Life After Paid Employment

I am feeling extra creative today.  So here is a second blog entry.  Consider it like a buy one, get one free kind of day.  I haven’t held regular paid employment since spring 2012.  I decided to get out of the regular work life because I could tell it is beginning to take it’s toll on my stability.  It also didn’t help that the more I worked, the more disability benefits I lost and the more I paid in rent.  I did the math back then and realize for every dollar I made in labor, I lost over 70 cents in reduced benefits, increased rent, taxes, etc.  Tell me where the incentive to get off disability is.  There isn’t any.  Besides, my schizophrenia makes holding a forty hour per week job and dealing with workplace politics impossible.  It was becoming more trouble than it was worth.

After I left my last regular job, I got serious about blogging.  I had been writing regularly since I was in college but decided to focus my energies on blogging about mental illness.  I wrote a couple poetry books and rough drafts for a couple novels in addition to keeping extensive journals.  Unfortunately I don’t have most of my original writings anymore.  In my paranoid state I feared that others would see my personal writings and hold them against me.  That’s why I got rid of most my journals and poetry from my twenties and early thirties.  I don’t even self publish my poetry anymore.  I haven’t even written a poem in three years, instead focusing on the blog for the time being.

Even though I haven’t written poems or novel drafts for a few years doesn’t mean I have given up on those genres.  I still occasionally read poetry.  I haven’t read much fiction outside of Issac Asimov, Corey Doctorow, and H.P. Lovecraft in a few years.  I have concentrated on science and tech books instead.  I imagine in a few years something else will catch my mind’s eyes and I’ll dive into that.

I used to make up stories all the time as a kid.  It’s too bad I never wrote any of them down.  I used to spend hours on end roaming my back yard and the alley ways of my hometown just making up stories and thinking in my childhood.  It was something I wanted to do and even needed to do for myself.  As much as I loved learning and exercising my mind in school as a child, school by itself didn’t satisfy my appetite for learning and mental stimulation.  It only served as an appetizer I suppose.  It made me want to learn more on my own.  And fortunately I lived in an area that allowed me to explore on my own and had parents who were willing to tolerate that I desired so much time alone to learn and think. I dare say that thinking is my favorite pastime.  And of course good luck doing that at a regular forty hour per week job unless you work at a think tank or as a scholar.

I suppose that is what I am, an independent scholar.  I have always been that.  Even as a little child I hated being told what to think.  I always wanted to know.  I wanted to read the original works of literature of philosophers and scholars.  I didn’t just want to take someone else’s word for it.  Sure it got me into trouble over the years with authority figures, but I just couldn’t just go along to get along and blindly accept what I was told.  I never have been able to just shut off my mind and go on cruise control.  It has gotten me into trouble at jobs and at school, but it made my life more interesting.  It made me a better friend to others as well.

Overall I know with my mental illness I couldn’t hold a regular job for long without breaking down.  I have been like this for my entire adult life.  Fortunately I have disability pension and Medicaid.  Without these I would probably be dead or at least in prison.  And what a waste either one would be.  I dread to think how many people over the ages had creativity and genius but it was lost because they were forced to spend their lives in conditions they couldn’t control.  I am sure many geniuses spent their entire lives as slaves or serfs or toiling in some job they couldn’t stand.  I am sure many people were never allowed to develop their talents because of the prejudices and social norms of their eras.  I only hope we continue to get better at finding people’s talents and allowing them to develop.  If we as individuals can’t or won’t help kids develop their skills and gifts, the least we as individuals and grown ups can do is get out of the way.

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Just Because I Don’t Have Much Money Doesn’t Mean I Am Poor

Middle of the winter now.  Haven’t ventured out of my apartment much the last few days.  Too cold to go anywhere really.  Been immersing myself in computer games and audiobooks more these days.  I have to admit that I really have no desire to socialize in person much, at least not lately.  I guess I have given up on finding anyone in physical proximity who shares my interests and concerns.  I have gotten tired of neighborhood gossip and endless talks about politics and sports ball.  Been tired of it for a long time.  I haven’t even watched live tv since the college football bowl games around New Year’s Day.  I guess I just lost interest in the mundane and normal things my neighbors can discuss for hours on end.

