I was born in New York at the end of the 70's, to two public school teachers. I was quickly moved to New Jersey and then again to Pennsylvania before the age of three. I spent the next 13 years there before returning to New York. Growing up I was always told that I was "too smart for my own good", had serious issues with authority, and often found myself frustrated/bored with the things I was told that I "had" to do. Despite my disinterest in the schools I was forced to attend, I still manged to excel because i never felt challenged and did not have to work very hard to obtain high marks. This, however, started to change as I entered high school.
My parents ended up separating when i was around 13 and split for good before my 16th birthday. Having my father out of the house seemed to kick my anti-authoritarian nature into overdrive. I became more belligerent, less apt to listen to anyone, and started to lose whatever interest I still had left in attending school. I was also introduced to alcohol around this time and convinced myself that, since I never expected to live past 25, I could do whatever I wanted without having to worry about the long term consequences. I began smoking, shoplifting, being overly obnoxious and was always actively looking for trouble. My mother, at her wits end, eventually had me sent off to a rehab/behavior modification facility and I bounced in and out of such places for the next several years. During that time I moved back to New York with my mother and sisters, and was banned from coming home for over a year. While in and out of the different facilities, I became a guinea pig for Big Pharma. I was pumped full of anti-depressants, sedatives and anti-psychotics. Other than some of them turning me into a zombie, they all had little impact on my outlook and attitude. For the most part my time away only introduced me to even more drugs, both *legal* and *illegal*, and helped foster a victim mentality within myself. When I was finally allowed to return home I knew that I had to at least put on a facade of having changed, so I played the part and pretended to be "cured".
I had already given up on high school; partially due to my long absences but, even more so, due to the fact that, in relocating back to New York, I was informed that I would have to move back a grade because of the difference in the NY and PA school standards. Since returning to school was no longer an option for me, I set out to acquire my GED. I studied for and aced the test, falling a few answers short of a perfect score. My mother, the teacher, chastised me instead of congratulating me, as she saw nothing but wasted potential. I shrugged that off and enrolled in community college with the promise of working my way up to a "real" university. I spent the next several years in and out of that school while bouncing from job to job. It was during this time that I was reintroduced to cannabis and, without much direction in my life at the time, I let it consume me. I dropped out of school altogether and kept working just enough to keep me well stocked and off the streets. This continued for the next few years.
Around the age of 26, I finally realized that I was pissing my life away. I decided that something needed to change, and that change needed to be within me. I had been staying with my grandmother, who was sweet enough to put up with my garbage, and I finally got sick of letting us both down. I knew that I needed to "grow up", so I spent a week or two pondering what it was that I wanted to make of my life. I had dabbled in many fields but the one thing I kept coming back to was my affinity for animals. I took a job at a local animal hospital and quickly decided to return to school to become a veterinary technician. That plan turned out to be short-lived, though, as a different path would soon open up. While returning to school I had, on the suggestion of a colleague, started doing some pet-sitting as a way to make some extra cash to help pay for classes. I inadvertently caught the market (which I, at the time, was woefully unequipped to understand) at the right time and my unplanned business started to flourish. Within 8 months, I had to drop out of school as I was no longer able to keep up with the heavily regimented schedule. Here I was, 28 years old, with my own burgeoning small business and I knew very little about the world and how it worked. In all those years of "soul searching" and out right wasted time, I hadn't learned much beyond what i had been force fed through government indoctrination and what I had gleaned from the MSM. I paid almost zero attention to politics aside from voting in the presidential elections, and even that was done with very little thought.
Both my parents had been more or less Republican voters since I had been around. Perceiving myself as quite the rebel at the time, I "defiantly" voted Democrat from the start. My first vote was for Clinton in his second term, and that's, sadly, just because i thought he was "cool". I followed by hating Bush II on "principle" and voting D both times, although I became very hawkish after 9-11, as I lost my cousin that day and my blind, nationalistic neo-con side started to emerge. I quickly fell into the "let's just nuke the Middle East" crowd, although it oddly didn't keep me from voting for Kerry during the next go round. I then, ashamedly, voted for Obama during his first campaign to reign, although my neo-con/conservative side was starting to overpower my Liberal side and i almost pulled for McCain. Only that something about Sarah Palin irked me, and i just couldn't go through with it. By this time, I had purchased a home and was entering year 3 of my business. I enjoyed an incredible second year and quickly started getting acquainted with the Leviathan like never before. Having to suddenly deal with extensive regulations, more exposure to road pirates, being required to fork more over in taxes, and a myriad of other government intrusions caused me to start wanting to pay attention. Those realizations, coupled with unintended consequences of my father bombarding me with anti-Obama emails, started me on the path to voluntaryism.
