I Enjoy Being An Adult, I Must Be Mentally Ill

I’m taking a bit of a detour with this post and try to be a little more humorous than usual.  Since I’ve been house bound because of a winter storm for a couple days I got to do some thinking.  One of the random thoughts that popped in my head is ‘being an adult beats being a kid.’  Sure I may have had more energy at sixteen than I do at thirty six, but I really didn’t know anything as a teenager.  And ignorance coupled with boundless energy can lead to dangerous and stupid things happening.  After five years of college, a few years of working, almost thirteen years of living on my own, writing a blog for almost four years, and spending five years now with educational videos on youtube university and binge reading wikipedia, I have come to the conclusion that even now I am not as smart as I thought I was at age eighteen.

I enjoy being an adult.  I really do.  I love the fact that if a boss is riding my case at work or my coworkers are being dolts, I always have the option of changing jobs or starting my own business.  I couldn’t transfer to another school in high school so easily to avoid bullies and immature classmates.  I love the fact that I don’t have to go to boring social events because my parents want me to.

As an adult I don’t have to feel guilty about not having legions of fair weather friends.  At the age of thirty six I have come to realize a few true hard core friends and some cool extended family is all a person really needs.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not being class president or not getting straight A’s.  It’s not like I made any money from my popularity or my academic achievements any way.  Even on youtube popular producers can make good money, not so in school.  I also didn’t like how joyless my high school settings were.  A bell rings and we move to change classes but don’t you dare be one second late.  I never did like being treated like one of Pavlov’s dogs as a kid.  Take abuse and scorn from bullies and classmates but don’t fight back because of zero tolerance laws?  At least in the adult world you can run away from an argument or try to plead self defense without losing your entire future.

And I am not intimidated by the fact that as an adult my successes or failures are on me and no one else.  I have a mental illness, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to make a decent life regardless.  I’m not married nor do I have kids but that doesn’t stop me from being a good influence and good uncle to my nephews and niece.  I don’t even have to feel shame for not being married or having kids as an adult.  I don’t have a job but that isn’t going to keep me from writing blogs and finding other ways to contribute to my fellow man even if I don’t get money or prestige from it.    I don’t have to associate with people who tell me that I’m not a “real man” for not having a job or a family if I don’t want to.  Shame and guilt have far less influence on me at thirty six than they did at twenty one. As an adult I am allowed to be more creative and I don’t have many of the restrictions I had as a child.  As an adult I don’t have to hit my older brother if he’s irritating me, I just don’t return his calls or avoid him until things calm down.  One of the best things that happened to my relationship with my immediate family was moving out of my parents’ house and setting out on my own.  We get on each other’s nerves less now than we did when I was a teenager now that I have my own place and I’m not expected to always be in a good mood.  If I’m not feeling well, I can just avoid friends and family for a couple days until things blow over.

One thing I enjoy as an adult is watching young people do stupid things.  I enjoy it more than when I was the young fool doing stupid things.  I know the consequences that are coming but the kids usually don’t have a clue.  And I get to chuckle when their schemes come undone.  But the young kids eventually become adults and grow out of their stupidity in spite the complaints of old people about the “damn kids.”  The boomer generation grew out of using drugs and free love, generation X grew out of binging on MTV and video games, and the millennials will grow out of their nonsense. People forget that before the World War II generation became forever known as the “greatest generation”, many of them were drinking bootlegged alcohol in speakeasies and chasing flapper girls throughout Prohibition before World War II carved them into marble men and women for all eternity.  But in spite of my enjoyment of watching young people do stupid things, I don’t hate them for their mistakes.  I refuse to complain about young people because my elders complained about how stupid and ungrateful me and my classmates were the entire time I was growing up.  I am never doing that to anyone.  I know what it is like to be thrown into a group and falsely accused of things I never considered doing.  It really sucks.  If I ever complain about young people as an old man, I hope someone knocks some sense into me.

I never understood the whole “how do I adult” mentality.  Who cares how you adult?  It’s not like there’s a teacher who’s going to hold you back if you don’t know how to get red wine stains out of a carpet or how to change a tire.  With seven and a half billion people in the world and the magic of the internet, I can ask around for any information I could possibly imagine.  Why in the heck should I clutter my mind with mundane information I can easily look up that I may need to know only once or twice in my life?  One of my house guests doesn’t like that I don’t decorate my house all nice, then don’t come visit me in my house.  We’ll meet at a restaurant or pub instead.  You don’t like that I don’t drive fast or sometimes keep fast food trash in my car, no one is holding a gun to your head to make you ride in my car.  There is public transit and taxis even in my small town.  How do you adult, you may ask.  Dude, adult however you dang well please for all I care.  I don’t grade on style points.  And ironically, most adults are too busy with their own lives to knit pick you over yours.

