The Only Constant Is Change

When I was young I was a high achiever. Did really well in school, was involved in school activities year round. Started helping out on my uncle’s farm during the summers when I was ten years old. Had a really good academic scholarship cover a good chunk of my college expenses. Graduated college debt free. May not have been overly popular but had excellent friends anyway.

But, the mental illness really ramped up shortly in the mid 2000s. The illness made it impossible to hold a job for long. Lost many of my friends and family. Had to go on disability. Have to take meds for the rest of my life. Will probably have a shorter life because of the illness. But it doesn’t bother me as much anymore, certainly not like fifteen years ago.

I’ve accepted that my career died before it got started. I’ve accepted that I’ll never have kids. I’m alright with that I’ll never have the big house, picket fence, SUV, and apple pie kind of life. I’ve accepted that I had question everything I took for granted in my youth. I’m even starting to accept that the pandemic isn’t going to end anytime soon.

In some ways I’m glad I have the life I do. I’m glad that I get to spend most of my days reading, writing, and learning things that most people simply don’t have the time for. I spend at least six hours a day reading online articles and journals. Spend a lot of time listening to science, economics, history, and philosophy talks on youtube. It’s almost like being a modern day monk.

I would say I accepted living in poverty, but let’s face it: even living below poverty level in modern America puts me ahead of most people alive today, let alone the past. Will Rodgers was right when he said America would be the first country in the world to go to the poor house in an automobile. Don’t even need to own said automobile anymore as long as you have a smartphone and an Uber account. Sold my car two years ago and my lifestyle hasn’t decreased at all. If anything, I feel less stress because I don’t have to worry about traffic, gas, and maintenance. Things like portable computers were science fiction when I growing up in the 1980s.

I think we tend to overestimate how much can change in only a year or two but vastly underestimate how much can change in ten to twenty years. Just looking in the living room of my apartment, most of the electronics didn’t exist in 2001. I don’t think even LED lighting was available back then. Even my memory foam mattress and shoes came about within the last twenty years I think. I don’t even subscribe to cable tv anymore. Can get all the tv I need on my laptop and game console. If only I didn’t have to buy a new phone or laptop every few years. Even in the movies and tv shows I watched in college in the early 2000s, I chuckle about some of the tech in those shows. Phone booths, land lines, and flip phones were extensively used even in The Matrix movies. Even today, we have many of the tech advances of the Star Trek series. We’re still not close to cracking Warp Drive though. But, what is a 3D printer if not an early version of a Replicator?

I will probably never have much money. But I really don’t need to. Certainly not like I would have 25 years ago. A person doesn’t really need much money anymore if they can stay out of debt. Granted that is a huge task. Housing, health care, and education have increased in cost far faster than inflation. But, even education can be real cheap if you play your cards right. There isn’t much I can’t learn with a few minutes of Google search or a few how to videos on youtube. And trade schools and community colleges don’t cost nearly as much as even public universities. I’ve heard of electricians and plumbers making more than even lawyers. In short, there are more options than even twenty years ago. If only people could stop fighting on social media.

Knowing Thyself

One of my teenage nephews got his first job shortly after school ended for the summer. It made me think back on the types of work I had over the years. It also made me think back on the career advice my parents, teachers, etc. gave me when I was growing up.

I did lots of chores for my parents from as far back as I can remember. I was mowing lawns for my parents from about age 8 and helping mom cook supper from age 6. My grandma used to let me help her in her vegetable garden. My grandpa and dad used to take me and my brother with them whenever they went out to cut firewood on a local rancher’s property. They didn’t let us run the chain saws, but they did let us stack and store the cut wood even before we started school. When I was 8, my dad gave me an old hacksaw so I could practice cutting on small pieces and limbs. When I was in junior high, I helped out at my uncle’s farm every summer. I usually had to store and stack hay bails, help take care of pigs, clean chicken houses, and things like that. And I loved it. I loved it all. I’m glad my family thought it was good to get their kids involved in chores and family business when we were still in grade school. I even helped my dad organize files and clean in his dental office.

I got my first “real job” as a fast food cook. Got told off by the owner my first day out of orientation. He might not have known it was my first day. I’ll never know. Lost the job a month later when I couldn’t work fast enough to be a cook in fast food. For the rest of the summer I worked on a construction crew at a livestock sale barn. We were in charge of rebuilding pens and fences to keep cattle and pigs in while they were being sold. It was hot and dirty work. But it didn’t bother me as much as working fast food.

