plans had I had all sides of what was actually going on, not just the bad.  I essentially wasted my teens and most of my twenties, the years of my physical prime, making decisions made from one sided information.  And due to this righteous indignation, I started searching out what was actually going right.

It is tough trying to break my friends and family’s myths about how bad life sucks.  I am almost always met with thunderous silence or told outright that I am a liar.  And it’s tough to remain optimist when few others even try to.  But, let’s face it, the crowds are almost always wrong.  The best thing to do in most cases is the opposite of what everyone else is doing.  Wisdom of crowds my foot.  But I will continue to attempt to break the myths my friends and family cling to, at least the myths that say life sucks.

How I Gave Up Watching The News And Became A Blogger

My parents are 24 hour news junkies.  Have been ever since we got our first cable tv subscription back in the late 1980s.  Memories of my pre teen years involve seeing the Berlin Wall come down, the First Gulf War updates every evening, and the fall of the Soviet Union.  It didn’t become apparent how ridiculous the idea of paying attention to every little thing that came across CNN (or Constantly Negative News as I think of it now) until the O.J. Simpson trial and the President Clinton impeachment hearings during my teen years.  I saw grown adults give up their lunch hours and heard teachers spend entire class periods rehashing everything that was covered in these news programs.  I paid more attention to the Columbine shootings in April 1999 because the killers were my age and I had friends who were as much outcasts as those guys.  But even that was depressing as it wasn’t like my elders already thought kids and young adults were worthless and bad news.

I finally started to free myself of the drug of 24 hour news in the months after 9/11.  I just got tired of seeing the death and devastation replayed all the time.  I was only starting my mental illness treatment at the time, so I was still mentally fragile in the first place.  To replace my usual news watching, I started reading.  I read many of the classics of literature, some philosophy, much history, quite a bit of economics, and many of the greats of poetry.  I didn’t believe in reading summaries or commentaries because I figured I could understand the masters just fine by myself.  I came to believe that some of the ‘experts’ of academia and culture were often way off when I saw a speaker on C-Span and I could have refuted many of his arguments.  I thought to myself ‘I know as much as this guy speaking and he has an audience.’  Shortly afterward I started putting my thoughts into writing.  This was in 2003 to 2004, so right before blogging and youtube really took off.

After a couple years of writing poems and journals, I sat out to write a novel.  It was loosely based on my experiences at a Christian college and some of the people I knew during those years.  I wrote a novel (and thus crossed off one of the items on my ‘bucket list’).  It was during this time I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about how many of the myths of mental illness are not true.  I was published as a guest columnist and got some positive response to that essay.  After that I wrote a series of essays concerning my life with a mental illness.  I decided to self publish these and actually sold a few dozen copies.  I self published my novel and some poetry too.  My novel wasn’t very good and neither was the second novel I wrote.  Now I know I can’t do good fiction.  Which is reasonable as I really don’t like reading fiction.  That’s why I concentrate on blogging now.

With the fact I spend much of my time online researching for this blog (and to satisfy my mental curiosity), I do pick up on a lot of what goes on in the world.  Needless to say I pick up on lots of negative news as a byproduct of researching.  But, unlike my parents and most of my friends, I do not agonize over the news.  Case in point, the upcoming elections here in the United States.  There isn’t anything I can’t learn about any of the candidates or major issues I couldn’t learn in a few hours of intense internet research.  I do not need to hear everything said at every speech and rally for a year and a half.  All of that is window dressing and background noise.  I do not need to know every detail about every mass shooting and terrorist attack.  If all I did was listen to bad news, I would have given up hope a long time ago.  Your odds of dying from the flu, or a workplace accident, or heart disease are much higher than dying in a terrorist attack or a plane crash.

I know humans are naturally drawn to bad news because it was a good survival strategy when we were still living in caves during the Ice Ages.  If you missed bad news then, you wound up eaten by a saber tooth cat and you were out of the gene pool. Those old habits are tough to break.  Our species grew up when most of what effecting us was within a day’s walk.  If there was an earthquake or volcanic eruption on the other side of the world, you never knew it.  Now we know every calamity that happens anywhere within moments.  And we respond to it like our caveman ancestors responding to an immediate threat.  That is probably the major source of our present day anxiety.

I try to explain to people the good things going on and I don’t get much of a response.  I also tell them that agonizing and worrying about murder and mayhem not in their hometowns are making them miserable and they can’t do anything about it.  Most people look at me like I’m an idiot for telling them to stop agonizing over the news. I used to love 24 hour news and doom as much as anyone.  But when I stopped to see why most of these dire predictions never came true or were more manageable than previously thought, that’s when I came to realize that most of what we hear in our media is heavily distorted.  It may all be true, but it isn’t the entire truth.  Yes there are mass shootings.  But there are also space probes exploring strange worlds in our solar system.  Yes there is political corruption.  But there is also lots of good works being done by common people everyday.  To quote the classic movie ‘Network’ , “Television is the illusion.  You people are the real thing.”  Once I began to see the illusion for only part of the story, I changed my focus on what was going on bad news wise and started focusing on what was going right.  The best changes in history have always started with small groups of committed individuals who had visions and acted on those visions.  I am trying to debunk many of the myths of mental illness and stir in people more empathy and compassion for the problems of the mentally ill with this blog.  It probably won’t change the world or even make me a dollar of revenue.  But I am just one of many.  I will speak to whomever I can get to listen.  And I will not wallow in sorrow because the news told me there was another mass shooting or my political leaders are corrupt lawbreakers.

