Expiration Dates

I mentioned last week that I told my boss about my upcoming bike ride and how that would be the end of my employment here. I thought things would get smoother but to be honest, it hasn’t. Like most things, it reminds me of a girl. In college I dated a girl pretty seriously my senior year. Let’s call her Miley (because I’m listening to Wrecking Ball right now). With the exception of my current partner Miley is really the only woman I can still look back and say we could have had a long-term thing, but it didn’t happen that way. I got a job in DC and she was continuing her graduate studies in Charleston, and neither one of us could really do the long-distance thing. After we realized our relationship had an expiration date things got rocky… we tried to make it work and tried to focus on the present but that didn’t work. We had an expiration date.

The same is with my current job. I wonder if it wouldn’t just be better to rip off the bandage or if I should try to hang in there for another couple months. Neither my boss nor I are really “wrong”, but knowing that this won’t last has made small problems seem much bigger and my misery at work is increasing. So here I sit, with only written words to help me clear my thoughts. This is probably going to be mostly for me to vent, but maybe there is a boss or something that will stumble upon this and something good will come of it. Here are the reasons why I am unhappy at my job and why I’m not sure if I can make it another couple months.

The Old Way of Doing Things: Maybe this is a generational issue (am I a millenial?) or maybe this is just me personally, but I hate the office environment. My job requires me to wake up at 7am, commute to work, sit at a computer from 9 til 5, and then commute home. When you factor in commuting my “work day” is 12 hours. And why? Why the hell should I put on dress clothes and commute to work on a computer that has half the power of my laptop? Well, it is because that is how things have been set up. The office is dying, I know this but my boss doesn’t. I waste moments of my life to warm a seat. I am not judged on the quality or quantity of my work but am constantly critiqued on my time in the office and my attire, two things that should be irrelevant if I am doing my job.

Money Only Motivates So Much: When I can live off of 30ish hours a week at about minimum wage and still save for my retirement there isn’t a lot of monetary motivation. I don’t care about things, I care about my time and experiences. No raise is going to convince me to stop spending time with my partner or miss a weekend bike ride or not go to a rave. I just don’t care about money. If my boss wanted to motivate me he would give me days off or let me go home when my work is done… instead I sit in an office because someone needs to be here to answer our landline phones, because apparently landlines still exist.

I’m Never Off Work: This is a big one for me. I am salary which apparently means “haha, sucks if you had plans on Sunday we have an asshole client who needs something done ASAP”. When I spend 3 hours commuting each day I really need my evenings and weekends to myself. This wasn’t something that was mentioned during the hiring process and I wish it would have been, I may not have taken the job.

Industry People Suck: I work with a lot of people in “the industry”… basically movie and television assclowns who have egos similar to people in Washington DC. I don’t deal with most people in general very well, much less pretentious dicks. It stresses me out to deal with them, particularly when I don’t feel like I have any type of back up from the rest of the office. When someone is incredibly disrespectful, angry, or unreasonable there is this idea that I should just shrug it off because that is how the industry is. I guess I might be able to shrug it off if I was somehow compensated for dealing with these people but even if we charge assholes more than nice people I don’t see a dime of that… I still have to deal with the assholes.

As I look back at things now I am glad I took the job but wish I would have asked more questions and discussed things before accepting the job. This was my first time working in corporate America so I learned a lot of things, a necessary if sometimes painful lesson. So now I must decide what to do about it. I can quit soon and find something part-timeish to get me through until April, or I can stick with it and hope I don’t lose my mind in the process. There really are only two reasons to stay in my mind: I don’t want to abandon my office spouse (she would be dealing with a lot of bullshit if I left) and I don’t want to hurt the reputation of the guy who recommended me for the job. I don’t know… writing things out some helped but I’m not sure what to do still. It seems really likely something stupid will just set me off and I’ll quit with no notice.

