March 29 2020 Self Quarantine

Talked to my brother and my parents for quite awhile this afternoon.  Found out they are having church over the internet during this crisis.  My brother teaches Sunday School and did so over webcam this morning.  Made some barbecue chicken for an early lunch.  Spent much of the day playing computer games.  Haven’t had any guests since my cleaning lady came on Thursday.  Been watching youtube.  Saw a couple movies on Amazon Prime this weekend.  Saw a documentary on the history of the British Navy this weekend.

Been reading more this weekend.  Talked to my best friend over the weekend.  Said she doesn’t get out much other than going to work and walking her dog.  She said she’s going to be working on a new painting in her down time.  Sleeping a great deal this weekend.  I lift weights every other day.  I also do breathing and mediation twice a day.  I’m still holding good on my food supplies.  I get my disability pension in a few days.  I won’t have to really buy much as my supplies are still holding out.

Haven’t left my apartment other than to pick up deliveries for two weeks.  I am so grateful for internet and delivery services right now.  I’d be in real trouble if this would have happened when I didn’t have easy access to internet or delivery.  Saw a video on youtube this morning that said to the effect that had a pandemic like this happened in the 1980s, many people would have already lost their jobs as most places didn’t have the ability to work from home.  My friend in South Dakota is teaching his classes online.  Said he spends a couple hours a day answering emails from his students.  And his wife is expecting their second child this summer.

Overall I’m still holding good mentally.  I’m pleasantly surprised at how well I’m holding up.  This is definitely a time of crisis when history is being made every day.  It’s a stressful and sad time for all of us.  I doubt the world will be the same once this pandemic clears.  I have no idea how long I’ll have to self quarantine.  Hopefully effective treatments can be discovered soon.  Even with a possible vaccine going under trials right now, it could be over a year before it’s ready.  Yet, it’s quite amazing how fast our scientists and doctors have been able to move on this.  The first cases appeared in China in early December and only a few months later we are testing at least one possible vaccine.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished with collaboration and easy communication.

March 18 2020

Been back home for a week now.  Got all the necessary things in the remodel done.  Haven’t left my apartment in two days.  So far I’m doing alright.  Renewed my Netflix subscription and watching some movies and comedy shows I had always wanted to see.  Saw some Monty Python this morning.  Watched some George Carlin skits on St. Patrick’s Day.  I try not to watch the news much.  Sometimes it can get too discouraging.  The best I can do right now is keep my hands washed and avoid large crowds.

I talk to my family at least once a day.  Contact friends on a near daily basis too.  I keep hydrated and take a vitamin C pill every morning.  I started lifting weights again.  I took the previous two weeks off while the remodel was in progress.  I am so glad I got that done when I did.

Overall I’m just preparing to settle in and bunker down for the time being.  Have some money saved up for emergencies.  Hopefully won’t have to go anywhere anytime soon.  Sounds like things are getting crazy out there.  Stay safe and stay calm.

Returning To Stability

It’s been a good day.  Talked to my landlady and I’m going to be having some maintenance work done in my apartment within the next couple days.  I’ll have to be out for a few hours while the work is done.  My neighbors said I could stay with them for the day.  It is work I have been needing done for a few weeks and it is finally being worked on.  One of the reasons I’m glad the holidays are over is that I can now get things accomplished that have been on the back burner for a few weeks.  Holidays are a stressful time for me, partly because almost nothing can get done during the holidays.  This is especially bad in the case of emergencies.

With some of my Christmas money I bought a few cheap games. I also subscribed to Disney +.  Yet most of what I watch is NatGeo.  I did watch Avatar a few days ago.  Hard to believe that movie has been out for over ten years already.

Been sleeping better since I received my new bed.  I also read more too.  I’m currently working on some of the classics I read in my early twenties.  I am keeping myself occupied in spite of the colder weather.  One of the things I like about winter is that I can get a lot of reading done during the long and cold nights.  I’m adapting well to the winter.  Winter and spring have always been my happiest times of year.  Late summers and early fall are usually my toughest times of year.

I’m still lifting weights three times a week.  I definitely feel stronger than I did when I started this routine last March.  I may have not lost weight in 2019 but I didn’t gain any either.  It looks like I have to adjust my eating activities to lose weight.  I want to lose weight, but for health reasons.  I really don’t care about impressing other people that much.  I can do most of my socializing at home anymore.  And my blog I can do from anywhere I can take a laptop and find a wireless internet connection.  I couldn’t have imagined doing what I am doing as a blogger even ten years ago.  Back in the mid 2000s I was still trying to get into writing through literary magazines and traditional publishing.  I probably couldn’t have gotten the audience and platform I have now except via dumb luck before blogging became big.

I still don’t know what this blog can become ultimately.  As it is I try to treat it like a job, even though I don’t make much money at it.  I didn’t know I had much of a talent for writing and story telling until I was in college.  I wouldn’t have figured this out had I never went to college.

