Optimism for The Future in the Face of Constant Pessimism

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I haven’t posted regularly on my facebook or twitter accounts since September.  I just got tired of all the fighting and negativity.  But the thing that bothers me the most about social media is how much of what I try to communicate gets lost in just text.  Most times I don’t wish to come across as snarky or combative, but that’s how so many people interpret what I write.  Maybe facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. wouldn’t be so negative if people had to post video and audio rather than just text.  Put a voice and face to the comments and let the world know they aren’t talking to a machine or subhuman entity.

I gave up on using social media for anything than shamelessly promoting my blog three months ago when I came to the painful conclusion that most people were never going to share my optimism or joyful outlook.  And the weird thing is I am more optimistic than ever even though I almost never convince anyone of reasons to be optimistic.  I am definitely not an optimist by nature or upbringing.  I almost never heard anything positive about the world or the future from my parents, teachers, bosses, or elders while growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  For quite sometime I was wondering why if most people were so pessimist about the future, then why were they having kids.  I could never figure those kinds of contradictions out.  I know very few people even in December 2017 who don’t have kids because they are worried about the kind of future these kids would have.  Most people that don’t have kids that I know can’t biologically have kids.

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Like I said, I am not an optimist by nature.  I had to make myself into one.  And I did it with little help from mass media, popular culture, or my elders.  Most of what I learned about what was going right in modern civilization I had to actively seek out through secondary sources and rigorous research.  I learned more science, technology, psychology, history, philosophy, literature, and economics on my own with an internet connection and five years of daily youtube viewing than I ever thought possible after spending eighteen years in traditional education.  Then again, it should be noted that is simply impossible for any kind of formal education system to teach everything a person needs to know for living just within the system itself.  With life expectancies going into the eighties in some countries (and even the sixties in some of the poorer developing nations), it is simply impossible to be able to say “You know what you need to know for the next fifty to sixty years once you’re turned out into the world at age eighteen.”  No, the best thing an education system can do in this day and age of long life span and ever changing tech and social norms is to foster the never stop learning attitudes and mentalities.

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In the mid to late 2000s when I was struggling to adapt to my mental illness and working low wage remedial jobs I could have done as a high school dropout, I was quite angry about my time in formal education.  For several years I was convinced that doing well in high school and college was wasted effort if all I was going to do with my life was push a mop in a courthouse or sell carpet for a billion dollar company.  After a few more years of maturity and seasoning, I found out to my pleasant surprise that my years of working hard in school and loving learning weren’t misspent.  The biggest thing my years in formal education did was awaken in me a love for learning and a desire to continue doing so.

Sadly, many people don’t have a love for learning.  Tragically most of those people are going to get left behind in the waves of science, technology, geopolitical, and social changes that have only recently begun to gain momentum.  The old ideas of graduating high school at age eighteen, getting a union membership, getting a job in a factory, getting married at age twenty two to someone from your hometown or college, etc. aren’t feasible anymore.  And sadly, many people can’t or won’t adapt.  But we’ve had changes in the past eras.  I imagine many people didn’t adapt during the Renaissance or Industrial revolutions and got painfully displaced.  Same things are happening now as we move to a more connected, digitalized, fast paced, and informed world.  National borders don’t mean as much now as they did even when I was a child back in the 1980s.

Sure it’s a chaotic time for many people, especially for people and institutions that aren’t adapting to the new realities.  Politicians in my home nation are talking about building walls to keep out illegal immigrants and refugees and bringing back traditional manufacturing jobs to this country.  To which I reply “planes can fly over walls” and “3D printing”.  Sadly, many people want to deny such changes are already here and will resist to the point of being left so far behind they’ll never catch up.  I see it every day just in my own community and circles of friends and family.  I decided that I was going to adapt and welcome the changes regardless of what my friends, family, and neighbors were going to do.  Some cool things are happening and I don’t want to get left behind or wallow in fear and anxiety for the rest of my life.  I deal with fear and anxiety enough in my own mental illness.  I won’t allow external forces to add to these.

