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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Donations to Expand ‘A Life Of Mental Illness’

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

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Optimism in the Future

Even though I haven’t heard from many people besides family and a couple close friends,     I remain optimistic overall.  I get much of my optimism from reading science journals and intentionally looking for humanitarian efforts stories online.  Reading these stories from sites like futurism.com, human progress.org, future timeline.net, among many youtube science and tech sites helps to keep me optimistic overall.  I know we have problems.  But I just became sick and tired of always hearing how bad everything was and how it was never going to get better.  I have been hearing about how bad the world was and how bad everyone was since I was old enough to listen in on conversations.

Growing up, I almost never heard my elders or teachers have anything good to say about the future or the world in general.  That bothered me for many years.  I have been hearing dire predictions for years, yet most of them never came to pass or turned out to be manageable.  Several years ago I finally had enough.  So I forced myself to do some research and find out what was actually going right.  I had to do a lot of research over the last several years to see what we were doing, where we were going, and what had already accomplished.  We are doing some really cool things in the realms of science, technology, and humanitarian efforts.  You just won’t hear about them on Facebook or the news.  Granted this is not a license for problem solvers to get complacent or lazy.  Humans have an incredible ability to see into the future and spot potential problems long before they happen.  Not only do we have the ability to see what could happen, we also can plan and change accordingly.  And we change and plan so well sometimes we forget what the original problems were to begin with.

I haven’t spent much time on Facebook or twitter lately.  I still go to Facebook a couple times a day just to see what’s up with friends and family.  But, for me, Facebook is the internet’s version of looking in the refrigerator and hoping there’s still some left over pizza from last night.  Most of the time you’ll get stuck with hot dogs, moldy cheese, and old lunch meat, but sometimes you get lucky. I still drop in on my tech enthusiasts’ groups, but I don’t participate much beyond liking articles that are being shared.  Unfortunately, mental illness and social media don’t mix well.  Not much I can do about it besides staying away when I don’t feel well.

I still stay awake quite late most nights.  It seems to be when I get the most research and writing done.  But at least I’m still getting enough sleep.  I do enjoy the quiet and solitude of the overnight hours.  I may have odd hours and odd practices, but at least I can still function with my mental illness.

Finding A Life’s Purpose With A Mental Illness

Feeling pretty decent overall the last several days.  About the only real issue I have right now is that I prefer to be awake at night and sleep during the days.  I still get outside a little everyday, usually in the late afternoons or early evenings.  I don’t socialize as much as I have in years past.  But it seems to me that most people have been in fouler than usual moods for the last several months.  I have abandoned Facebook and twitter, except for my blog, entirely because I am tired of dealing with all the anger and negativity.  I have enough chaos going on in my own mind.  I won’t be part of anyone else’s.  Seriously, is it so tough to be in a decent mood?  If I as a mentally ill man can force myself into it for much of the time, surely normal people can.  Maybe the reason I feel decent is because I am avoiding people in general.

I admit I’m doing less in some areas in my late 30s than I did even a few years ago.  Right now, I have no desire to travel anywhere.  I have no desire to ever hold a traditional job again.  I have zero desire for a dating relationship.  I prefer to be left alone most of the time.  I have less tolerance for rude and reckless people.  And I am definitely sick of hearing nothing but negativity all the time. At the same time, I keep in more contact with good friends.  I read more.  I do more brain building activities.  I rarely watch tv.  I make it a point to not watch the news channels (I can’t wait for those dinosaurs to go extinct).  I don’t measure myself by my job or how much money I have.  Not having a lot of money is not a big deal to me.  I always hated the statement, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  What a stupid idea.  It doesn’t bother me that I don’t have a regular job.  It definitely doesn’t bother me that my sweat and toil is no longer making someone else more money than it makes me.  I suppose I never was going to make it as a corporate man.  And I definitely couldn’t make it as a politician.  I’m too honest and I don’t always tell people what they want to hear.

