Light at the end of the tunnel
Those who know me today know of my passion for community organizing, my fascination with tech, my penchant for starting new projects, and my eccentric personality. Growing up, I was a misfit—the oddball who struggled to make friends. Fast-forward to present day, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more driven to organize people and communities. I discovered tech at a time when I couldn't get a job, and a career in tech became my future. Same with entrepreneurship. As for eccentrism, I've always been overly passionate. It's both my weakness and my strength.
However, I wouldn't change anything about myself. Today, I'm working on a slew of highly impactful, exciting projects. I'm making a positive community impact while building incremental value and forming meaningful connections with incredible people.
Read on to learn more about me and some of the challenges I've overcome to become the person I am today.
I grew up in Boston with severe emotional and behavioral issues that led to significant strife for my family. Starting from birth, I had strong mood swings and outbursts. Beginning in pre-school and continuing through my teen years, I was frequently suspended or expelled from school due to misbehavior.
At age 11, I began treatment, which led to being ordered into a series of in-patient treatment programs at the age of 14. I spent the next four years living in treatment, skipping a traditional high school experience.
At age 19, I was expelled from my treatment program and released to the outside world. I was in Boulder, Colorado, at the time. I spent the next four years caught up in drugs, theft and violence. At age 21, I moved back to Boston.
At age 23, during a heat-of-the-moment argument with my girlfriend, I lost my temper and punched her. I had no plan to strike her, no forethought, just a cowardly act of impulse. Given my size and strength, I severely injured her.
This incident has haunted me from the moment I did it, up through today. I caused significant pain for my ex, her family and friends. I am forever in debt to her and will feel remorse for the rest of my life.
Not counting the incident with my ex, I've been to jail six other times, all prior to age 23. Collectively, I've spent seven years locked up or contained by treatment programs. It's been a bumpy road, but I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned and the experiences I've had.
My assault on my ex spurred a drastic change in my otherwise destructive, wayward life. It marks a profound turning point in my own self-rehabilitation—one in which I finally took responsibility for my actions and stopped playing the victim of an uncontrollable mental health condition.
Following this incident, I turned my life around. I spent a year in jail, during which time I focused on rehabilitative activities ranging from medication, therapy, Narcotics Anonymous, to meditation and prayer. I confronted my fears, acknowledged my faults, and began changing my beliefs and actions. After jail, I continued therapy and rehab. To date, I've had no further run-ins with the law.
Having a criminal record made it difficult to get a job, so I taught myself to build websites. After working for several small companies and clients, I got my first corporate job at age 25. During my time there, a friend and I started a software company. I went on to work or consult with 20+ tech startups, developing a passion for app development and entrepreneurship.
In December of 2014, I was contacted by Curse about a position in Huntsville. The timing was right, so I accepted the job and moved to Alabama. As I explain on my homepage, I fell in love with Huntsville and began organizing innovation activities here. The rest is history.
In May of 2008, an article about my violence was published by The Boston Herald. For the past 10 years, it's been the #1 result in Google for a search of my name. Its accessibility has made life very difficult for me—preventing me from getting/keeping jobs, forming/keeping relationships, renting/keeping contracts, and so on.
The article smears me, sensationalizes my past, and lists numerous falsehoods that I've never been able to correct. It paints me as a spoiled rich kid, which wasn't the case, nor did it have anything to do with my trial. The author dug up information about my ancestry and used it to defame me, all for the benefit of a click-bait story.
For seven years, I struggled to deal with the article. I dreaded meeting new people, applying for jobs, dating, etc. It wasn't until late 2014 that I overcame my fear of admitting to my past and owning my narrative. Nowadays, I share my past and tell people to Google me even before they've done so. My past is embarrassing, especially with how I'm characterized online, but thankfully it's not who I am today.
Even though it's been 10 years since the incident with my ex, my past still plays an active role in my present. I live my life knowing that there will always be people who dislike me/won't forgive me, just as there will always be those who find out and then look at me funny. But I understand this, and I accept that it's the reality of the situation. If I weren't me and I found out about someone like me, I might do the same.
But because I am me, I'd like to ask that you consider letting me know. I realize it may be uncomfortable to talk about, but as I've learned over the years, the best way to handle any uncomfortable situation is to discuss it. It's also easier for me once I know someone knows as I can then casually mention it without it being an issue. I promise not to make "the talk" overly solemn; I've had it hundreds of times with hundreds of people. It works well to acknowledge it and then move on to lighter things.
Over the past 10 years, I've worked extremely hard to overcome my past and turn my life around. I'm no longer violent, I no longer use drugs, I no longer try to hide from my mistakes. It's been 10 years since I've had any run-ins with the law. I've become a healthy, driven, successful person and will only continue to become more so in the future. I've taken what I've learned and am applying it for the good of my peers, the community, and the world.