Monday, October 28, 2013

The Creative Process

Working on the novel
While trying to figure out whether I wanted to try my hand at freelance writing as a source of income, I realized that I was becoming gripped by the overwhelming urge to FINALLY finish the science fiction novel that I've been sitting on for the last 20 years. It dawned on me over the weekend that if I were to write a mere 3-4 pages each day, a very do-able target goal, I could complete the story by January 1. I started the year with only 70 pages, but thanks to a brief spurt of writing at the beginning of the year, and my recent spurt which I hope will become a more sustained effort, I am now at the halfway point to my goal of writing a 300-page novel. Assuming that I can complete this novel, it is my intention to one day write a complete series of ten novels based around this main character, with this current work being the third of the ten books in the series.

Every time I complete another page I feel a jolt of excitement course through my spine. I feel like I'm finally getting closer to finishing a goal which actually has meaning to me. It helps to add depth to my self-identity in a way that just working for a paycheck does not. Of course, having said that, I am still worried that I may starve or be kicked out on the streets soon. And, I am still diligently trying to find a paying job that will satisfy my financial/survival needs. However, one of the main reasons I began this blog years ago, and the main reason for returning to college, was to chart my progress as I attempted to transition from a lonely, scared, and depressed guy into a man who can successfully set and achieve realistic goals for himself, and live a better life. Admittedly, the current state of the economy and job market has made that more difficult. But, finally being able to complete a project that I had essentially put off for so long would be hugely gratifying.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Still Alive...

Have Portal Gun Will Travel
Despite the long break since my last posting, I am still alive. I managed to have a brief reprieve from absolute destitution in the form of a job. I worked for four months as a car salesman for a local car dealership before the franchise was sold to a competitor and I was laid off, having been a recent hire with no established sales track record. It happens, although I wish that I had been able to keep the job a little bit longer, for no other reason than I was finally able to eat regularly. I even went out to eat at The Raleigh Times a few times. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend their burgers, and the Blatherskite Scottish Ale from the Raleigh Brewing Company. It sort of tastes like the perfect blend of Red Stripe and Stella Artois, my two favorite beers. I would say that it has the clean taste of Stella without the astringent quality, and the deep flavor of Red Stripe without the bitter aftertaste.

Now that I'm back to being unemployed, I am largely in the same position as I was during the first five months of the year. I desperately search the online job postings every day in search of some job which would serve my needs, hoping that I get callbacks for the jobs I want, and feel vaguely qualified for, rather than the jobs which I would only accept based on pure desperation for a steady paycheck. And, as before, I don't seem to get called for the good paying office gigs I would like, nor the low paying grocery store/fast food/convenience store jobs which I would take to benefit my survival. With unemployment in the city still hovering around 6-7%, I don't have a lot of expectations that things will improve quickly. And, with the recent government shutdown adding pressure to social safety nets which were already in a precarious state thanks to the inconsistent moral values of our elected "leaders", I am stuck wondering when my hopes for a better future will ever be realized.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Keeping Up the Fight

Hopefully this won't be me soon

I’m starting to get genuinely scared about my short term future, and potentially my long term future, as well. I almost didn’t cover my rent for the month, as my family couldn’t manage to send me the full amount that is due. Unfortunately, my apartment complex won’t allow a partial payment, even one which is only $20 or $30 short of the total. That means that if things don’t turn around soon, I could conceivably miss my rent for the next month, and that would mean I would be on the street with nowhere to go by my birthday, which is in the middle of May. I spent most of last weekend in a deep depression as I struggled with that realization. I wish I could say that the thought of suicide didn’t appeal to me at some point. However, since I have lived with depression for the majority of my life, I suspect that suicide will never fully leave the list of possibilities that I consider whenever I am faced with adversity. At least, I can report that, since graduating college, I haven’t been fully overwhelmed with emotional anguish. The feelings of depression didn’t completely overcome me, and a walk around the lake on Sunday afternoon helped me to break free of the painful, obsessive thoughts about homelessness or suicide which had grounded me on the previous two days.