Over the next several years, I worked in retail. I hated dealing with customers. Caused me too much stress. I usually did better when I was unloading delivery trucks, organizing the store room, stocking shelves, and cleaning.

There is an underlying theme in all of this: I did much better at jobs that didn’t involve interacting with the public and weren’t really fast paced. As bad as I struggled in retail and restaurant, I would have struggled even worse in sales and in person teaching. Of course, the mental illness made this even worse.

I think in addition to my mental illness, the big reason I struggled at work was I often took jobs that weren’t aligned with my personality and skills. As much as working in crowds and with people I don’t know bothered me, I’m sure more people are bothered by work when they would have to spend entire days alone or with the same people. Most people I know don’t understand how I spend days on end alone and not break. It’s just the way I’m wired and my skill set.

As it is I’m on disability for my mental illness. But because I don’t work a regular paying job doesn’t mean I don’t keep occupied. I read alot. I have this blog, while it may never have a large audience, has several hundred postings since 2013. And I spend my time reading up on lots of science and tech advances that most people simply don’t have the time or energy to research on their own after dealing with work and family duties.

Sure my work probably won’t make me rich, but I have what I need. I may be just below poverty line (at least by American standards) yet I don’t feel deprived. But I do have simple tastes. A good time for me was going to the bar with my then girlfriend and playing darts and singing karaoke. Or having a plate of chicken wings with a few college buddies while playing board games. Or going to watch a couple friends play baseball for my college. Or going to listen to a couple local bands perform at on campus concerts on Friday nights. I may not have enjoyed going to high school sporting events as much as some people in my hometown, but I certainly enjoyed playing football and competing in speech meets.

I guess the only work or life advice I could give my teenage nephews or any teenagers is simply “Know Thyself.” Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Try a variety of jobs and activities, especially when your still young, have lots of energy, and still living with your parents. If you don’t like being around people or don’t handle rejection well (like myself), you’re not going to do well in sales or as a business owner. Don’t try to be what your family wants or do something just because it pays a lot of money. Do something you have the skills for. Also be ready if you have to change jobs. Science and tech are destroying and creating jobs far faster than they were even twenty years ago. Know Thyself and keep leveling up.

Thought on Marriage, Social Relationships, and Life’s Callings

I love being 40 years old. I enjoy that I no longer feel pressure to get married or have kids. I never could stand going to family gatherings and my old high school for home football games and have people asking me when I was going to start a family. People think I’m a liar for saying this, but I decided I wasn’t getting married when I was 18 and a senior in high school. For one, I saw that most married people I knew argued and fought all the time and about the pettiest crap. I still remember when I was 16 and my parents started arguing at the dinner table and I had just had it. I had a rough day at school already and I had a few hours worth of homework ahead of me that night already. I got up to just walk away, and they both shouted at me to sit down. Then they just went back to their argument like I wasn’t there. Sometimes when they argued, I’d yell at both of them just because I had enough. And my family was mild compared to most of my friends and extended family. Two of my high school friends and three sets of my cousins parents’ went through divorces in my youth. Seeing that scared me real bad. And I always heard this crap about how “you just gotta pick the right girl” or “love is all you need” or “love is forever” or “there is someone for everyone.” But I knew even in my teens I hated drama and fighting. I’d often hear that fighting makes relationships stronger and then I’d get punished for hitting my older brother or the neighbor kids. I always got mixed messages like that. I still do, though more through social media than my immediate family and friends. I love that I am no longer pressured to get married or have kids. It’s a pity almost no one respected my desire to stay unmarried twenty years ago.

I love that I can cut toxic people out of my life and not feel guilty at all about it. I may have fewer friends at age 40 than I did at age 22, but all of the friends I have are amazing. My best friend from college and I have never had a shouting match. Sure we’ve been irritated with each other many times but have never shouted at each other or ghosted each other. I’ve cut lots of people out of my life after we changed as people and after I figured out we weren’t good for each other. I’ve had to cut people out of my life that had been friends for years because we no longer shared the same values. I’ve even cut out family members. I find few things as irritating as going to family gatherings and hearing that one older relative rant on and on about the “damn kids” or that second cousin go on about politics or how much of an idiot his boss is. I don’t put up with toxic and rude people anymore. I would rather spend the rest of my life alone and in my apartment than socialize with toxic people. Anymore, most people I know are toxic. I refuse to put up with it. I don’t have to at this point in my life. And I don’t feel a shred of guilt for not socializing with people like that.