In short, I really do think most adults worry about a lot of junk that doesn’t matter one bit.  Your neighbor has a sports car and you don’t?  So what?  He’s probably having a mid life crisis and up to his eye brows in debt because he listening to everyone else telling him what he should want out of life and not listening to himself.  You got passed over at work for a promotion?  Big deal.  You know you’re not going to spend the extra money for your retirement fund.  You’re worried about being overweight?  No problem.  One third of the entire world’s population is overweight.  Obesity is no longer just an American problem.  Besides you probably weren’t that good looking at age twenty any way.

I should wrap this up.  In summary I love being an adult.  As long as I’m not infringing on the rights of other people, I can pretty much think, say, and write whatever I want. I no longer have a parent or a nanny teacher hanging over my shoulder watching me for every little mistake I make.  In short, make mistakes.  Learn from mistakes.  Go crazy and enjoy the freedoms and responsibility of being a grown up.  I for one enjoy being in my thirties far more than I did my teens and twenties.  At least now I don’t feel like I have to please a lot of people.

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Thoughts on Socializing While At Work

I wanted to originally do this in one post.  But I had to break it into two smaller posts.  Consider this my buy one, get one free promotion. I do enjoy having good conversations one on one or with small groups.  But far too often we are kept apart from people on an individual basis.  We seldom have in depth conversations with our coworkers because there isn’t enough time during the work day to just sit down and chat with your coworkers.  And most people are usually too tired to spend time with coworkers at the end of a shift or they have family obligations.  We work with these people every day, sometimes for years at a time, yet we rarely get to really know them.  The irony about most jobs is that much of what is done during an eight hour work day is redundant busy work, especially in most office jobs.  Most of what is done in an office, from my experience any way, seems could be done in half the time the work shift demands people be at their cubicles and acting busy.  I found the same thing in high school and college.  Some of those classes could have been only half as long and almost all of them could have been more stimulating.  I had a couple friends who were homeschooled for part of their academic careers and they said they usually had only four hours of classes a day while I had at least seven.  And they still did better on tests, and later their careers, than many kids I went to regular school with.  Unless you are working in the trades, working in the medical field, or working in a factory, most jobs could probably easily be done from home via telecommuting or with only four to six hour work days.  Even store clerks have to always look busy.

During the years I worked in retail I was told it was bad and tactless to chat with my coworkers while we were on the clock.  Who decided this?  I wasn’t asked for my opinion. Can’t have coworkers knowing each other and getting along well, now can we?  That might make things awkward when a coworker gets fired or reprimanded for arbitrary reasons. As long as we’re not insulting the bosses, the company, the customers, etc., than screw you.  As long as we are still helping the customers and getting our work done, it shouldn’t matter that coworkers would spend a few minutes talking to each other during slow times.  The same people we sell to in the large chain stores chat with their coworkers in their offices but manage to get their work done, let’s not kid ourselves.  Why should we have to look busy when we have a few free moments?  Why shouldn’t we be allowed to get to know our coworkers?  My coworkers and I didn’t complain when our bosses took half hour cigarette breaks, hid out in their offices for hours at a time claiming they were doing ‘paperwork’, taking longer than allowed lunches, or talked with their friends and family on company time.  And some people wonder why fast food workers are demanding $15 an hour.  I don’t think it’s the money that’s as large of a deal as the lack of respect and accountability that front line workers get from their managers and their companies.

Yes, the money matters.  The money from fast food and service jobs matters more than twenty to thirty years ago simply because there aren’t that many manufacturing jobs left, at least not in America.  We are running out of jobs that people with less than average intelligence can hold.  Those jobs are being outsourced and even those outsourced jobs are being taken over by machines. A buddy of mine works at a caller center for a bank and is sometimes concerned about his bank outsourcing his job to India.  Yet, the man and woman in India may soon be worried about their jobs being taken over by automated programs.  I get my prescription medications refilled by an automated program that calls me when I’m running low already.  The only time I actually deal with a human is when I pick my medications up at the pharmacy.  And in several years when delivery drones get real good, I may not even have to do that.  Dominos Pizza is already experimenting with delivery drones that take your order right to your door in some countries. Sheesh, my five year old nephew might not even need a driver’s license when he turns sixteen in eleven years.