I Cannot Live Without Books…

I’m pretty sure the title for this post was a Thomas Jefferson quote. To be honest, I mostly remember it from playing Civilization and that quote would come on when you build a library or something… man that game was great. Anyway, I just got a Kindle and it has kind of revolutionized my life. I read a fair amount due to my 90ish minute commute each way on public transportation. I also see some weird value in learning what other people like to read. So, I decided to ask 18 of my Facebook “friends” what their favorite book is and what book they think everyone should read. These friends run a wide range from people I’ve known for decades to mostly Facebook “friends” but they are all people who I respect and would love to know more about… basically they are 18 people that I’d love to have in my life forever in some way or another. Ideally we would all live in a big communal house together in Colorado, grow weed, and sell high-end edibles while raising a bunch of cool dogs and maybe a human child or three. Most of them kept to just two books but some of my friends can’t be limited in such a way… another sign they are fucking rad.

To me, reading someone’s favorite book gives you a glimpse into their soul. The list of books below are what my friends answers were and I hope to read my way through them in the next year or so. Oh, and I also put down Stephen King’s and Jay-Z’s favorite two books because they are awesome. (Unrelated: I can’f find my Kindle… I swear it was in my office yesterday. Argh.) In no particular order (and missing a few because some of my friends apparently work doing the day)…

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
  • Conte of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (read previously)
  • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (currently reading actually)
  • Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
  • Why Do Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa
  • Girls Guide to Taking Over the World by Karen Green
  • Naked by David Sedaris
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Crucial Conversation: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson
  • Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant
  • The Great Divorce by CS Lewis
  • The Armchair Economist by Steven Landsburg (read previously)
  • Nature of Order by Christopher Alexander
  • Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin
  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg and Arun Gandhi
  • Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
  • Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • A Happy Death by Albert Camus
  • Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (read previously)
  • The Good Life by Hackatt Publishing
  • The Golden Argosy edited by Van H. Cartmell and Charles Grayson
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  • The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolfe
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by Sedaris
  • On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walsh
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • House of Leaves by Mark Daielewski
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  • Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison
  • Extras by Scott Westerfield
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (previously read)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson (previously read)
  • Steering By Starlight by Martha Beck

Sexy Books

Unfortunately I probably won’t have a lot of time to blog this week. My boss is out of town, our accountant just pushed another baby out, and my office spouse had some surgery that involves her holding an ice pack to her groin for the next few days. Basically, I am the low man in the office but somehow I am in charge of this shit. There is a 50% chance I will accidentally burn the building to the ground… so yeah, I won’t have a lot of blog time.

So, instead of my regular ramblings I thought I would just list some awesome books about sex that my lovely follower might be interested in. As you probably know the subject of sex (and the taboo surrounding it) fascinates me, particularly with the increase of open relationships and polyamory that technology has allowed. I don’t really have an abnormal sex drive or anything, I just find the subject fascinating and enjoy studying it. And without further ado… here are my favorite sexy books (with my simplistic summaries):

Sex At Dawn: Definitely the most sciency of the books. The authors work against the parental investment theory that encourages human pair-bonding and monogamy. They use research into bonobos (our evolutionary cousins) and remaining hunter/gatherer tribes to argue humans are much more polyamorous than we are raised to believe. There is societal pressure for monogamy that is based more on those in power trying to control sex, but this monogamous pull may not be “natural”.

The Ethical Slut: This is the least sciency book in the series and still one I recommend EVERYONE read (seriously, I will buy you a copy and ship it to you… fucking read it). It discusses what sexually open people are and some advice for dealing with the struggles polyamorous and open relationships can bring. The authors are often funny, sometimes crass, but always entertaining. Read. This. Book.

What Do Women Want? This book is a middle ground between objective science and subjective stories. It is probably my favorite out of all the books due to it’s accessibility and tone. The author argues that the traditional story of women wanting a “one and only” lifelong mate does not hold up to scientific inquiry and it is dangerous to tell women there is something wrong with them if they desire sexual variety. The author discusses multiple studies on humans and our mammalian relatives, as well as interviews researchers and women who have cheated, desired to cheat, seek open relationships, and practice polyamory.

American Savage: This is kind of a sex book… it is a collection of essays by sex and relationship advice columnist Dan Savage. Just like his podcast it is funny but honest and there are no taboo subjects. This work is particularly personal for Savage and he discusses his marriage, raising a straight child, growing up in a Catholic home, etc. If you don’t listen to his podcast or read his column you should do that right now.