I love that I can do pretty much what I want for money, at least as long as I’m not breaking any laws. When I was a kid I was constantly asked what I wanted to do for a living. Originally I wanted to go into science research. I wasn’t really concerned with making lots of money. I enjoy what money can do as much as anyone, but it isn’t the primary focus of my existence. Another truth about me that most people think is a lie is that I decided I wanted to go to college when I was eight years old. The idea of being around well read people and getting to study things I wanted to sounded like winning the lottery in my eight year old mind. I always loved learning and reading. I didn’t have to be forced to read. Hell, I had to be forced to socialize with classmates. Mom and Dad were scared I’d never develop social skills if I just read books and made up stories in my back yard all day every day. Yet I still had a good social life in college, far better than what I had in grade school and high school. I’ve been accused of being anti social my entire life, but especially when I was a kid. The thing is I can talk with others all night about things like history, philosophy, economics, literature, science, and tech. But I can’t stand to talk about things like politics, the weather, sports, gossip, and school rumors. These things don’t interest me. Never have. Yet I was condemned for being anti social for not enjoying things like ballgames, county fairs, watching cable news, discussing politics, or the weather. I’ve never been anti social, I just have different interests than most people I’ve ever known. I’m thankful that the internet allows me to connect with people who have similar interests. I have more in common with people from my tech and futurist groups that I will never meet than I do my neighbors and most of my family. The internet is a godsend for the black sheep and small town eccentrics. It’s a pity I don’t have a couple hard core scholars or retired engineers living near me. In short, I love being a free lance independent scholar. Sure I will never get rich off my knowledge. Yet as long as I can pay my rent on time, keep food in the pantry, clothes in my wardrobe, keep my daily medications current, and keep the internet paid up, I don’t need much else. While I’m not convinced on the idea of previous lives or reincarnation, maybe I would have been wise to become a monk had I lived in medieval England. Maybe I could have been cured of mental illness and gone on to write parts of the Encyopedia Galatica if I lived in Asimov’s Foundation universe thousands of years in the future. I’ll never know. Being a scholar is like crime: It doesn’t pay and can land you in prison if you’re not careful. But, damn, I don’t know any other way to live my life.

Fear of the Future

Since I have more alone time since the pandemic started, I have spent much of my time researching science and tech articles and journals. I’ve been especially interested in the changes in the workplace and job market. Personally I’ve been getting my groceries delivered to my house since 2017. When I started this, I was the first one in my complex to do so. As far as I know, a significant portion of my neighbors now do so.

I’ve gotten most of my shopping done online via Amazon and King Size for several years. For the first time in my life, I actually have a complete wardrobe that fits perfectly. I never understood why people were so picky about brands of clothing, at least for clothes that didn’t have to be worn at work or social gatherings. But then I grew up in rural Nebraska where most people wore polo shirts and slacks even to church. It was tough to get excited about clothes shopping when I knew it was hit or miss if I would find anything good in my size. Most people weren’t at all sympathetic about it. I was just told to “lose weight” rather than look for specialty clothing options via mail order and online. For me, the internet has been a godsend when it comes to shopping for clothing.

I don’t regret selling my car. I had grown to hate driving over the years. And since I live in a small town in a predominantly rural state, driving is my only real option. I’ve had people tell me that things like buses and passenger trains were “socialist.” Never mind that USA used to have the best passenger rail and public transit service in the world. And air travel, with all it’s restrictions and screenings, is a sick joke as far as I’m concerned. You pay for a ticket and then they treat you like you a criminal from the time you show up at the airport until you arrive at your destination.

But, it’s alright. With communication tech being what it is, I really don’t have to leave home much anymore. And the pandemic accelerated the changes that were already starting. People tell me to socialize more. What do think I do online? I also read more now than I have at any point in my life even if I haven’t been to the library in over five years. I’m actually learning more as a middle age man than I ever did in school. Too many people got the idea that learning has to be tough and boring. And no, memorization isn’t learning. A damn smart phone can look up facts and do math better than any scholar. Anyone relying on rote memorization and repetition is getting slaughtered in the real world. It’s only going to get worse in that regard.