I have to admit that I find most of my social life on social media these days.  I have excellent conversations with people from my tech and futurists groups.  It’s like some of the conversations I had with friends back in college, when you would chat until sunrise and your throat was burning from chatting so much.  During conversations like that, it’s like I could actually feel my brain getting stronger and more nimble.  I loved those years. I can’t imagine how cool they would have been had I not had a mental illness to deal with.  I can understand why many people are nostalgic for their college years, before the spirit crushing and brain numbing realities of having to spend over half your waking life at a job that most people aren’t well suited for just to earn enough money to live an “acceptable” standard of living.

Most people caught up in the day to day working ‘Oh God It’s Monday’ merry go round ride we like to call ‘being a productive member of society’ would argue I don’t live an acceptable standard of living.  Most people would consider me a failure it seems.  It seems that people either pity me or envy me for being on disability pension.  Acceptable by what standards?  Who decided what is and isn’t a productive member of society?  Am I going to hell because I am not working myself into an early grave or not buying the big house and SUV type lifestyle?  Seriously, what will happen if I don’t work myself into an early grave because I didn’t become a cubicle jockey or sell my talents for more money than I need to buy crap I never really wanted to impress jerks that wouldn’t shed a tear if I dropped dead of a heart attack tonight?  Is God going to deny me access into the afterlife because I don’t have a credit history?

Let’s not con ourselves, most people work the jobs they do because they need the money to buy their survival, not because they are passionate about their jobs or their careers are a benefit to humanity and nature.  I think that if money weren’t in issue, many people would find even more productive means to spend their days than sitting in traffic to get to an office to fill out reports that few people read or do work with their hands that, in some cases, could just as easily be done by machines and computers.  Too many people work themselves senseless and joyless because, for whatever reason, they got too deep into debt pursuing the ‘dream life.’  Dream life for whom?  Not me.

I never understood the point of borrowing money for anything besides starting a business, learning a trade, or buying a house.  But with as fast as industries change anymore, owning a house can actually hinder a person’s career.  I know people who have had to turn down very lucrative promotions because they owned a house and couldn’t get that albatross around their neck sold quickly.  I also know people who were making six figures a year simply because they were flexible and could throw all their possessions in the back of a pickup truck and U-Haul trailer and be moved across country in a matter of a few days.  It seems to be in the modern economy that being flexible, not having unmanageable debt, and having skills that can transfer into several different industries is the new security.  To quote Randy Gage, “safe is the new risky.”

I am on disability pension, it is true.  It was the only way I could afford my medications once I couldn’t be covered under my parents’ insurance plans.  My mental illness also made the modern work place unbearable for me.  Even as a teenager I knew I wanted to work in a small group or even alone and not have to deal with strangers for hours on end every day.  Giving up my pre med course of study was one of the most painful things I ever did.  It was essentially me having to kill the dream of having a career in science.  I had wanted to work in as a research scientist since I was five years old.  Even as a child my favorite Disney character was Dr. Ludwig von Drake, an eccentric academic with a German accent loosely based on Werner von Braun, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud.

Even though I went on to study business the last three years in college, deep down I knew I would never use the business degree in a traditional job setting.  But I didn’t know what else to do.  I didn’t want to go back home because there was nothing there for me.  I didn’t attempt to apply for disability when I was diagnosed because I had no idea how bad this illness really was.  I thought it was something that, while chronic, could be easily managed with medication and counseling.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The illness made traditional employment impossible.  Since I don’t come from an uber rich family, I couldn’t live off a trust fund and privately pay for my medications and therapy.  I went on disability because, well, I had no other option.  I stay on disability because blogging and internet research doesn’t pay the bills.