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Thoughts on Upcoming Graduations and Future Possibilities

College graduations are this weekend in my home state.  Some days it’s hard to believe that it’s been thirteen years since I finished college.  Other days it seems like it was somebody else’s life.  I am definitely not the same person I was then.  Back then I believed I could still work in spite my mental illness if I found the right situation.  Over the next several years I worked a variety of jobs; retail clerk, sales man, teacher’s aide, factory worker, loading dock worker, cook, dish washer, janitor, and now blogger.  Besides the teacher’s aide job, none of these jobs had anything to do with what I studied in college.

In my younger years, I was kind of resentful that I didn’t find a good paying job in the field I studied.  For awhile I believed that college was a waste because of this.  I really don’t feel that way anymore.  After studying science and tech advances for the last few years, I know now that it’s impossible to spend four to five years in college and expect to have a career in that field for the next forty years.  The science and technology is advancing too fast anymore.  Entire new industries are being creating and being destroyed every year anymore.  It’s foolish to tell an eighteen year old kid fresh out of high school that what they major in has to last them until age sixty five.  Most eighteen year olds don’t know what’s even available, let alone where their true strengths lie.  When I started college I never saw myself becoming a writer and blogger.  There were very few blogs in 1999 when I started college.  There weren’t even social media sites, good search engines, youtube, netflix, etc back then.  And that was just eighteen years ago, not that long ago.  Who knows what will change in the next eighteen years.  I might not even need to use a keyboard to write a blog by 2035.

As far as telling an eighteen year old kid that they have to stay in one career field for their lives, that’s asinine.  These kids graduating high school this spring won’t hit even our current retirement age until the mid 2060s.  We can’t realistically train these kids for lifelong careers when we don’t know what will be available by then.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this year will be working in vertical farming, yet in 2017 this tech is still in development phases.  Maybe some of these kids will be robotics mechanics.  Perhaps some will become technological nomads and just go wherever the work takes them.  Have lap top, will travel much like the hired guns of the Old West.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this spring will work on building moon and Martian colonies.  Maybe some of these kids will be among the first to have their children genetically modified.  I don’t know.  But I doubt few of them, if any, will be able to make careers as truck drivers, fast food workers, retail clerks, telemarketing, book keeping or most manufacturing.  These jobs will be among the first to be automated.

And ironically, no one else knows exactly what the future of work holds for these kids leaving high school either.  Tech gurus like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, etc. can have good ideas but we realistically can’t foresee what will and what won’t happen in the next twenty, thirty, or forty years. And politicians can say they want to revive blue collar manufacturing jobs, but that’s not going to happen in spite their best efforts.  We can’t go back to the past and trying to do so will only make the transitions to a higher tech world civilization even harder and delay the inevitable.  For all I know, by 2065 the basics of life could be cheap enough that working may optional for some people.  Maybe the only real jobs humans can do will be in science research and space exploration.  Of course I could be completely wrong and World War III knocks humanity back to the Stone Age.  What I do know is that as much change as I have seen since graduating high school in 1999, even that change is going to be dwarfed by what’s coming in the next couple generations.

Discouragement and Socializing With Mental Illness

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Been spending much of the last several days watching the World Series and football games.  As far as my hopeless addiction to watching sports on tv is concerned, October is traditionally the happiest time of year for me.  But all in all it’s been an uneventful fall.  The weather is starting to cool and I haven’t run my air conditioner in almost three weeks. Some nights I even run the heater.  We’ve already had a few freezes but no snow yet.  In my hometown we usually don’t get our first snow until mid to late November.  I still have to winterize my car and restock my emergency winter supplies.  It won’t take too much other than a couple trips to the store.  It’s just a matter of getting it done.

I didn’t do anything special this Halloween.  Some times I like to go to the all night diners to see people in their costumes after the bars close.  Some years I help hand out candy to the kids that come to our complex.  Didn’t do any of that.  I’m still kind of afraid of socializing.  If it wasn’t for cell phones and Facebook, I probably wouldn’t have much of a social life.  But then again, years ago the only option for someone like me was long term hospitalization.