When I was struggling socially in junior high, my dad told me that nerds and geeks would someday rule the world. I thought he was full of it when he told me this when I was thirteen. But, not even thirty years later he was right. Most of the richest people in the world got their start in science and high tech, not manufacturing or mining. And I am loving every minute of it. Things like comic books, live action role playing, computers, techno music, video gaming, art, writing, empathy, compassion, etc. were considered weak and unmanly. My classmates hated people who read comic books and worked on computers or did art. They were like be normal, play sports and fix cars.

Now people are worried about machines taking over many current jobs. They should be, especially with the whole Puritan work ethic and being defined by your employment type of b.s. we’ve shoved down our kids throats for generations. These kids are right when they know that even a college degree isn’t worth as much as it was forty years ago. I’m glad I went to college when I did and got out debt free. College was also the only means I had to find something conducive to my skill set. I grew up in a town of less than 500 people dominated by corn farming and raising cattle. The nearest four year college was an hour and a half drive away. Corn farming and raising cattle requires nowhere near as many workers as it did one hundred years ago. We no longer live in a world where 80 percent of our workers can work on farms, factories, or mines. Maybe 15 percent of the population does such now. People complain about all the manufacturing jobs getting sent to China, but the value of US manufacturing is actually higher than ever. We just manufacture expensive things like jets, power generators, etc. And much of our manufacturing is done via machines. Blaming immigrants and foreigners is a convenient red herring for politicians looking for votes.

If there is a point to this post, it is that the future is already arriving. It’s up to us to adapt to the new reality or step aside for those who will rise to the challenges. If you don’t think the world can change for the better, you are wrong. It will change for the better but it will change in spite of people who try to hold onto the good old days (which actually sucked for most people by the way).

Things I Don’t Understand

I readily admit there are things about my fellow humans I don’t understand. And I never will. Of course having a mental illness makes it almost impossible to read people. But here is a short list of things I don’t understand (and likely never will). It is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Here goes:

Things I Don’t Understand

Celebrity worship

Obsession over designer clothes

Gender reveal parties

Beauty pagents for children

Little league parents

Parents giving participation trophies to kids and then complaining about kids receiving participation trophies

Teachers and adults who tell kids “Wait until you have a job, kids, etc.” And then never acknowledging the kids who learned from their elders’ mistakes as adults.

Too Big To Fail

Too Small To Succeed

Treating politicians like rock stars

Treating scientists and doctors like idiots

Prosperity Gospel

The belief everyone has to have an opinion on everything

Cancel culture

Most Tik Tok videos

Most Twitter tweets

Arguing over petty nonsense on social media with complete strangers

Prideful and willful ignorance

Being proud of having no compassion and empathy

The belief that apologizing when wrong means one is a weakling

People who think the world is more violent than ever when all the data says otherwise

Adults complaining about kids not supporting certain businesses or industries. It’s called voting with your money. People used to call that the free market

The appeal of the philosophy of Ayn Rand

The appeal of country rap

Vaping

Bragging about how much you work

Bragging about how much you hate your job

Bragging about how much you hate your in laws

Bragging about how bad your ex was

Believing there is virtue in being a victim

The acceptance and praise of mediocrity in all it’s forms

Reruns of Jackass and Beavis and Butt Head

The Bachelor and Bachelorette

Most reality tv

People complaining about how Hollywood doesn’t have any new ideas. That’s why Netflix and Amazon Prime are so popular these days. And there are thousands, if not millions, of people in youtube making original content on a daily basis, often on shoe string budgets and with just a smart phone or laptop

People who worry about dystopic futures yet refuse to acknowledge that the past was dystopic for most people, especially racial minorities, religious minorities, anyone not obviously heterosexual, slaves, women, and children.

Most print magazines

The belief that the internet is a luxury. Twenty years ago, it was. But now over 5 billion people (on a planet of almost 8 billion people) now have access to it.

The belief that the USA is the only country in the world with debt problems

The celebration of sociopaths and psychopaths in popular entertainment

Treating politics like religion

Treating science like a matter of opinion

Believing money is evil

Believing technology is evil

Most conspiracy theories

Caring more about your kids’ grades in school than if they are learning anything

The outdated belief that learning only takes place in school or has to be tedious and boring

Requiring college degrees for most jobs

These are just a few things I don’t understand. Once again, it’s not meant to be a comprehensive list. It was merely for fun and a change of pace

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.