Once I get these maintenance issues resolved within the next day or two, I’ll be set for awhile.  Just right in time for the next cold spell to come in.  I enjoy the cold weather.  I love reading with a cup of coffee and reading while under a fleece blanket.  I can hardly wait.

November 11 2019

I’m now beginning day two of adjusting to no social media.  I notice I’m not as easily stressed even after two days.  It helps that I’m not wasting time waiting for friends to respond to my posts.  It’s also good that I no longer see every little post in my former groups that don’t pertain to me or the subjects I care about.  I just got tired of stressing over people I will never meet in person.  Even the college friends I have, I haven’t talked to many of them in person since graduation.  Sure what they are up to is interesting, but I don’t need a moment to moment play by play of their daily lives.  I can easily catch up with them via email maybe a few times a year.  Just because I may not talk to you on a daily basis doesn’t mean I am upset with you.

And in the make believe reality that is fostered by the abuse of social media, that realization can be easily lost.  Most people aren’t going to respond to me within a few minutes simply because they are at work or taking care of their children, etc.  I lost sight of that for awhile when I was spending a few hours a day checking social media.

Since I cut my social media accounts I found I am doing far more writing and watching movies.  I also don’t play as many computer games.  I must have spent four hours just writing down my random thoughts yesterday.  It is far easier to express myself in emails, blogs, journal entries, etc. than I can on facebook and twitter posts.  Besides, it isn’t like my facebook accounts were generating that much more traffic.

At this point in my life I don’t care if I make money off the blog, at least as long as I have my disability pension and can make rent every month.  In almost fifteen years as a renter I haven’t missed a rent payment yet.  I’m not going hungry, even if some days I’m living off hot dogs, ramen noodles, and canned vegetables.  I don’t write for fame and fortune.  I write for a record to be out there somewhere in cyber space.  I suppose it’s like putting a message in a bottle, tossing it into the ocean, and hoping someone finds it someday.  Or maybe like the Voyager probes that will drift through space for ages, silently waiting to be discovered.  It is kind of like my way of saying to the cosmos “I existed for a short while in an average small town with a mental illness.”  That probably is going to be my legacy, if I am going to have one.  I don’t have children and probably never will.  I will probably be forgotten by my own family in a few generations, by my friends and classmates families far sooner.  Yet this blog, this proverbial message in a bottle that is digital driftwood floating through cyber space, who knows how long it will go on.  Maybe in a few generations there will be a cure for mental illness.  Sheesh, in a few generations life today may be completely unrecognizable to the citizens of that time and age.  They may look upon mental illness with as much shock and horror as people today look upon Bubonic Plague, smallpox, and cholera.  Some people live on through their offspring.  Others live on through their work.  A select few are such movers and shakers their deeds and names live on throughout history.  Me, well, if I am to live on after I die, it will be in the words I write in a small blog.

Removing Myself From Social Media and Thoughts on Change

I decided I’m giving up social media.  I cancelled my twitter account and have put my facebook on inactive status.  I spend too much time on facebook and not enough time actually writing and researching.  I have only a couple close friends and a few cousins I really hear from anymore via facebook.  I would have given it up over a year ago if I wasn’t fearful I’d permanently lose contact with my friends and family.  I tired writing more emails several months ago, but got only one response from the dozen I sent out.  I suppose it feeds into my paranoia that my friends and family really don’t like me that much.  Every time I call my parents, the bulk of the conversation focuses on what I can do to improve myself and how to make my apartment more presentable.  I find this irritating.  I really do.  I can’t even just live anymore.  At this point in my life, I don’t care if I impress people or am popular.  I have never been popular, not even in college or high school.  But I had a good time in college because I got to spend time with people even more eccentric and academically oriented than myself on a daily basis.  I know many people condemn academic knowledge, scholarly pursuits, and intelligence.  I have endured this my entire life.  And I have given up on people ever changing their attitudes towards intelligence and wisdom.  I just want to live and be allowed to pursue my goals, which include learning as much as I possibly can about as many subjects as I can.  I don’t give a damn if I ever make a cent off my pursuits of knowledge and wisdom.  As long as I have enough money to make rent and keep my pantry stocked and myself clothed and my psych medications current, everything else is just add ons.  I don’t need a large house, a prestigious career, a trophy wife, lots of kids, a fancy car, designer clothes, or the respect of people I have nothing in common with.  I never have.  I was, like many ambitious teenagers, brainwashed into thinking I needed such nonsense to have a fulfilled life.  It took a serious mental illness and struggling for most of my twenties to realize that wasn’t what I wanted for myself.  And it took a few more years to where I got to the point when I no longer felt shame for not wanting a life I had no say in designing.