No longer can a kid not smart enough for college move into a factory, farming, or mining job for the next fifty years of his life.  These twenty to thirty somethings working at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart would have been doing factory work if they came of age in the 1950s instead of the 1990s or 2000s. They are not lazy and unmotivated like most of the popular culture and elder generations think they are.  People thought the World War II generation were drunkards and fornicators when they were in their teens and twenties during the Roaring Twenties.  The clean shaven 18 year old GI who grew up dirt poor in the 1930s that was a private in World War II probably had a 35 year old commanding officer who drank copious amounts of bootlegged alcohol and had lots promiscuous sex with flapper girls and suffragettes during Prohibition.  I also doubt the World War II generations of Japan and Germany are held in such reverence; they might even be considered an embarrassment.  The world is a stage, we are the actors, and the history books are almost always written by the winners.

If our elders were born in 1980 instead of 1950 they’d be irritated about having only fast food and retail jobs as easily available jobs too.  Bill Gates once said that my grandparents generation would have called making hamburgers an opportunity.  Smug and hypocritical advice coming from someone who outsourced a lot of his company’s work.  It could be that once wages get to $15 an hour, then front line employees will be replaced by machines.  Yet, I have never seen a computer shop at Home Depot or a robot eat at Subway.  Reminds of a story I heard from a TED talk when the CEO of an auto maker in Detroit and the head of the auto workers’ union were talking.  The company president was talking about putting in robots in the factory and jokingly asked the union boss how he would get robots to pay union dues.  The union man jokingly asked the auto exec how is he going to get robots to buy cars.  Just some things to think about.  Things could get ugly in the next couple decades.  Occupy Wall Street could just be the start.

Trying to Understand the Workplace With a Mental Illness

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I will give you a head’s up.  This is going to be a serious rant.  And I am going to, at least for this post, stop holding your hand and give you feel good platitudes about the life of a mentally ill individual.  This is a rant that is long overdue.  So here goes.

As a grown man afflicted with a severe mental illness, I readily admit I do not understand the thinking and actions of normal people.  I never have, even before I became mentally ill.  Seriously, there are things you normals do and complain about that seem insane to me.  But since that is the norm instead of the paranoia, delusions, crippling depression,and hallucinations of schizophrenia, the complaints and senseless actions of the normal are not construed as the manifestations of mental illness.

Today I would like to discuss the world of the workplace.  Ever since I was four years old and old enough to listen in on grown up conversations, I have heard adults complain ceaselessly about their jobs.  I’ve heard you complain about how your boss is an idiot.  I’ve heard you go on without end about how incompetent and lazy your coworkers are.  I’ve heard you complain about how unreasonable and demanding your customers are.  I’ve listened to you gripe about how bad government agencies and regulations are hampering your business and productivity.  Since my parents were health care professionals, OSHA was one of their favorite whipping boys. I have heard you normals complain about how mind numbing and soulless your job is. And I have definitely heard about you normals complain about taxes.

Ah, taxes.  Kind of appropriate so close to tax deadline here in the U.S.  You complain about how you pay too much in taxes, how the rich pay too little in taxes, and I have sure heard you complain about how people on disability and unemployment don’t deserve what they get in tax payer funded programs.  As if throwing these people in jail and asylums would be any cheaper.  And to line the disabled up in ditches and kill them is absolutely unethical and uncivilized.  I have heard you normals complain for thirty  years about how bad your jobs and lives suck. I for one am absolutely sick and tired listening to you normals complain about your jobs.  KNOCK IT OFF ALREADY!!! And I have to this very day never once heard even one of you idiot normals formulate a plan as to how you were going to get out debt, start that potential dream business, leave that abusive husband or codependent girlfriend, or how you were going to make sure your kids do better in their adult lives than you.  You are the primary reason your life turned out the way it is.  You are the reason you stayed at that dead end job in that dead end town just like four generations of your forefathers.  For once in your life complain about how bad you suck and actually do something to make sure your life stops sucking.  The facts are your job is lousy and your life is lousy because you settled for lousy.  Stop settling, start making great plans, or shut the hell up.

