Been feeling quite lonely for the last few days. I’m actually craving attention from other people, especially from people with similar interests and in my age bracket. Haven’t heard from any of my old high school or college friends in weeks. Seems like many of my friends got busy with family and careers and forgot about their old friends. As far as I can tell, I am one of the only single friends in my circle of friends. Some of my friends have even gone through divorces by now. I almost never hear from my brother. But he has four kids and a serious career, so I guess we have nothing in common. And to make things even worse, we weren’t close at all growing up. We were just completely different people with nothing in common except that we had the same parents. Not having a relationship with my brother is one of the few true regrets I have about my current life that I could have done different.
Having a serious mental illness taught me that there is more to life than having a career. Unfortunately, too many people don’t realize this until they are retired and most of their life is behind them. This is probably why so many people feel depressed and useless once their careers are over, especially older men. Like most boys, I was constantly asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I usually answered something in the sciences. But the mental illness came creeping in just right before I could cash in on my brains and use them in a career. Thank God I found a small niche online as a mental health blogger/philosopher. I don’t even want to think what would have happened had I been born in my grandparents’ generation and not had this outlet. It also makes me wonder how many mentally ill geniuses were lost over the centuries because they had no outlets to use their smarts.
I wanted to be a scientist when I was a child. As it turned out I became a writer with interests in science. I developed lots of interests and hobbies over the years, but never became profecient enough to turn these interests into careers. For awhile as a child I flew model airplanes with my dad. I did quite a bit of fishing and survival training when I was in Boy Scouts. I made model cars for awhile. I collected coins and baseball cards for a few years. Still have all of my baseball cards from my youth. I taught myself some basic computer coding. That probably could have turned into a job, at least until computers can regularly code themselves. Who knows, maybe in the future the majority of people won’t have regular jobs simply because machines and programs can do them better and make many things cheaper.
While I wouldn’t mind a future like this, I do understand why some people are apprehensive about what could be coming in the next couple decades. For generations, people have identified with the work they did to live. Everybody was interested in work and a person who didn’t need or want a regular job was an outcast. I have been an outcast in this regard for the last several years in that I don’t have a regular job, and really don’t need one as I can live just on my disability pension. I no longer feel the need for a lot of money. What I want at this point is to do work that makes a difference to people, the kind of work that “puts a dent in the universe” as the late Steve Jobs used to say.
While I am not delusional enough to believe I’m sure to get famous just from blogging, I do want to make a positive difference in the lives of the people who happen to read these postings. I suppose that since my basic needs are met by my disability pension, I can now move onto meaningful work and self actualization on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Self actualized and I make poverty level (for American standard) salary, only in the early 21st century. The closet I can think that anyone else in history was to this while living at low wages is probably medieval monks and scholars. No need to be entertained with lots of money when my own mind can keep me company.
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.
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.