During the last two weeks I was on higher than usual doses of some of my anti psych medications.  They helped take the tension off and knocked down the hallucinations but I did end up less motivated than usual and slept more.  I haven’t posted anything to Facebook for almost two weeks.  I’m trying to avoid a lot of nastiness and negativity that’s going on lately.  I haven’t watched the news in months because I’m tired of the wall to wall election coverage.  Even my parents who are hopeless news junkies have been boycotting all news channels just to avoid it all.  I thought we were electing representatives and not gods.  I have grown to hate politics and I would love to live to see scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, etc. get the kind of press we seem to have only for politicians and entertainers.  It’s probably a pipe dream, but I can hope can’t I?

As it’s been I’ve been depressed and discouraged for weeks.  I can’t stand normal conversation and small talk anymore.  It’s just reruns as far as I’m concerned.  That’s probably why I isolate so much.  I just don’t want to rehash politics or sports or the weather anymore.  Perhaps I’m too tough on my fellow man because most of what I see is people doing the same stupid things and talking about the same stupid stuff all the time.  I might feel different if I lived in a large city with more diversity of thought and culture.  I probably would feel different if I didn’t live in low income housing.  But it’s not like there’s ever going to be low income housing for smart but eccentric people.

Some people got the idea because I live in low income housing and am on disability that I’m stupid.  I’m not.  But I will say it has been pretty tough living in low income housing ever since my pastor friend and brilliant but eccentric photographer friend died two years ago.  Their deaths have been tough to bear.  The intellectual life of my complex took a nosedive since they passed on.  Now I pretty much hear people complain about how they don’t get enough in social security money when they buy mostly lottery tickets, cigarettes,  and booze with their money.  It’s discouraging seeing people do the same dumb things over and over again but never getting the idea.  Anyone who ever said there virtue in poverty has never lived in HUD housing.  We have the same mix of crooks, losers, cranks, and jerks as every other class of society.

It’s discouraging dealing with dumb and rude people everyday.  After awhile I might get jaded and just think that dumb and rude people are all there is.  I hope it never comes to that.  I wouldn’t be happy as a nihilist.  I see the potential in people.  I see that my species is making positive changes and scientific breakthroughs on an almost daily basis anymore.  I know we can be better than we currently are.  I know we can make ourselves more ethical and wiser.  I would love to someday live in world where wisdom is as valued as ignorance is now.  It just gets discouraging during the day to day grind when it seems like no progress is being made around you.  But I guess low income housing is probably going to be the last place in the US that sees any kind of technological progress.  We still have people who don’t own computers or have email accounts. I just try to keep reminding myself that progress is happening even when it’s not evenly spread out.

On Minimalism or Why I’m Not Pessimist Even Though I Don’t Have Money or Job Security

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I have never learned the fine art of being able to let go and no longer care.  Maybe that is another trait neurotypical people are born with that we the mentally ill aren’t. Even though one of my favorite comedians was George Carlin, I have never been able to bring myself to the nihilist thinking of if the world is going to fall apart then I’m going to enjoy the ride down.  I think I’m more of an idealist in that I know we as a species have problems, issues, and baggage but we can compensate for said hangups and move onto something better.  I guess I never quit dreaming and seeing what we can as a species accomplish.  I missed the memo that said I had to be a pessimist and a grump once I became a man.