I don’t feel shame for not wanting to be rich or famous.  I don’t write blogs every few days with the idea I will get noticed and make a train load of money.  I write for a record of what it like to be a mentally ill man in early 21st century America.  I don’t write just for my current audience.  I write for future generations so there is at least one record as to what mental illness meant in the early stages of the Information Revolution.  And make no mistake, our species and our civilizations are going through a period of transition at very least as profound as the Agricultural Revolution thousands of years ago and the Industrial Revolution hundreds of years ago.  It should be no wonder so many people are afraid and angry.  Afraid of what’s happening and what is going to happen.  Angry that we found that much of what we learned in our youths and what worked well in previous generations is starting to no longer apply.

We are at a point in history when our science and tech is advancing faster than our institutions of government, religion, education, finance, industry, and social norms.  At this point in time (November 2019), the world is far different than the one I went to high school in during the 1990s.  I’ve recently rewatched some of the tv shows that were popular when I was a teenager, and it’s almost quaint looking at some of the tech that was considered cutting edge twenty five years ago.  Even in the Matrix series, there were no smart phones, social media, video sharing platforms, laptop computers, etc.  There were still phone booths in that series and that was made only twenty years ago.  I didn’t notice the subtle changes that were happening over the course of a year or two when things were happening.  But looking at it over the span of twenty years, I am as a 39 year old man living in a world that is foreign to the one I occupied at age 16.  I’m not even sure my niece and nephews have seen a VCR tape anywhere outside of a history show or museum.  I sometimes chuckle when I see older people who don’t research online as much as my cohorts do.  But my teenage nephews would chuckle that I have never run a 3D printer or used a VR headset.  One of my nephews recently bought a VR headset from money he raised working odd jobs for his parents and neighbors.  He set up a VR flying simulator for my father.  As for me, I’m waiting a couple of years for the prices to drop and the tech to get more user friendly.  As crazy as the changes I have seen in the last twenty years have been, I guarantee the next twenty will be even more so.  At this point I’m just content to buckle up and enjoy the ride from my apartment in small town Nebraska.

Rant About Jobs and Finding Meaning

I would welcome a cure to my schizophrenia but I have had bad enough experiences with work place environments that I never want to hold another job again.  I used to vomit from anxiety probably 50 percent of the time when I went into work customer service jobs.  The only job I didn’t do this was my janitor job.  But then, I didn’t work around crowds and I had to see my boss only once a day.  Yet, good luck finding a job that doesn’t involve working with crowds or office politics nonsense even with a college degree.

I would be completely content to be where I had to be around the same group of people day after day and only rarely interact with others outside my work team.  Almost no jobs like that exist anymore.  A significant number of jobs will likely be taken over by machines within the next ten to fifteen years. I have tried to tell people this for several years now.  But almost no one listens or if they do they tell me I am a liar.  The future is coming my friends.  These jobs, at least the ones we fight over now, will be going away.  And there isn’t anything even populist politicians or professional Luddites can do to stop it.  Sure, they can delay the inevitable.  But it will only put their individual businesses and nations at a competitive disadvantage and make the transition to a largely automated economy a lot tougher than it has to be.

Some people think I’m crazy or hopeless dreamer or a liar when I tell them this.  I am not stupid.  I am just ahead of the curve.  And being forced out of the workforce because of my schizophrenia meant that I was forced to find a different way to define myself than what I did for money.  But, in many ways, I am thankful I was forced to redefine myself at age 25 as opposed to age 45 with a family and a mortgage.  I went through my identity crisis when I was still young, flexible, and physically healthy.  It would be much tougher now that I’m 39 years old if I got laid off from a job because a machine can do it faster and more precise than I ever could.  The future is happening.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.  Changes are coming hard and fast in the next ten to twenty years, even more so than they are now.  It is time to stop denying it and adapt.

Worries About My Friends and Our Near Term Future

I worry sometimes.  Namely I worry about my friends and people younger than I am in general.  I worry about most of my friends struggling in life.  Most of my friends are buried in debts, mostly student loans, that they will be lucky if they ever pay off.  And most of my friends weren’t that dumb with their money or life decisions.  Most of my friends went to college because 1) we were told that was a path to a decent career and 2) we looked around and saw that there were no jobs that paid decently requiring only a high school degree.  Long gone are the days when someone could get a job as a factory hand or farm worker in their early twenties and hold onto that job for over forty years and retire with a paid off home, pension, and health insurance.

I’m seeing my friends struggle in their day to day lives.  Most are working a full time job and a part time job or a side gig.  Almost none of them own houses.  The only one of my close friends who owns a house is a high school teacher in a small town.  And he didn’t buy his house until he was in his late 30s.  They don’t own houses simply because they can’t afford a house and student debts.  I also have friends who have had medical emergencies.  One friend had to file for bankruptcy for medical bills.  One friend is fighting cancer, divorced, lost her children, and is still on the waiting list for disability.  Another friend of mine got a master’s degree only to find the best job she could get in a mid sized city doesn’t pay even 40 grand a year.  Her husband also works a low paying job and moonlights as an Uber driver.  He too has lots of student debt.