My father had danced in and out of my life since the divorce. He moved out to Las Vegas several years before I began my business and we had not seen each other all that much before that point. We would go through periods of talking semi-regularly and then stretches of radio silence. It seemed to suit both of us so i didn't think much of it at the time. About a year before Obama's first campaign started, however, I began to hear from him more often. He started calling on a fairly regular basis to discuss politics. He flooded my inbox with right-wing articles, Tea-Party-esque info, and anti-Obama pieces. This continued through the election and the first year or so after. Even though I felt like I was starting to lean more conservative, I still felt the need to push back for no other reason than habit. I largely laughed him off as he became further embedded with the growing Tea Party movement. I labeled him crazy and a tinfoil hatter. After a couple of years of this, though, I finally decided that I needed to prove him wrong. I started reading what he was sending me just so I could refute it. The problem was that I wasn't able to do so with all of it. It convinced me enough to join up with the local Tea Party, but I still had many questions and I knew my journey had really just begun.
My now wife came into my life around this time. She was a client that I broke one of the only company (me) rules I had ever really set down: don't date clients. She was, and still is, largely apolitical although she leans libertarian in many respects. We never really discussed such issues, she just knew that I had begun this research phase of my life. Being this newly minted, limited government guy, I began to explore history to find out what those founding documents were all about. My dad, of course, was overjoyed because we had these topics to discuss. Being a much faster reader than him, though, I quickly began to delve into territory that he had not yet encountered. After about a year or so this, and after my then fiance had already moved in, I found out that I was going to be a father. Fearing for my future children's existence based on what little I already knew, I doubled my efforts. I began exploring not only history but economics, philosophy and logic, as well. Once my beautiful twin girls were born, I toned it down a notch or two so I could get to know them. The itch to return to my studies began to increase after a few short months, though, and before their 1st birthday, I was off and running again.
It was around this time that I was introduced to some local Libertarian Party members. I quickly joined forces with them and thought I had finally found my home. I was even going to meetings and talking about running for local office. I was basically a minarchist that couldn't get past the "national defense" and "roads" humps. It was then I guy who first introduced me to the word voluntaryism. We spoke for 3 hours during our initial meeting and he really got the wheels turning in my brain. I am will be forever thankful for that and I am proud to still call him a friend. Within 6 months of our initial conversation, and coupled with my continued research, my transformation was almost complete. I was still slightly hung up on the defense issue but reading Chaos Theory by Robert Murphy all but convinced me that I was just being stubborn. Even still, both my new friend and I agreed to try and help the local LP get on the ballot. Being in New York, we had to go out and collect signatures. We were warned ahead of time that we would need to acquire at least double the required amount, since both the Dems and the Repubs would fight tooth and nail to have just enough of our collected signatures nullified to keep us off the ballot. We had one guy that really wanted the position he was seeking, and was just using the party to get recognition. Poor soul really thought he could make some changes. The rest of us were only placeholders. We all helped the other guy out, though, and got him what was required. The other parties acted as expected and kept challenging the poor sap's numbers and repeatedly dragged him into court. They managed to keep him off the ballot altogether by three signatures. He was crushed and I felt legitimately bad for the guy. It did, however, cement the conclusions that were forming in my head. Seeing the underbelly of local politics, where I erroneously thought that the last beacon of hope resided, helped the last piece slide into place: I was an anarchist.
That final moment was almost two years ago, although I had just been denying the inevitable for longer than that. Up until about a year ago, my wife thought I was still going through a phase. She still doesn't fully agree with everything I have to say on these maters, but she is slowly coming around. At the very least, she is okay, for the most part, with me teaching my now almost four year old girls about the tenets of non-aggression and voluntary interactions. I have continued studying and have since added enormous amounts of podcast listening to my daily regiment. Walking dogs and driving between stops for six to ten hours a day allows for a large amount of audio cramming. Among my regular list of shows is the Freedom Feens, where I first became aware of one Mr. Bill Buppert. I have been a fan ever since and it is what eventually led me to this forum. I also shamelessly co-opted the abolitionist moniker after hearing him mention it for the first time, as it does seem fitting for what it is that I seek. Listening to the Feens also helped convince me to take a new found friend up on the offer to start a podcast together with another friend. Nowadays I am all about finding ways to spread the message that has changed my life. Whether it's using social media, working on the podcasts, talking to people I meet in my daily travels, pestering my family, or trying to impart the wisdom on my children that was kept from me for so long, I just try to play my small part in helping to bring about the abolition of the most destructive force the world has ever known: statism. I don't expect to see the change in my lifetime but that does not deter me. Strangely, I found peace in that idea about a year ago. Up until then, I was still quite the angry, new anarchist. I wanted the change NOW and wanted to yell at everyone about it, a pattern I've noticed with many when they first come to these conclusions. Once I got past that, and wallowed for a bit at the prospect of never seeing the culmination, I found a pressure release in just working despite never expecting to see the end game. It helps keep me centered when I need it the most.
So that's my story. It's been a long, strange trip but well worth the ride. Here's to changing the world, one mind at a time!