Bonus – The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers: I’m still reading this so I won’t recommend it strongly yet but so far I enjoy it. It is fascinating to me how common some form of extra-spousal relations happen in the middle class and how varied there are. Very few practitioners of “the lifestyle” participate in orgys, instead most of them just enjoy being in an erotic situation where some sort of voyeurism and exhibitionism is the norm. Some will have multiple sex partners but the lifestyle is more about being open, honest, and participating in something that helps prevent confusion, harm, and secrecy. So far I really like it. This is very similar to my personal experience in the Orgy Dome at Burning Man and intimate experiences with friends… it isn’t about sex, it is about deep honest connections where there is no taboo conversation.

How the hell are you happy?

Twice in the last two days I’ve been asked how it is that I’m so happy. My response was a little bit simplistic but basically true for me, I said that I’m happy because I “moved out of DC, use ecstasy, ignore the state, and get laid”. I’m not recommending those steps for anyone else to be happy but the basic concept has worked well for me.

Moved out of DC: When I lived in Washington DC I was unhappy. I didn’t like the city at all. I had some good friends there but the weather, culture, and environment was awful. Washington DC is a city where dreams go to die and good intentions get infected with an incurable strain of syphilis that spreads throughout a community causing insanity and eventually death. It is a place whose culture is filled with power-hungry, narcissistic, future asshats who care only about what you can do for them. Also, the humidity and heat during the summer makes the crowded, sweaty, stinky metro rides feel more like a form of torture than a modern form of transportation. Basically, my happiness is do in part to taking steps to get out of an environment I hate and move to a place where I feel more comfortable.

Use ecstasy: While I am very open about my use of MDMA as a medicine, a relationship aid, and just for fun that is not really what this is about. Part of my happiness comes from having hobbies and interests that take my mind of the negative shit in the world. Riding my bicycle along the beach, reading books, going to raves, writing, and just diving into “Firefly” on Netflix are all ways to escape for a while, which we all need. Mental escape is necessary and healthy to remain sane in a world that the media, religion, and the government says are going to hell.

Ignore the state: Yes, the government sucks. It is a tyrannical leech that pretends to be for the “will of the people” but is really for “the profit of those in power and their friends”. The federal government continues to oppress minorities through the War on Drugs, bomb the shit out of people just because they live in another country, and spy on all citizens because we are all potential terrorists in their eyes. Governments have always done that… it is what they do, their existence is based on the use of violence against innocent people and they don’t know how to do anything else. In addition, there really isn’t a lot any of us can do about it as individuals. You can certainly protest when needed, donate to non-profits, share stories, and raise hell but I believe the best thing we can all do is mostly ignore the state and try to be happy. If there is a victimless crime that you disagree with and infringing on your rights, just fucking ignore it smartly. And remember, we live in an amazing time. We have the most powerful companies working to cure death. We have satellites, telescopes, and space probes finding out new crazy awesome things about our galaxy daily. New research is finding cures for a number of diseases. It is seriously the best time to be alive but you wouldn’t know that if you only pay attention to government.

Get laid: Sex is awesome and I’m happy when I get some (I wish this piercing would heal already so that I could get some more often…), but this is really about relationships and community. Find people who are happy and be around them. I have a community of Burners here who share the Burning Man principles and take care of each other. Communities can be based around religion, sports, hobbies, exercise, etc. but they are necessary in my mind to be happy. I wouldn’t base it around politics much anymore, though I met some fucking awesome people through the libertarian movement, but to each their own. And I find it valuable to do things with a community that moves beyond how you originally met. Do you do yoga and enjoy the people there? Then invite them to go camping and share your love of the outdoors. People working together, loving together, and sharing experiences is a source of great happiness for me. In fact, now that I think about it, this may be the most important step.

So, as we drift into another beautiful weekend I hope you all have a happy time. I know I plan on filling my few days off of work with the beauty of southern California, ecstasy, anarchy, and banging.

