Too Bad I Don’t Get Paid To Learn or My Path To Becoming An Independent Scholar

I’ve been enjoying the cooler fall weather and the changing leaves. Been having bouts of depression the last few days. They clear up after some good conversation with old friends and family. I think the loneliness of the pandemic is starting to get the best of me. I’m too paranoid to socialize in person much as most people I know won’t wear face masks. And with flu season starting in only a few weeks, this could be a really rough winter. I’m prepared to hunker down and stay home for a real long time if needed, at least in terms of supplies. I’m not so sure about the mental part of it.

I’ve been having more time to think during this pandemic. Been reflecting on my past and growing up. When I was a kid, some of my happiest memories were being alone and exploring our large back yard and letting my mind wander. I’d often make up stories and keep these story lines going for months at a time. I never did write any of them down and have forgotten most over the years. I kept a journal one summer while in junior high, at least until my brother stole it and mocked me for some of my writings. He and some of the neighborhood kids used to spy on me when I paced the backyard too. Hurt really bad to have my privacy violated like that. I didn’t realize I was good at writing and story telling until I was almost done with college.

I graduated college with a business degree. I originally started as a pre medicine major with the idea I would get a job in a research lab eventually. While I was really interested in biology, palentology, and chemistry as a kid, I was also really interested in history and literature. I didn’t consider studying history or english in college because I heard the horror stories about arts and humanities students finding only minimum wage jobs after graduation. I only studied business because I got a D in organic chemistry, which destroyed my chances for graduate school. I also didn’t know much about business or money besides how to balance a checkbook. And since money involves everything, I thought business might lead to a career once I finished college. I really enjoyed the economics, finance, and investing classes. I didn’t enjoy the accounting classes. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and no idea what I was going to do with it.

After graduation I worked a couple retail sales jobs as that was all that I had available to me. Even while working those jobs, I used to get anxiety real bad about working. I used to vomit before work most days because of the anxiety. I later got a job as a graduate assistant while I was working on my masters’ in economics. That job, while really enjoyable, lasted only a few months because I couldn’t make grades. I also don’t think my bosses or coworkers liked me.

After I qualified for disability insurance a few years later, I finally had a safety net. I worked part time for a few years as a janitor at the county courthouse. After a few years of that, I decided to take “early retirement” and finally do what I wanted for the first time in my life. I devoted my life to studying, reading, writing, etc. And I have never been happier. I may not make much money and I probably never will. But I’m good with that. I never had the kind of ego that needed lots of money, a prestigious job, a big house, a wife and kids, etc. I guess I just wanted to be an independent scholar. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties I got to realize this dream that I was too scared to admit to anyone, even myself.

I love learning. I always have. Even being the odd kid in my school who loved learning and was too stubborn to hide it, it was never beaten out of me. I guess I was fortunate that, even though I got lots of garbage from classmates for being too smart, most of my teachers didn’t discourage my thirst for knowledge and wisdom. I even had a few who encouraged me and loved me for being eccentric. And I found even more teachers like that in college. I also met kids who loved learning even more than I did. It was amazing. It’s tragic that most kids have that God given love of learning beaten out of them at such an early age. I don’t know why I never lost that love. I’m just grateful that I never did.

Routine Changes and Intellectual Pursuits With Mental Illness

Been staying home most of the time lately.  The weather is turning colder, like typical Nebraska Novembers.  We had our first snow a couple days before Halloween.  Even though I have essentially been cabin bound for several days, I don’t usually feel that lonely or irritable.

I have made a few changes to my routines.  I decided to give up on coffee, again.  Even the morning cup that was my standard for over fifteen years too often makes me irritable and twitchy.  I am sleeping longer too.  I usually go to bed around 9pm, wake up at 2am, work online or read until about 6am and then go back to sleep for another three hours.  I also usually nap for an hour in the afternoons.  It seems like I am sleeping some at least three times a day.  It may make it tough to get a lot done, but it does alleviate anxiety and allows me to declutter my mind.  I still sometimes get vivid dreams, but fortunately most are not scary or violent like they were in my early twenties.  Most just don’t make sense or they are the ones where I’m naked in public and no one seems to notice.  And I often have those dreams where I am back in school and I can’t find my classes or even open my locker.  Needless to say when I wake up and realize I’m in my late thirties again, I feel relieved.