On the other hand, I suspect that my gas will get cut off soon. That means I won’t be able to cook food on the stove, and I will have to endure cold showers. Luckily, the temperatures have now warmed up, so I don’t have to worry about being too cold during the day or night. As an odd consequence of my tendency to ignore some things, such as money, I had built up a credit over the last year with the electric company, as I set up my bank account to just send a regular monthly payment which was apparently slightly more than what was owed each month. That means that my electricity is still up and running, and current, for now. It will probably be another couple of months before my electricity will be turned off, assuming I haven’t been kicked out my apartment before then. I do plan to talk to my property manager at the apartment complex, when she returns to her office this Tuesday, to see if there is any way that I can negotiate my apartment rent downward for a few months while I continue to look for work. I am hoping that since I have been living here steadily for nine years that they will be willing to give me a little slack. Living in Raleigh, the lowest rent these days, which isn’t in a slum, is $600, and those are student apartments not far from where I am currently living. My rent, right now, is $700.  If I could get a couple hundred knocked off the price for a few months, it might make a world of difference for me, not to mention my family. Though, to be fair, that is probably more wishful thinking than anything based in fact. But, I don’t have much other choice than to try.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fallen Through the Cracks

The last of my food supply

Right now, I’m debating whether or not to eat a box of macaroni and cheese.

I’m not debating whether I should eat it versus something else which would be decidedly more nutritious. I’m debating whether or not I should eat it, or go hungry another day. You see, I only have three boxes of macaroni and cheese left to my name. I have no other food in my apartment, and I currently have $9 left in my bank account. My Internet and mobile phone were turned off at the beginning of January, and my gas will probably be turned off in the next month. My electricity will eventually follow suit. The only reason I still have an apartment is because of the charity of family, however their finances are stretched too thin with almost half a million dollars in medical debt, and the costs associated with caring for an elderly matriarch in the last months of her life. The only way I am able to receive calls from potential employers is through an old flip phone loaned to me by a family member while I look for work. I’ve been living off macaroni and cheese since January, eating a box every second day in order to stretch what meager funds I had as far as they would last.

You may be asking, “But, Ashe, weren’t you in college? Did you ever graduate?” The answer is, yes. I graduated from NC State University in December 2012. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and had a 3.44/4.00 Cumulative GPA, as well as a 3.75/4.00 Major GPA. It says so, right on my resume. I spent two years doing research for the Good Doctor, although, to be fair, that last semester I really slacked off since I had a small bout of depression, later followed by fear and anxiety associated with not having a job waiting for me when I graduated. My slacking showed, as the Good Doctor only gave me a B for the last semester in his lab, where previously I had made A’s. I really feel bad about that, and I feel that I left things off with him on a sour note, as a result.

While I did attempt to apply to graduate school, finances dictated that I could only afford to apply to one school, NC State. As anyone who has applied to graduate schools can tell you, it is not a good idea to place all of your hopes into one university. Unfortunately, I was a little too vague on my application when explaining what I wanted my research focus to be, and was rejected despite what one of the professors reviewing my application said were very good GPA and GRE scores.

The problem, as I see it, is that I am a bit afraid to tell any professor about my true goals for research. Ever since returning to college, I have had a dream of doing research which would lead to the creation of an artificial intelligence, which would reside on any mobile device, computer, or perhaps even a web-enabled television, that would be used mainly for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and some mild addiction disorders. Several problems get in the way of this research. One, I have no engineering or computer programming background, so I would not be creating the actual programming code, myself. Two, there is very little research in the psychological journals pertaining to the use of artificial intelligence, as it seems that psychologists have mostly ceded control over this area to the engineering field. And, three, since there aren’t any psychologists currently doing research into the use of artificial intelligence as a treatment for depression, there aren’t any researchers whose labs I can apply to work in as a graduate student. At NC State, we have an engineering department with faculty and students who would be of great use in the actual construction of the AI, but the closest thing to a psychologist who fits my needs focuses his research on studying the cognitive effects of playing video games in adults and the elderly. For my purposes, as one who has played video games since I was four years old, I see parallels between using AI for improving the cognitive and emotional well-being of adults with depression, and using video games, which are little more than graphical AIs which respond to player input, as a way of improving the cognitive functioning of older adults.

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