College, The World of Work, and The New Reality

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I’m taking a detour from my usual posts about mental illness and related issues. Yet this is still a serious topic I’m writing about. It’s about college, the world of work, and the new career and economic realities of life in the early 21st century. Even though I’ve been out of college and in the dreaded ‘real world’ for the last ten years, I still have yet to find the proverbial ‘well paying, well respected’ job that we were told that a college degree would lead to. I know that we’re living in tough economic times and that we’re transitioning to a service based economy from a manufacturing one. But I can’t help but feel like I was sold a bill of goods. It’s as if the old rules of go to college, get a good job, save your money for retirement, and live the American Dream of a house, a spouse, 2.3 kids, etc. no longer apply.

I am convinced we, as Americans, been living the high life for too long. Our expectations are out of whack. There very likely is a limit to how much of ‘the good life’ that we can expect before our standing of living goes down. And I think that we in America have hit it. I suppose this simply couldn’t last forever.

I wonder if those who are now entering college are aware of what’s going on in the world. Lord knows that I, and most of my classmates, had no clue as to what was coming. I still would have gone to college. But I wouldn’t have deluded myself into thinking that I was going straight from college to the good life. I suppose it’s what they call ‘paying your dues.’

Anyway, the rules have changed. College by itself will no longer guarentee you much. So my advise anyone who wants to go to college straight out of high school is this: Don’t go in with your eyes closed. Know that college alone will not guarantee you the easy life and happiness. Buyer beware. If you are still determined to go to college, at least study something that can specifically transfer over in a career. I’m talking about majors in any field of engineering, computer informations systems, accounting, teacher education, computer science, anything in the medical fields, and law. I would especially highly recommend trades like plumbing, welding, electrician, auto mechanics, information technology, anything to do with transportation, mining/extraction, renewable energy, and construction. It seemed that many teachers I knew ran down the skilled trades until they needed their cars fixed or carpentry work done on their houses. Most people I know with liberal arts degrees like english, history, etc. are either working low paying jobs, are becoming college instructors, or went on to law school or business school. Now, I love english and history as much as anyone I’ve ever met. I also didn’t want to teach in a traditional classroom setting. So I read as many history, classic literature, and philosophy books as I could on my own time during my five years in college. The school library was my second home. I may not have had much of a social life but with mental health issues, I didn’t have much of a social life anyway.

I’ve been out in the world outside of school for ten years now. I made some mistakes in the course of my college years. Had I the ability to do over again, I’d have probably studied Computer Science or Information Technology in addition to my business training. I use computers all the time just in my blogging and researching. I have a basic business background, but I don’t have anything specific like accounting. I still would have read a great deal of history, classic literature, and philosophy on my own. I am, however, grateful I never majored in such subjects. My basic business background taught me how to manage my personal finances, which is not required learning in American high schools. When I was questioned ‘why business’ after my foray into Pre-Med failed, I answered something like ‘I don’t have any knowledge of how businesses, banks, money, investments, sales, and economics work. I can learn this and perhaps make myself employable once I get a bachelor’s.’ While I haven’t landed the high paying job, I definitely learned how to budget and get as much out of money as I can. These skills made adapting to life on disability insurance and part time work much easier.

The ideas of how an individual has to budget all their expenses, know where their limited money is going, how compounding interest on credit cards and bank loans work, etc. are not exactly mysteries of the universe. But I had to study business in college to learn these things that, in a truly good education system, would have been addressed to kids in high school and even middle school. The level of financial knowledge in my country is truly sad. This lack of knowledge is why we’re having record numbers of people and businesses going bankrupt. Many marriages are strained and fail because of poor money management. Strained families cause stress and anxiety on everyone involved, especially children. It is why most city, state, and federal governments have such atrocious amounts of debt. Most of this could have been avoided had we been taught how money really works. I would liken this lack of instruction of the primary driver of our modern civilization to an ancient farming society not teaching their kids how to plant, raise, and harvest crops or how to care for livestock.

Many devoutly religious people may counter with the ‘love of money is the root of all kinds of evil’ from the Bible and other religious teachings. This has nothing to do with lust for money and power. Teaching money management to kids would tell them how the basic tool of survival in our post industrial age society, money, really works and give them a healthy respect for it. Surely it isn’t so bad to teach kids something in middle and high school that would truly benefit them in their adult lives? Any school that doesn’t teach it’s kids basic survival skills in their given society nor gives those kids the ability to learn on their own after the formal education is done, in short, isn’t justifying it’s own existence. I was fortunate to have studied business in college for my own sake. And I had to learn it in college because it wasn’t taught in a safer environment like a local high school or middle school. I am so grateful I didn’t have to learn about it on the mean streets or the ‘school of hard knocks.’