A Few Thoughts On The Changes Brought During 2020

This day is starting out well overall. I went to bed early last night and wound up sleeping on and off for almost twelve hours. Woke up stiff and sore but at least it was manageable. Thursday is one of my favorite days of the week as my cleaning lady arrives in the afternoons and there are usually a couple football games on tv too. It’ still strange watching ballgames without a crowd in the arena. I’ll be glad when this health crisis burns out.

Started writing a journal by pen yesterday. It might be helpful to have a means to write down my thoughts and observations that I wouldn’t normally put on a blog I try to keep family friendly. Mentally I am still feeling stable. I do have rough patches but fortunately they don’t last long nor are they bad enough for me to act on.

I make a point to leave my apartment at least once a day even if I don’t have deliveries coming. Met my new neighbor and got back in touch with some old ones. I don’t know much about my new neighbor except that he looks younger than I and keeps pretty quiet for the most part. I rarely hear him except for when he has guests and I can occasionally hear laughter. So maybe he’s a funny guy.

While the health crisis and economic problems have been rough on me, at least I haven’t had problems I couldn’t manage. I still see my psych doctor every two months via a service similar to Skype or Zoom. I’m scheduled to see him again in a couple weeks. I can get anything within reason delivered to my apartment via Amazon or one of the local supermarkets. I started having my groceries delivered about three years ago when I came to the conclusion I wasn’t as safe behind the wheel of a car as I used to be. I think I was one of the first people in my complex to have groceries delivered to my place on a regular basis. While I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since before the shutdowns started, I still occasionally get delivery pizza and can sometimes sweet talk my neighbors or cleaning lady into picking something up for me, as long as I pay for it of course.

I’m still kind of paranoid about being out of my apartment for long periods of time because of the virus. Some people aren’t always wearing face masks or properly washing their hands. I may be only 40, but being overweight and mentally ill probably puts me in high risk category already. So I socialize with friends and family on a near daily basis via my phone or facebook account. I keep my facebook account primarily to keep in contact with old friends and extended family I may not other wise. Perhaps that was the original intent of Mr. Zuckerberg and his partners, not so much the arguments and trolling that is still too common.

Been seeing more articles and videos online about people working from home. Even my brother and his wife sometimes work from home with their engineering jobs. I think I could have gotten into working from home had it been available when I started my working life in my early twenties. I found out the hard way as a teenager working in restaurants and retail stores that I don’t easily pick up on social cues or office politics like many of my coworkers. Sometimes it got me into trouble with coworkers and customers. But I think the mental illness problems were more to blame than anything. While it was tough to realize I lost my career due to problems beyond my control, I’m glad I went through the struggles in my twenties when I was still healthy and wasn’t set in my ways. Even though I’m 40 and still try to keep an open mind about most things, I found I don’t adapt as fast as I did even ten years ago. I may have had an easier time with office politics had I started my career from home. But I’ll never know. I’ve made my peace with my lost career and the family I’ll never start.

As tough as this crisis has been for me, I can’t imagine how tough it is for people with families, people who lost jobs and now can’t make their rent payments, for small landlords who can’t pay back their loans because their renters can’t make rent, for small businesses ranging from restaurants to dentists, and especially for the kids. I told one of my teenage nephews I wasn’t going to insult him by trying to imagine how tough this all is for him and his friends. My niece and nephews are at the age where kids learn how to socialize beyond family and classmates. And since much in person interaction is now no longer there, I think it will have a lifetime of effects on these kids. It might be similar to what my grandparents’ generation went through growing up during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era. My grandparents frequently talked about the struggles of not having money or having to fix things that wore out because they couldn’t afford to replace them. And one grandmother always said “It will happen again.” I’m so glad my brother and I payed attention when my grandparents talked about life during the Depression and World War 2. I’m also glad I listened to my parents stories about growing up during the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movements.