Since I fazed out coffee and sleep more, I have found it takes more to make me irritable and distressed.  It also seems like I recover from aches and pains faster.  And I catch my breath quicker when I get winded now.  I don’t feel much for aches and pains when I stand for long periods of time, but I do find it annoying sometimes.  One of the reasons I started doing my shopping online was mainly because I got annoyed with standing in line for more than a couple minutes at a time.  The worst was when I was at the gas station and needing to pay for a tank of gas and I’d have several people ahead of me buying lottery tickets.  It was especially bad on the days of Powerball drawings.  I am convinced that lotteries are a tax on people who can’t do math.

I’ve also cut out as much sugar as possible.  I didn’t even buy candy for Halloween this year, not even for myself.  Then again, I enjoy watching people in costumes more now than I did even as a ten year old when I got to dress up.  Sugar was another thing that made me sluggish and occasionally irritable once the sugar rush burned off.

I am making friends with some of my neighbors.  I usually hear from them at least once a day.  For a small monthly fee, they’ll help me out with my laundry once a week as long as I provide the soap and laundry money.  They were also good enough to make dinner for me a few days ago.  While I do cook for myself, it’s usually simple things that don’t require a lot of ingredients.

Gotten back into listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I also listen to science and tech themed podcasts.  I occasionally listen to Joe Rogan if he’s interviewing a scientist or tech person.  I still avoid politics.  I have enough beliefs across the entire spectrum that is doesn’t qualify me for any traditional camp, party, or tribe.  So I catch flack from all sides just because I try to think for myself and am not dogmatic about my politics.  I swear politics has become like religion for far too many people.

I don’t post much on facebook anymore.  Then again, about the only people I hear from at all anymore are my best friend, a couple cousins, and a couple college instructors.  Even the tech groups, with only a few exceptions, have become fear mongers and hopeless these days.  Even tech enthusiasts are too often guilty getting their science news more from Hollywood and less from actual scientists.  I don’t read most science fiction and I don’t watch any science fiction shows just because they are so dystopic and such doom porn anymore.  No wonder most people are filled with fear and dread.

I try to tell people what’s actually going right (and far more is going well than not), but I’m just waisting my breath on everyone it seems.  About the only person who doesn’t think I’m a delusional liar is my own mother (and my best friend when she’s been doing well).  And even with her, I don’t know if she actually believes what I’m telling her or if she’s just humoring me.  And people wonder why I dropped out of society and don’t socialize much outside of close friends and family.  What’s the point of socializing if most people just suck the life and positivity out of you?  It seems that optimism and empathy are the modern rebellions.  It isn’t cool to be an optimist, but that may be just because we are years ahead of the curve.

People think I’m lucky because I’m on disability and don’t have to work a regular job.  While having freedom (at least to the extent the pension money doesn’t run out) is amazing, it is also a lonely life.  I spend most of my days reading, watching science lectures, lifting weights, listing to podcasts, but not much socializing.  It’s like this scholar I sometimes watch on youtube said, “If you seek the truth, the truth will set you free.  But it will also make you lonely.”  But I’d rather seek wisdom and knowledge than popularity and prestige.  I’ve felt this way my entire life.

I believe I now know what my purpose in life should be.  It is to be an independent scholar/philosopher.  Sure such work will mean I will never live a wealthy life.  Then again, some of the smartest and wisest people in history will never be known because they spent their lives in monasteries or libraries or lecture halls and laboratories.  And that is only if they were lucky.  Many more spent their lives never fitting in, seeing absurdities every where they went, and died frustrated and bankrupt.  Fortunately, the internet gives an outlet for people like me, who in previous eras would have had no options other than monasteries or academic life.  The true geniuses who drive progress may not be the billionaire entrepreneurs, but the engineers and scientists and instructors making the entrepreneurs visions possible.  I suppose people like that do the intellectual grunt work that make modern society possible.  Yet most people will never hear of them, much like no one hears of individual master carpenters or plumbers.

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.

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.