I can’t understand why so many people stay in jobs they hate or stay in toxic relationships.  I am fortunate to have some friends who don’t make a lot of money yet they love what they do, namely my friends who became teachers. I have some other friends who yes, they can’t stand their jobs, but they also have side hustles that could or have turned profitable.  One friend of mine worked as a gas station clerk until she finally decided to move to a different town and start her own business out of her basement.  I left my last “real job” in an attempt to concentrate more on my writing and self education.  These blogs are the children of those efforts.  And I wouldn’t want to do anything else, at least not at this current point.

Sure I made more money working as a janitor and factory hand in years past, but I have a much further reach with these mental health blogs.  Every day I have visitors from outside the USA. I’d say at least a quarter of my readers are not from my country. I hear from people of all ages, backgrounds, careers, etc. because of this work.  I get to talk to people of different lifestyles and cultures and I don’t even have to put on shoes or leave my apartment.  It’s a great job for me and my situations.  Sure it took years of struggle and sadness to get to this level of acceptance to where I can speak freely about my struggles with schizophrenia.  But once it became clear to me in my mid twenties that the mental illness would not allow me to hold a regular career, I found out that time was an great asset I possessed.  It was just a matter of how I was going to spend the next years of my life.  I could have easily become bitter and just dropped out entirely.  But with my love of writing and unnaturally high levels of empathy and compassion, I couldn’t be content doing that.  Once I learned that blogging could be a way of putting a human face on a mysterious and terrifying affliction, I decided to pursue this.  I had never heard of blogging until I was in college.  But it is something I am regularly doing and will continue to regularly do. I wonder how many other career paths will be created in the next 15 to 20 years that most people can’t yet imagine.

Once it became clear that my mental illness wasn’t going to allow me to have a regular career, I started pouring more efforts into my writing hobby.  At the time I thought I just had to write some big selling novels.  I wrote rough drafts for a couple novels but they never went anywhere.  I wrote poetry, but who really makes money at being a poet?  Finally I turned to nonfiction blogging because there was a need for what I am doing that wasn’t really going filled.  I guess that’s the mark of any good artist or business person, find a need not being met and filling said need.  I guess out of this blog I was able to salvage something positive out of what could have become a senseless tragedy.

Problems Socializing

Fall is here.  The leaves are turning, the nights are getting longer, and the weather is cooling.  Had to run my heater the last few nights.  I do enjoy this time of year.  It’s been several days since I last wrote.  Updates are in order.

I haven’t had much to report the last few days because I have been feeling quite stable since my last breakdown a couple weeks ago.  I now make a point to leave my apartment at least once a day.  I usually buy groceries for two weeks at a time.  Since winter is only a couple months away, I’ll have to start restocking my cold weather supplies soon.  I haven’t been to my therapist for a few months simply because I really don’t have much to talk about with him.  At this point in my illness, I really don’t have much of a desire to be social to strangers.  I don’t really desire to leave my apartment much after dark, not because I live in a bad neighborhood, but because I don’t like driving at night anymore.  It’s been a couple years since I went to the movie theatre as it seems that half of what’s shown anymore are remakes I saw the first time in my youth.  If I want to watch something anymore, I just go to youtube or netflix.  If I want to socialize I just call up my friends and family on the smart phone.  I still avoid Facebook some as some people still can be quite nasty to each other over the pettiest differences of opinions.  But I’d rather people be jerks to each other online than in person.  I think one of the problems is that much can be lost in translation just with written text.  I have thought about starting a youtube channel and doing a podcast through that as I think some of what I write can be lost in the reading.

I don’t mind not socializing much at this point in my life.  I have always been an introvert who preferred having a few truly loyal friends and family members as opposed to having lots of casual friends.  In my family, it seems that people are either extreme extroverts or extreme introverts.  But sometimes I am my favorite company.  I don’t mind going entire days without talking to people.  I do like technology enough that I’m not going to be a modern Henry David Theorau and build a cabin on a lake and retreat from civilization.  It can be tough being an introvert in a place and time that values “people person” types and extroversion.  I have gotten in lots of trouble over the years for trying to keep to myself and just do my tasks at almost every job I ever had.  It just isn’t enough to do the job and do it well anymore.  But I know in previous eras I wouldn’t have had a job, I’d be in a mental asylum and probably would have had a short and chaotic life.  It would have been much rougher in the past for someone like me.  That’s why I’m not nostalgic.