I recall a podcast back in April when the host said something like “We are going to witness ten years of changes in the next ten weeks.” Between the increased emphasis of working towards effective vaccines, work from home being a thing, private space flight becoming common, civil rights protests in almost every major city (not just in America) on a near daily basis, drone delivery getting approved by the Federal Aviation Association, and of course major wildfires on the West Coast and the South taking a beating via hurricanes and heat waves making people take the threats of climate change more serious, I think the ten years of change in ten weeks was an understatement. We will eventually emerge from these crises. We will come out changed people on the individual and national levels. The next few years will probably be brutal for most people. Hopefully we can emerge better people and stronger societies as a result.

Quarantine Journal: July 24 2020

Got out of my apartment for a few hours yesterday.  Spent most of that time in the complex library.  Talked to a few neighbors and caught up on news.  We have had a lot of new residents lately.  I’ve been in here for fourteen years now.  I guess I’m now one of the old timers.  I can think of only a handful of people who’ve been here longer.

Been chatting with my best friend a lot lately.  She’s concerned about losing hours at her job.  Thankfully she earns some commissions.  But we both think things could get a lot worse before they recover.  In some ways I’m glad I became disabled.  I’ve seen how bad customer service workers are treated by both the general public and management.  It’s sickening.  It was tough having my hopes and dreams killed by mental illness, but I guess if it had to happen I’m glad it happened in my younger days.  It prepared me well for the challenges of middle age and this pandemic.

Don’t have much planned for today.  Probably watch a couple baseball games and call a couple friends.

Learning, Education, Work and Mental Illness

I was a sophomore in college when I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia.  That was in the fall of 2000.  I had been struggling with depression, paranoia, and anxiety for a few years before I had my diagnosis.  At first I thought it was mainly just teenage angst and moodiness.  I was still doing well in school and was able to at least appear like I had everything together.  I was still on the football and speech teams, I was still making honor roll most of the time, I still had some friends, etc.  But inwardly I was a wreck.  I was fearful of going to the school guidance counselor as I attended a really small high school of less than 90 students.  Back then, almost no one talked about mental illness or depression issues.  It had far more stigma back in the 1990s than it does now.  The internet was still in it’s infancy, there was no youtube, and blogging was still a few years away.  So I suffered in silence and in solitude.

I didn’t talk about my internal problems until they became unbearable because, first, I was certain no one would believe me.  Two, I still had images of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in my head as to what mental problems meant.  Three, I was often told to “suck it up” and “others have it worse than you” even while in grade school.  Four, I feared appearing weak.  So I just suffered in silence for a few years.

As far as I know, no one knew about what was going on in my mind.  If people did, they never asked.  And I was too paranoid to tell anyone.  For the first years I had problems, I was still going to school full time and working on the weekends and during the summers.  I was so anxious and paranoid about going to work, I would vomit before my shifts several times a week.  Since I had spent my entire life listening to people complain about how much they hated their jobs (like they were proud of how much their jobs sucked), I was scared to tell anyone.  I just suffered in silence.

Finally in fall 2000, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression.  It was actually a kind of relief for me in that I wasn’t the only one having these problems.  I didn’t realize that mental illnesses were more common than diabetes until after I was diagnosed.  No one ever talked about mental illnesses in our family or my town.

For the next few years, I took full time classes and worked during the summers.  When I wasn’t in classes or spending time with friends, I was in the college library reading the philosophy and classical literature books that everyone talked about but very few actually read.  I’m glad I got to do that.  I doubt I could have done that had I not went to college first, at least not until the internet really got going.  But spending all those evenings in the campus library instilled a love for learning in me that still burns to this day all these years later.  Sure I wasn’t graded on what I studied and I didn’t get a diploma that stated I had learned such material.  But I knew that I did.  That’s all that mattered to me.

After I graduated from college and worked for a few years before qualifying for disability, I still read a lot of books.  I still do lots of reading, granted it’s mostly online articles, e-books, and audiobooks.  And, no, I don’t have any certificate that says I learned this material.  But it doesn’t matter.  The most fun I ever had at a “work” task is doing what I’m doing right now, writing blogs about navigating my life while working with a mental illness.  I don’t consider it “work” or “a job” because it doesn’t have the stress of any of my traditional jobs.  I love writing about my experiences and trying to be of assistance to others even though it doesn’t pay at all.  I don’t care that it doesn’t pay.  Sometimes, I’m glad it doesn’t.  For I fear if I ever were to accept a writing job or get pay for writing, I would be at the whims and mercy of those paying me.  Screw that.  I want to tell the truth, the good, bad, and mundane of living in the modern day with schizophrenia. I know what living with schizophrenia is like.  I’ve done it since at least my late teens.  I doubt any book editor or manager at a blog service has that kind of first hand experience.