I admit what I have told you is harsh.  But you know what, I am harsh only because I care and love the human race and want to see us go on and keep doing cool things.  We have done some pretty cool things as a species already.  Cooking meat over fire, writing, the printing press, basic education for the young, fire arms, astronomy, mathematics, the steam engine, space travel, the internet, anti biotic medication, robotics, etc.  We’ve done some pretty cool stuff ever since we parted ways with our monkey relatives.  Having purpose and goals to strive for is what drives our species. Monkeys didn’t develop a cool civilization or make great inventions because they didn’t have any purpose or goals beyond mating, eating, and flinging manure at each other.

Having a goal and a purpose is a complete game changer. It isn’t just the brilliant scientists and engineers that need to have the purpose for their lives.  I often think you normals complain about your “mundane” jobs and your current situations only because you have no goals or purpose.  But your job working in a heated office or working with advanced tools on a construction site are anything but mundane.  Such jobs either did not exist or were much tougher even fifty years ago.  And yet here you are complaining about how bad your job sucks and your coworkers are lazy fools. Oddly, some of your coworkers would have the same complaints about you, especially if they saw you at your worst. You, for whatever reasons, killed your dreams as you tried to settle into something safe and secure.  In the early 21st century, being safe and secure and not rocking the boat is death.

I never got a chance to chase my dream of being a medical research scientist.  The schizophrenia killed all chance of that.  Some consider me a failure or a nonhuman because I can’t work a job for my living.  I hear too much of this outdated Puritanical nonsense about ‘if you don’t work, you don’t eat’ or ‘by the sweat of your brow you shall earn your bread.’  What an idiotic stance.  We are now to where most of our manufacturing work can be done by machines.  It won’t be the multinational sending thousands of jobs to Asia that will be an issue. Soon most manufacturing jobs (even the ones in Asia) will be done by robots.  And many new technologies will replace many old style business models.  Google ‘3D printing’, ‘robotics’, and ‘automation’ if you don’t believe me.  There are even companies in both the U.S. and China experimenting with building inexpensive housing units entirely with gigantic 3D printers.  Shoot, it won’t be long before most telemarketing and customer service call centers will be handled by computer programs.  So will bookkeeping, accounting, and many insurance and finance jobs.   Did those autoworkers in Detroit or steel mill workers in the Rust Belt suddenly become worthless nonhumans not deserving their daily bread because machines can do their jobs faster and more efficiently? Nope.  Will the armies of customer service reps, tax preparers, bookkeepers, finance workers, and other white collar workers lose their status as human beings because they are unemployed because machines will be able to do their jobs?  No.  Does a man or woman only have value because they make money?  Not a chance. Seriously, there are over one billion people on this planet (mainly in Africa, rural Asia, and Latin America) that live on two dollars a day or less. You couldn’t buy a Big Mac at McDonald’s for that. Are they less worthy of their lives because they don’t have much money?  Certainly not. I think these people are quite resourceful and creative to stay alive on such low wages, especially the ones who don’t have debts.

A job does not give a human value.  Never has and never will.  Neither does the size of a person’s bank account.  I know that flies in the face of generations of protestant work ethic and the mentality most Americans have in identifying themselves by what they do for money.  I cringed every time I was asked ‘what do you do’ when I first meet someone.  What do I do?  I breathe, I sleep, I laugh, I cry, I lust, I love, I play Skyrim, I watch baseball, I hallucinate without drugs, I eat Chinese food, I write, I ask questions, I learn, and I am a great friend.  But I know you want to know how much money I make so you can categorize me and rank me.  But it’s quite tactless in America how much money someone has (which is odd consider how much money is revered in this country).  Maybe the upcoming shakeups our civilization will experience within the next twenty years will force us to reexamine how we identify ourselves.  With so many people most likely being without paying jobs because machines and computers can and will do the jobs better, we will have to stop identifying with our jobs and stop condemning those who don’t have work.  We may have to take drastic actions to keep civilization from descending into chaos.  Desperate hungry and homeless people don’t make rational decisions.  We may even have to completely overhaul or tax and social safety net systems.  We may even have to resort to the whole universal basic income to keep the economy afloat and keep civilization functioning.  I love civilized life and not just because I’m bad at hunting and fishing.  I believe civilization has accomplished some cool things, led to billions of people with billions of talents being born through the ages who wouldn’t have been born had civilization never happened.  I want to see this thing keep going.  And things won’t get better by people believing a person has value only as far as they can earn money by their jobs.