Thoughts on Normal People and Bad News

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Just been in the mood to avoid people as much as possible the last several days.  I leave my apartment only a couple times a day and check Facebook only once or twice a day.  It’s not that I think I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown, it’s that I want to avoid planting the seeds for one.  Listening to most people lately is like listening to a skipping MP3 (or broken record for my readers over fifty).  I don’t want to hear about the weather, or how much you hate your job, or how much of a thoughtless jerk your significant other is, or how everyone who doesn’t agree with you on politics or religion or economics is the devil’s minion.  I just really no longer want to hear it.  I’ve had my fill of negativity and snark.  Talk is cheap and snark is free but wisdom is ignored it seems.

One of the reasons I got back into science in a big way was that I got tired of hearing how bad people sucked and that civilization was going to collapse any day now.  I also watched all these doomsday scenario shows like The Day After, Red Dawn, Armageddon, Independence Day, 2012, The Terminator series, etc. that said we were all going to die any day now.  At this point  in my life, after seeing “88 reasons for the return of Jesus in 1988”, Y2K fizzle out, 9/11 and the resulting never ending wars, the Great Recession, the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, Occupy Wall Street come to nothing, and the election of our current crop of politicians, I just yawn and laugh at every other predicted end times or end of civilization b.s. I see every other week.  You normals really have an amazing ability to believe any type of nonsense that gets repeated enough.  I find it tragic because many normals are worrying themselves sick over things that never come to pass or are easily solveable.

After years of hearing nothing but doom and gloom, I wanted to hear what was going well for a change.  Growing up, I rarely heard anything positive about the world from my elders or teachers.  I had heard from about second grade on that American students were the dumbest in the industrialized world.  If that was so, I reasoned, then why don’t we improve the school system and stop blaming the kids.  The looks of anger I got from my elders were like I just said the Ten Commandments were bogus.  I never did get an answer from my elders.  I also never got answers from my elders when I asked if things suck so bad, why doesn’t anyone do anything to change them.  I swear, the mark of a chronically sane individual is to gripe and moan about a problem but not do any thing to solve said problem.  I’ve seen it my entire life.

Even today when I try to tell people about what is going right in the world (often through science, technology, humanitarian efforts, etc.), I’m usually met with deafening silence or people telling me I’m a liar.  I’ve been called a liar my entire life, especially when I was right.  So it’s nothing new.  Not even my close friends really respond to the good things I tell them.  I’d get more responses if I took pictures of what I had for dinner it seems or posted some snarky stuff about how people that don’t think like I do are the devil’s servants.  I know things are going better in this world than most people think.  Even after Hurricane Harvey knocked out most of the Houston area, there were people from all over on the way to clean up the damage and help those in need within hours of the storm hitting.  It’s a pity that it takes a calamity for many people to see through their petty illusions of what is wrong and actually do something right.

I have decided I’m essentially unplugging from the illusions that the press and social media present.  I’m keeping my interactions on Facebook and other outlets to a bare minimum from now on.  I don’t want to hear political sermons or diatribes about how bad young people suck worse than ever anymore.  I signed up for Facebook because I wanted to keep in contact with my college and high school friends, not to listen to people gripe and moan about whatever grievance is popular this week.  For my younger readers, try not to take the garbage the press and your elders say about you personally.  They were saying the same thing about my cohorts and myself twenty years ago and we turned out just fine.  Their elders said the same things about them back in the 1960s during the Vietnam War protests and race riots.  And sadly, come 2030 or so, many of you will say the same idiotic things about your kids.  I swear our species is the only species that actively despises it’s own offspring.  Yet despite our hangups, we are advancing.  That is why I think, in spite our petty squabbles and complaints, I think humans in general are pretty cool.  I just think the illusions our squabbles create are tiresome and I’m content to watch our species advance from a distance for the time being.