I fear I couldn’t be completely truthful if I did accept pay.  I fear some boss would want me to “Hollywood up” my writings by exaggerating or being more dark just so I could get more readers.  I don’t want that.  I want this blog to be an educational tool and a means to communicate to others what it’s like to be mentally ill without it being threatening or divisive.  I do have good days with mental illness.  I have bad days with mental illness.  Some days getting out of bed and calling my parents is the best I can do.  Others, it’s writing a blog entry that resonates with some of my readers and getting a lot done.  Some days I just want to stay home and keep to only my thoughts.  Others I would road trip for several hours to visit friends out of state or go to baseball games, concerts, etc.  Some days I can talk for hours on end with almost anyone.  Some days I don’t want to even hear the sound of another human voice.  It’s ebb and flow, high tide and low tide.

Odd Facts About Me

I’m going to take a detour with this post and have a little more fun than usual.  I’m going to post on oddities about myself.  I’ll try to keep this fun.  So here goes.

 

  1.  I have the same best friend at age 39 that I had at age 17.
  2. My best friend is a woman.  When we were in high school we came to an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t make our friendship a romance.  While it hurt in high school, in the long run it payed off.
  3.  I started college as a pre med student.  I shifted to business after two years.  I mean, who wants to trust a medical scientist who got a D in Organic Chemistry?
  4. Even though I really had little interest in business and economics until I went to college, I’m glad I studied business.  I am really more interested in history and literature.
  5.  I spent as much time reading literature, history, and philosophy in college as I did studying business my last three years of college.  I spent a few hours every day reading at the campus library.  I’m glad I did this ‘dual study program’.
  6.  I haven’t been on a date since my late 20s.  I’m not anti romance or anti marriage.  I know myself well enough that, with my psych illness and personality type, I would make a lousy husband and father.  Now I love having friends and family.  But, I don’t do well with romance.
  7. I have several email accounts, most of which are dummy accounts so I can cut down on spam in my real accounts.
  8.  I don’t give my nephews and niece career advice or ask them what they want to be when they grow up.  The workplace is changing fast enough that even I had several different types of jobs.  I imagine this trend is only going to speed up in the coming years.
  9.  I enjoy reading non fiction books more than fiction.  Real life is quite interesting to me because, well, some real crazy things happen in non fiction.  And it’s non fiction because it actually happened in real life.
  10.  I wrote drafts for two novels in my late 20s and early 30s.
  11.  I find writing in first person easier than writing in third person.  My writer friends think I’m crazy for saying this.  But it’s true for me.
  12.  I like the comedy of Bill Hicks and George Carlin.
  13.  My likes in music have changed over the years.  In high school I was big into grunge and heavy metal.  In college I really got into country and blues.  In my late 20s I really got back into metal and added some hip hop.  In my 30s I got into techno.  I do like some of most genres of music.  I don’t have just one particular style.
  14.  Even though I did well in school in high school and college, I still wasn’t very confident in my abilities until I hit my 30s.  And it was in my 30s I found out that most of my classmates in high school and college were less confidant than even I was.
  15.  While I no longer work a regular job, I’m glad I had the variety of jobs I did.  Some of the jobs I’ve worked included retail sales, waiter, factory worker, teachers’ aide, janitor, and farm laborer.
  16.  Even though I don’t make money from my blog writing, it gives me more joy than any job I’ve ever done.
  17.  I never understood the trope about people not liking their in laws because my parents always had good relationships with their in laws.
  18.  Both of my parents worked full time jobs, but they had different shifts.  My mother worked the night shift as a nurse at a hospital.  Even with these different shifts, we always had at least one meal a day as a family.  And since I had a set of grandparents that lived in town, mom and dad would send us there if they needed a break from us.  I guess I had the best of all worlds as a kid.
  19.  I don’t socialize much in person anymore.  Yet I don’t feel lonely because I socialize via the internet and phone daily.
  20.  I don’t like fast food anymore.  I prefer my own cooking in most cases.  The closest thing to fast food I eat anymore is delivery pizza and Chinese.