So You Wanna Go On A Bike Ride…

So, our upcoming bike ride has garnered some interest from friends and strangers. One common question we get asked is “can people join you for a day or nine?”. The answer is a resounding MOTHERFUCKING YES!!!!!!!!!!!! We love our friends, even those that we haven’t met yet and adventures shared are better than adventures alone. I think there is a ton of value in riding with your friends and exploring the world. There are some things potential travelers should know though…

1. We are burners and that means we will take the 10 Principles of Burning Man as guidelines for this adventure. While all 10 will be important I think Gifting, Communal Effort, Immediacy, and Leaving No Trace will be common themes throughout. It would be lovely if our friends who join us are at least familiar with them.

2. We are a dating couple who plan on having sex in every state and skinny dipping in many places. You should be at least comfortable with nudity and tolerate the sounds of us rubbing against each other. To be blunt, I can be a bit loud, particularly when I know I have an audience.

3. We don’t have a set plan and things can change quickly depending on how our minds and body feel or terrain and weather. Also, we will definitely discuss routes with all parties involved but in the end we will follow the path we choose, even if other people don’t like it. Of course we would never leave anyone behind though and when things break or people need to rest we will do that.

4. Be prepared to take care of yourself. As it is put in the pickle back video, we will work together but everyone should have what they need to survive alone. That means having a bike, food, water, and shelter at the minimum.

5. This is going to be fun. There will be hard work and we will all get less fat but it is about the experience and enjoying everything nature and society has to offer. We aren’t setting any land speed bicycle records, rather our plan is 50-60 miles per day on average with many breaks

So, if you are interested let me know sometime… it can be today or 6 hours before we arrive in your general area. We aren’t comfortable anyone riding with us for the entirety at this point but if you want to spend a week or two with us that would be really glorious. Much peace and love to you all.

Hiring Hippies Is Dangerous

** First off, welcome to my blog all the new followers. My post yesterday had my highest view count and brought in many new followers (most of whom even seem like real people). This is probably due to two titans of social media (Jennifer and Cathy) sharing my post on Facebook… by the way, if we aren’t Facebook friends we should be. I use FB as a way to aggregate news, thoughts, cool stuff… it is pretty awesome in my opinion. I also accept all friend requests (though slut-shaming, misogyny, racism, and general assholery will get you unfriended). You can follow me also but that still seems a little weird to me, no judgement though. So, my blog is mostly my personal thoughts and journey, particularly on issues close to my heart like libertarianism, sex-positivity, body-positivity, Burning Man, Ke$ha, the drug war, my upcoming cross country bicycle adventure, polyamory, and human enhancement. I do this writing for myself but if you get something out of it that would be fucking amazing to me 🙂  **

Well, I finally talked to my boss about my upcoming bike ride and how that would effect my job. I basically informed him that there is an end date for my employment. He was surprisingly understanding and supportive of teaching me as much as he can before I leave. I think he has realized for a while that I’m not cut out for the office life. My boss and coworkers are fantastic but warming a seat in an office for hours determined by tradition and not need feels like a noose around my neck.

Maybe something is “wrong” with me and I can’t just “fall in line” or “play the game”. I just have a hard time dealing with activities that can’t be logically explained to me. Wearing dress clothes, commuting through the city, and working a 9-5 shift doesn’t make sense when my job is done completely on a computer. I could be just as effective sitting on Redondo Beach with a Corona in my hand as I am here in the office. Add my commute to that and I just feel like I am nearly wasting moments of my life that I will never get back, all for a paycheck and job-security. Security is worthless when protecting nothing of value and I feel like my life is diminishing in value every day.

While I recognize I need a paycheck to pay the bills, and I am willing to “play the game” to some extent, my needs in life are small. I don’t have kids or a car, I live with my partner, I don’t have a TV, pay for cable, or desire any possessions beyond books. I could quite literally maintain my lifestyle for about $25k per year (I did the math). That includes paying off my student loans, going to Burning Man each year, buying several books a month, rent, food, 1-2 raves or party nights a month, maxing my Roth IRA, and additional investments. Of course it means I shop at Goodwill and Ross for my clothes and furniture, but I just don’t care. I would rather work minimally and have time to write and adventure than have nice things.