I just don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.  I don’t want to hear that civilization is heading to hell in a hand basket when all the data (for those who will actually do a few minutes of google searches) says other wise.

Midnight Ramblings and Optimism

Have had my days and nights backwards for the last couple weeks.  Been getting most of my sleep in the mornings and staying up most of the night.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to be negatively effecting my mental stability.  If anything this has been the most stable summer I’ve had in years.  Granted this sleeping during the days while being up most of the night is putting a cramp on my social life.  But I didn’t have much of a social life to start with.  So I spend much of my nights listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I listen to mostly non fiction science books and some science fiction.  I still don’t watch much tv.  I’m not even really that excited about football season this year.  But I am looking forward to cooler weather.  I am glad I have made it through most of the summer with no real problems.

Perhaps I am having fewer problems because I socialize less than I have in previous months and years.  I leave my apartment only to run errands and even then I make it a point to run them in the early mornings or late nights to avoid crowds.  I have made a point of avoiding angry, irritable, and rude people in person and online.  Of course this does limit how many people I hear from or talk to.  I really don’t talk to many people anymore, mainly my family and a few friends.  Sure it gets kind of lonely but fortunately the loneliness doesn’t last long.  I’m glad I don’t have to rely on other people to keep me entertained.  Sometimes I am my own best company.

In spite not socializing much I am still optimistic overall.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown much this summer.  But anymore with the internet, I can still keep in contact with friends and family.  And I can keep myself occupied with free audiobooks, free online courses, and free music online.  I would have had to spent thousands of dollars for the things I have read or listened to online just fifteen years ago.  And I can get all this for a dollar a day in internet service fees.  And I love it.  I wouldn’t trade living here and now (unless I could be wisked a couple hundred years into the future and be exploring strange new worlds like Star Trek).  And I have some of my family members and a few of my friends to be the same way.  My best friend from high school (whom I’m still great friends with) loves speculating on future science and social trends when she’s not discussing Game of Thrones.  But I guess she gets tired of me talking about baseball and computer games, so that makes us even.  My thirteen year old nephew is going to be working with robotics and 3D printers this year in his junior high.  And to think I was impressed with the old Apple II GS when I was growing up.  I often joke with my niece and nephews that they might not need drivers’ licenses.  Now it’s looking like even I might not need a drivers’ license in ten years.  Wouldn’t hurt my feelings that much.  Sure we don’t have flying cars like Back To The Future said we would, but even that movie didn’t predict the Internet boom, smart phones, or renewable energy starting to become affordable.  I wouldn’t even have cable tv except it comes with my apartment.

What I’m getting at is that right now in 2017, despite the bad news we’re constantly hearing on the news channels and our online news feeds, we’re still living in some pretty cool times.  It is, in many ways, a good time to be an average person.  Sure I may not be able to ever afford a house like my parents or brother.  But I don’t need a large house in an affluent suburb with the picket fence and two car garage.  I can currently live quite well just in the apartment in the small college town I’m in.  I currently don’t need much to live a decent standard of living that even the kings and industrialists of 1900 couldn’t have imagined.  It is not, however, a good time to be a control freak or spiteful hate monger.  We’re always probably going to have problems like these but, unlike in past eras, the overwhelming general consensus is that being a dictator or hateful person are bad things.  For most of civilization’s history, the idea of the ‘divine right of royalty’ or having hatred of people different from your own little group was pretty much unquestioned by the vast majority of people.  We have made progress as a species.  And we will continue to make progress even if people take it for granted or don’t pay attention to it.  The only reason that we don’t hear about the good going on is simply because good news doesn’t sell.  Good news doesn’t sell only because we as a species are not wired to pay much attention to good news.