Some people think that because I’m on disability I just sit around, watch porn, drink beer, and vape nicotine all day.  Not so.  Even my parents have no clue how much internet research I do when it comes to science, technology, and other academic topics I always wanted to study in school but simply didn’t have the time to.  Since I have a disability pension, escaped college with one business degree and zero debt, and haven’t had a credit card debt in years, I can afford the life I want.

Right now, at this point in my life, I want to be the independent scholar writing a few blog posts every week and spending my evenings chatting with fellow science and tech enthusiasts.  It wasn’t the kind of life I wanted even ten years ago.  Back then I was working twenty hours a week, writing drafts for novels, making outlines for possible science fiction worlds, writing poetry every day, and studying philosophers ranging from Aristotle to Francis Bacon to Neitchze.  I did the regular work world while on disability because it could be done.  Got that out of my system after a few years and moved onto my current life as a blogger and scholar.

Where will I be in another five or ten years?  I don’t know.  But I don’t have to know.  I just know I have probably faced the worst of what my schizophrenia has to offer and have survived into middle age.  I have gained a few skills that, while not paying the bills, keep me busy and make me interesting.  I don’t often tell people I’m on disability, but they seem quite envious when I tell them that I’m a freelance writer.  My bank account will never make anyone forget the Rothschild family, but it doesn’t have to.  As long as I can buy food, keep my rent up to date, keep my internet paid for, stay out of debt, and have enough left over to buy some basic clothing every few months, I’m happy with where I am at.  I don’t need a ton of money or a prestigious career or a large family to justify my existence.  If there is a Judgement that the dead have to face for their deeds and misdeeds in life, I doubt the Divine Judge will be looking at anyone’s W-2 forms or 401(k).  He who dies with the most toys is still dead.  He just doesn’t have to witness his kids and grandkids squander the inheritance his decades of toil and stress made possible.  Hard work probably never killed anyone, but neither did taking time to learn things and appreciate nature and human achievement.

House Guests and Books

Had a few house guests last night at my apartment.  Granted it was my parents and one of my aunts but it’s the first time in weeks I’ve hosted people in my apartment.  I’m normally kind of nervous about hosting people as I am self conscious about my place and possessions.  I feel paranoid that I’m constantly being measured and condemned for the way I keep my apartment and even the books on my book shelf.  I moved my book shelf to my bed room just so fewer people would see it.  As I have a wide range of interests I keep a wide range of what would be considered by many people of scholarly books.  When my retired pastor friend died a few years ago, his family offered me some of his ancient history, history of religion, and philosophy books.  Since many of his works were in ancient languages like Hebrew and Greek I had to turn most of what would have been really interesting down.  I know a little Spanish from my high school years but haven’t used it enough lately to have any kind of working knowledge of the language.

As it is now, I can keep some of my more scholarly works in ebook form.  I’ve downloaded hundred of free history, philosophy, religion, etc. books onto my computer and iPod.  Yes I still have an iPod but it mainly serves as backup for my computers.  I’ll probably never get to read many of these books but I’m glad I have them.  I even picked up some sci fi and horror books.  About the only real horror author I can get into is H.P. Lovecraft.  I did read a couple Stephen King books but I never developed much of a taste for his work.  As far as sci fi goes, I really like Issac Asimov and Cory Doctorow.  I read mostly science fact books by people like Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil, Kevin Kelly, and Carl Sagan as I’m typically more interested in seeing sci fi become science fact.  I don’t read much for fantasy novels but my brother and his kids are big fans of J.K Rowling and J.R.R. Tolken.  I guess I always considered real life interesting enough.  That’s probably why the two fiction novel drafts I wrote flopped. I don’t have much of my writings from the first ten years I was working on the craft.  What I do have, well, I’m glad didn’t get published.

Since I’m spending more time alone since the weather turned colder, I’m spending more time reading articles and watching documentaries.  I don’t really go out except to check the mail and break up the routine.  I haven’t even socialized with friends much the last couple weeks.  It’s gets lonely at times.  About the only thing I hate about being an adult is that I can’t just spend time with my friends at a moment’s notice.  As much as I couldn’t stand some aspects of high school, that is one thing I definitely miss.