Now I know some unsympathetic people will be thinking, “well, that’s what they get for not majoring in STEM or going to the military.”  Well, one of my brother’s best friends pulled straight 4.0 all the way through high school and college and still got rejected for a state medical school at least three times before he was accepted.  As far as I know, he now has a decent career working in a medical lab.  Another of my brother’s friends didn’t finish medical school and residencies until he was in his thirties because of finances and run around from the schools.  Now he works as an emergency search and rescue doctor.  One of my cousins went to trade school for two years to become an electrician.  He worked for a couple railroads, got married, has four kids, and owns a small acreage in rural Nebraska.  But, he is now essentially self employed due to the inconsistent nature of railroad employment and his wife has had medical problems to where I think she had to give up her job as a nurse’s aide.  Another cousin works in web development.  Even though he has had to work for several different firms and sometimes take free lance work, he is doing alright because he has skills that are in demand.  At least for the time being.

Can we really expect most people to become doctors, nurses, webpage designers, computer coders, engineers, tradesmen, etc?  Yet that is all I hear out of “experts” and “business leaders.”  While I think it admirable that people like Mike Rowe want to encourage more people to consider the trades like plumbing, electrician, welding, carpentry, etc, I fear that too much emphasis on the trades will eventually lead the same problem that people who majored in business, law, humanities, liberal arts, etc. are facing now.  Twenty years ago, we were told to go to college and get a degree.  Many of us did only to find that every kid in the developed world was given that advice.  Now the degree doesn’t go nearly as far as it did even forty years ago, primarily because of so many people having degrees.  Then the kids were told “get a masters” or “do unpaid internships”.  Many did only to find that they had six figures in student loans to qualify for jobs that will never pay enough to pay off the loans, let alone pay off a house or even start a family in some cases.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if young people or my friends are angry about this setup.  Because while some jobs have been outsourced to cheaper places, many more were taken over by automation.  I have a friend who works in a call center for a bank.  I fear it’s only a matter of time before his job gets automated.  And, of course, no one in power cares about the twenty and thirty somethings struggling.  They didn’t even care about the  forty something auto or steel workers who lost their jobs to machines and outsourcing.

And it’s no longer just the US or Europe that is outsourcing and automating jobs.  Even China is automating and outsourcing.  Just a few weeks ago I bought some shirts online that were made in a small African country I had to look up on a map.  The US and Europe are just further along in this transition to a highly automated economy.

And of course, the US doesn’t have very good social safety nets or any empathy for those who lost their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet.  My elders like to brag about how well America is doing, how well we take care of our own, and how we are a great Christian nation.  If we cared about our own, than we wouldn’t be having an opioid crisis, mass shootings every day, increasing rates of mental illness, increased suicide rates (especially among middle aged men), and protests in every major city on a daily basis.  For our boasting about being such a Christian nation, we certainly don’t care about those who are misfortunate and had a rough go. Such hypocrisy.

I have no idea how many times I was told “get a job you bum”, “man up”, or “McDonalds and Wal Mart are hiring”.  I, and millions of people in my age bracket and lower did everything we were told.  We still struggle.  And we don’t have any empathy from anyone, not our rulers, not our businesses, not our parents, not our schools, not our churches, and not even from each other.

Unionizing is not an option like it was a hundred years ago because most jobs can or will be outsourced or taken over by machines.  Sure we are on the road to an automated economy where most of the grunt work is done by machines and computers.  But, what is the point if 1) we don’t ditch this idea that everyone has to be defined by what they do for money, 2) most people can’t afford anything beyond the basics because most jobs are done by machines, 3) we have few social safety nets to make up for the fact that most people aren’t able to work in fields that can’t be easily automated.

We may need some things like universal health care, universal basic income, free continuing education, complete overhauls of tax systems, and a general overall shift in public attitudes towards work and compassion for others.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not in the US.  I don’t think it will happen in the US in my lifetime simply because most of my countrymen don’t have empathy. Our leaders certainly don’t.

I do believe if our species can survive this transition, which is probably the greatest transition since people settled down and started farming instead of hunting, fishing, and gathering thousands of years ago, our descendants can have a really cool future where creativity and science can bloom.  But, I fear the transition will be a lot tougher than it has to be simply because of many people’s attitudes towards work and their fellow man.  I fear we will lose a few generations and much of their gifts in this transition.  But I guess we as a species lost short term to ultimately be better off when the Industrial Revolution began back in the late 1700s.  I do have great hope for the long term outlook for civilization and our species, but I fear it will be brutal getting there.  And the fact that I won’t live long enough to see the fruits of the seeds being planted today fills me with great sadness.