Working From Home For Free and Thoughts on Tech Advances

I’ve been doing this blog about living with schizophrenia for a little over four years at this point.  Even though I haven’t turned a profit from it, I consider it the best and most meaningful job I ever held.  It doesn’t compare.  The only other job I ever held that was even close to being a mental health blogger/advocate was when I was working as an instructors’ aide as a graduate assistant years ago.  I enjoyed substitute teaching classes, grading papers, proctoring exams, answering students’ questions, and doing academic research.  It’s too bad I lost that job because of my grades in the masters’ courses.  I didn’t really care to be some business hotshot; I really wanted to get my masters’ in economics so I could teach economics and personal finance classes at a junior college or small state university.  This was before I found out that the majority of junior college teachers are part timers or adjuncts.  But then, many non management employees are part timers.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is so the employers don’t have to pay benefits.  I never got benefits at any job I ever held.  That’s why I’m on disability insurance through Social Security.  If I were to go back to work, it would have to be where I was completely cured of schizophrenia.  Many insurance companies won’t cover preexisting conditions and the suggestion of single payer universal healthcare in the USA is very unpopular.  So here I am on disability and wanting to contribute.  But if I got even a 30 hour a week job at McDonald’s, that would be enough for the feds to toss me out of the program.

Since I am unable to work for money because of the current system, I have had to find other ways to contribute that doesn’t involve me making money.  That is why I blog about life with a mental illness.  Many may dismiss my work as I don’t make money from it and I don’t have a large audience.  But many people do volunteer work and don’t see any money from it.  There are people who deliver meals to elderly and disabled people, people who hand out blankets and bedding at homeless shelters, people who coach Little League baseball, people who teach Sunday school, among numerous others.  A person doesn’t have to make a lot of money (or any money) to make a difference in other people’s lives.  My brother works as an engineer and makes six figures, but I doubt he has thousands of people in over 100 different nations that have seen his work.  My parents have done medical missionary work in Panama and had a reach that way.  And they made no money from their several trips.  Sometimes a person has to do something just because it’s the right and beneficial thing to do regardless if money changes hands.

One of highest paid professions in the world is as hedge fund manager on Wall Street.  And yet do they really build anything or create anything besides moving money (most of it digits on a computer) around?  I’m not anti business but I think there are better measures of someone’s worth to a nation or civilization than how big their net worth is.  I understand if someone produces a service, an idea, or an item that many people want, then yes that person should probably make something in return for the years of thankless hard work and hard times. The “overnight successes” often came to be that way through years of quiet hard work, having good mentors and studying their fields. If this blog ever became something like a best selling book or a well watched youtube channel or lead to a career as a writer for an online journal, I wouldn’t refuse the money.  I just hope I wouldn’t forget that telling the truth about mental illness and it’s related problems should be what my work is all about.

Ideally, I would love to be cured of schizophrenia and be able to work again and not worry about having to take medications every night.  As many advances as medical science is making anymore, that might not be the fantasy it was even ten years ago.  If I did become cured, sure I would have to find a job and likely update my education.  But that would be a good headache to have.  With my blogging skills, maybe I could get a job as a technical writer.  Or maybe by then machines will have taken most of the jobs and made living so inexpensive that money doesn’t matter very much.  Just in my life in the last ten years, with so much being digitized and put for free or near free access online, I can live cheaper now than I could ten years ago.  And if things like 3D printing takes off like most technicians and scientists think it will, money will matter even less to me ten years from now than it does now.  A farmer in rural Africa with a micro financed smart phone has more computing power and access to civilization’s information than did NASA in the 1960s when they were sending astronauts to the moon and back.  We are living in some cool and interesting times.  And right now much of this can be enjoyed by even lower class people (at least lower class by modern standards) for not much money.  And I think as tech advances, money may matter less and less with each passing decade.  Maybe when I’m an old man unpaid work will be the norm because machines do most of the manufacturing or farming.  It is some cool times were in even if the ride is bumpy and rough at times.  Stay tuned.