The scientists, engineers, doctors, and humanitarians of the world have done some really amazing things just since I was old enough to start paying attention twenty five years ago.  And twenty five years is just a blip on the radar of human history.  I would have been life time hospitalized in 1966.  I wouldn’t be blogging in 1986 with the audience I now have (I appreciate all my visitors).  I wouldn’t be able to keep in contact with my college friends in 1996 nearly as easily as I do now.  My father always told me one of his greatest regrets was not keeping in contact with his college and Air Force friends more and taking more photos when he was in school and overseas.  With Facebook I hear from people I was just casual friends with on an almost weekly basis.  I have even had good conversations with people I have never met in person.  But because we have similar interests we can connect quite easily.  With my cell phone I can cheaply talk to friends and family at all hours or call for emergency help.  In the late 1980s about the only people who had cell phones were Wall Street tycoons.  And as good as my $99 Wal Mart cell phone is, I don’t even really need it as much as I used to.  Anymore I can most of my banking, order books through Amazon, order clothing (I have an odd size so I have to special order sometimes), and even get pizza and deli delivery via the internet.  If I were so inclined to get back into the dating game, I’d just go to any one of a number of internet dating sites and let their algorithms match me to a woman with similar interests.  None of this was possible when I was growing up.  It is an excellent time to be alive.

For years I have heard that my generation of Americans was going to be the first that was worse off than their parents.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re worse off only in certain areas.  Sure GenXers and Millenials have higher levels of student loans and more job insecurity than did the Boomers and World War 2 generations.  But what money we do have can go much further than in the past.  You really think Andy Griffith could have accessed an entire encyclopedia of knowledge on his rotary phone in the 1960s?  You think that Archie Bunker would have as good of a chance to survive cancer in the 1970s?  Sure many of the high paying manufacturing jobs have left Europe and North America, but blame technology and automation as much as China or trade deals.  Just Google the monetary worth of manufactured goods in the U.S. or E.U. and compare it to before the beginning of automation.  It’s probably higher now though done with fewer laborers.  Yes you may be discontent with your job as a convince store clerk or a fryer cook at KFC, but with as cheap as many things are getting now, you may not need the $40,000 a year job right out of college to have an alright life.

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I make less than $15,000  per year from all sources.  But I still have two computers, an automobile, a cell phone, a good wireless internet connection, no debts, and I’m not going hungry.  Yet according to the U.S. government statistics I am living in poverty.  But I have pretty much everything I want and definitely everything I need.  I don’t need the four bedroom house with the picket fence (especially not when I have pay home owners’ association fees, property taxes, shovel snow, and fix my own plumbing when the pipes break at 3 am on Sunday morning).  I think the ideas of having a large house in a good neighborhood, a mini van and an SUV, lots of trinkets to impress people I don’t care about, a stressful job that could be automated or outsourced at a moment’s notice, a marriage that is always strained because of not enough time with the wife and kids, are overrated.  I never got the memo that said I had to have all of that to be happy and content.  I don’t have any of those “hallmarks of success” and yet I don’t feel like less of a man because of it.  Some people may think less of me because I don’t have a lot of money, a prestigious job, a trophy wife, children, a big house, or a SUV.  But that is their hangup and a reflection on them, not me.

Sure I make less money than my parents did (and many of my friends can claim the same thing).  But we definitely have more flexibility, more adaptability, more connectivity, better access to knowledge and information, and less of our budgets are going to basics like food and rent.  Even with as little as I make only half of my money goes to food and rent.  And I don’t even get food stamps.  Take heart GenXers and Millenials, even though you may never have the job stability or the money your parents and grandparents had, you definitely have more freedom and flexibility because you are not as tied to one area.  And you GenXers and Millenials will find out that once you get your debts completely knocked out (which will take time and discipline), you will find you can live on much less than you thought and you suddenly have lots of options.  My parents are tied to their small farming village because they would have to sell their house, their acreage, their cars, and most of the trinkets they acquired over the years of being tied down.  Me, besides my bed, my dresser, my book shelf, and my two couches, I can throw everything I own in my car and be moved within a few hours if need be.  And being able to do so much more online now, I can easily transfer to a new bank, new insurance company, and find pretty much whatever I need wherever I wind up.  I wouldn’t give up my freedom and flexability so I could be tied down just because I have a house and some money.  Freedom and flexability are currency in the information age.  I wouldn’t want to live in the past.  I would go nuts from the lack of freedom and lack of options.