Changing Life

Well my life is changing. For many years a retired professor let me stay at his house. I lived in Swarthmore, a very nice, although quiet neighborhood. For the month of March I’ve been living in the second bedroom at his new retirement home, to help him get adjusted, but I’m not meant to stay here permanently, nice as it is to eat so many meals with old people. So I’ve found a room in a much poorer lower-middle class neighborhood, Collingdale, PA. This is the kind of place I would have had to live in for the last ten years, based just on my income from Social Security Disability. Come April I will have no more cushy safety net which I got, arguably, simply from being raised in an upper-middle class town.

There is a little bit of the crucible feeling in this. I suspect the change will be good for me, because I won’t have to imagine what it’s like to be poor. My spiritual focus will align with my material focus. There will be no vague feeling that I watch the struggles of the world through a veil without having to deal with them. I will probably be as close to the idea behind the passage “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” as I will ever be.

The best possible outcome is that my new situation sharpens my sensibilities and gives my writing an even more honest flavor than they already have. I just found out that there is no internet connection in my new room. Therefore I must find a way to check email, post on my blog, and other things, if I am not willing to pay for in-house internet myself. I hope the public library can allow me the access I need. I hope I can write my posts on my home computer and save them to a flash drive, and publish them when I get to the library. If that fails, I’ll need to buy a laptop computer and use free Wifi wherever I can find it. If that fails, I will have significant difficulties achieving regular access to the internet. Paying for a home access might be outside my current budget, which affords a perfect example of the sharpness of my situation.

I may find aspects of my new life difficult and/or depressing. This can be offset by the idea that I consider myself a hunter of the genuine, for whom insight into reality is worth a little depression. The public stands to gain by the corresponding sharpness of my perception and thus my expressions of that perception, as mentioned above, whether it be in writing, video games, music, youtube videos, or something else.

I have finished Phase One of my book-writing process, which consisted of raw writing. Phase Two has begun, which consists of reading the results of Phase One. My goal is to find the “book” in the mass of material I have produced. I need to get outside the total content of what I wrote. I have not achieved this perspective yet. I consider that the work of Phase Two, which is designed to last half the total duration of Phase One. I am trying to edit pieces of the work as I read them, but I am currently overwhelmed by the size of the task before me. I still write a page per day so as to maintain the skills I have acquired by writing for so many days in a row.

I can imagine my book being very good, but there is still a ton of work to do. I learned how to write two pages per day, but the art of editing remains very elusive to me. I think it’s good that I partitioned the challenges into phases, but it’s still hard for me to imagine how I can edit the contents of Phase One efficiently and wisely: I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of text I must now pore over. I need to arrive at a central concept around which the rest of the book revolves. I believe that I will accomplish my goal, but there’s plenty of fog in the landscape, for which I can only assume the dispersant is persistence. I believe I can maintain persistence simply because I did it for the first 127 days of this effort. No point in giving up now. I’m not so attached to the book that I can’t let it go.


A Letter of Recommendation For Myself

I found this looking through my notes, and in a fit of narcissism decided the public might like it.

Zach Tollen        Jan. 8th, 2014

Letter of Recommendation for Myself to the Delco Certified Peer Specialist Training

Since I couldn’t find the right person to recommend me, I will write a letter for myself. At the same time, I’m not going to make a joke about it. What I really would like to do is tell you what’s going on with me and leave it up to you to decide whether I’m right for you.

For most of my adult life, I have had little interest in following established pathways. I lost interest in established pathways at the age of fifteen. I felt that my questions about the real meaning of life were not being addressed by any of the adults I knew. There’s a story about when Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Henry David Thoreau when he was in a prison cell for refusing to obey an unjust law. When Emerson said, “What are you doing in there?”, Thoreau replied “What are you doing out there?”

I’ve never wanted to be a part of this society because I felt there were no moral philosophers who lived up to a high enough standard who could provide me a way to live without violating my own morality. Eventually, I started to imagine becoming a public persona who could capture the attentions of enough people to make enough income to survive, but this hasn’t happened yet. As I said in the answers to the other questions on my application, I’m working on a few fronts to try to become such a persona. But as long as my total revenue from that endeavor has not risen to the level where I can pay my own way, I have to find temporary ways to survive.

When asking various people what the jobs were for someone like me with no academic credentials and no other job experience for more than ten years, they mostly seem to suggest Certified Peer Specialist. So long as my public personality has not yet taken off, I need to act as if it won’t take off, if only to prove my sanity.

I also want to add that I don’t think recovery happens in a vacuum. If a person has uncommon experiences and knowledge, it will probably be necessary to share those experiences with others in order for them to completely recover. So if someone is supposed to apply for a training like this, and the prerequisite is to present themselves as if they are already completely recovered, then it ignores the fact that helping other people recover can be critical to one’s own recovery. If I’m actually going to become a peer specialist, therefore, it will be part of my recovery too. The mental health system in general suffers from this mistaken logic, that only a completely “healthly” person should have anything to do with the “sick” people. It’s one of the many broken pieces of the modern mental health paradigm.

While I’m sure I’ve left out many details which might help you figure me out, I hope that you are able to make your decision based on the above broad statements. It’s really a matter of your needing to decide whether the CPS program is right for a person like me or if I should pursue other avenues of growth and development. If you want a picture of me, my facebook account has one:

Sincerely,  Zach Tollen

(I was not accepted to the training program.)