So, my boss knows I’m quitting. I feel good that I gave him over 6 months notice and he will be able to find a replacement. Working in an office for a couple years like this was certainly good for me to figure out who I was and what type of environment I can thrive in, just like living in DC was good even though I hated that city. I believe each person should try new things and follow their passion, even if that road isn’t down a popular one or isn’t socially normal. There is a huge spectrum of potential lifestyles when it comes to jobs, families, lovers, homes, etc. and I don’t think anyone can know which one is “right” for them until they experiment, take changes, get their asses kicked, and come out more confident.

I’ve shared this before but I just love this XKCD:


On Marriage And Longterm Commitment

For the last 8 years or so I have been pretty vocally against marriage for myself. I didn’t see the point and I found it to be an archaic ceremony with disgusting historical roots in the idea that one person can (and should) own another person. Many times when I vocalize my opposition to marriage people assume that I am also against commitment, particularly lifelong commitment. While that may have been true throughout most of my adult life my views on both are evolving a bit, as I think they shoud with new experiences.

Maybe it is some fault of my own that I didn’t just accept social norms when it came to relationships, I am starting to think I have a problem when it comes to falling in line. There is a pattern in my life where I see what society offers, experiment on the extreme other end, and then find myself more in a middle ground. I rejected monogamy for hardcore polyamory and now find myself in a monogamish relationship (but still available for Ke$ha 100%). I rejected religion for absolute atheism and now find myself interested and open to spiritual ideas. I rejected neo-con big government policies for complete anarchy and find myself… well, I still find myself being a complete anarchist…. maybe not everything becomes more moderate with time.

Anyway, my evolution on marriage comes from social and political realities. The political reality is that there are financial incentives in place to encourage signing a stupid piece of paper and giving it to some bureaucratic leech. I need to decide if my desire to remove all government controls outweigh the benefits of marriage through reduced coercive taxation. It is a conundrum, less taxes is better for me and helps starve Leviathan (and save the lives of people the government often murders in jails and with bombs). There is also the social pressure, which I am admittedly embarrassed that I feel strongly from time-to-time. Unfortunately, people treat married couples with a greater legitimacy. Two people can be in a 40-year relationship but if they haven’t had a wedding and all that other bullshit they are seen by society as less legitimate than two people who met on craigslist, drove to Vegas, and got hitched all in a 24 hour period. Part of me very much wants people to recognize my love as legitimate and some people require a title to do that. To be honest, I also like the little bit of the fanfare that comes from an engagement and a wedding… not a lot of fanfare, I’m still a minimalist, but I can see the joy and celebration that would occur if I proposed at Burning Man or something.

I have also reevaluated my views on long-term (even lifelong) commitments. This change comes from my increasingly healthy personal romantic life and the examples I’ve seen in others. When I was growing up I interpreted the relationships around me as filled with sacrifice. Sacrificing new experiences, sacrificing individuality, sacrificing life for others. While that may seem noble on paper, in reality that sacrifice came off as controlling and frightening. It certainly didn’t help to have a very unhealthy engagement in my early 20’s. I am now in a very healthy (hopefully long-term) relationship with a partner who doesn’t ask for sacrifice. Instead we grow, learn, have adventures, and plan our future together. That is why I call her my partner, because that is how I see her… as my life-partner. Phrases like girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. come off as possessive to me. In the past those phrases have also represented myself defining my own existence and personality by my relationship status, something I don’t want to do again. In addition, I also have several examples of healthy relationships in my life where adventures and creativity happen, and ideas like “you shouldn’t lust, love, care about, or be attracted to other people” are seen as unrealistic and instead new intimacy is shared together.

Of course, this is just how I feel at this time. My life is an everchanging perception of reality depending on time, place, and experience. Regardless, I am very happy now and happy with the way my views are evolving. I know there may be some people out there who are tempted to say “I told you so”. These are people who said “you just have to meet the right girl”, “give it time”, “you’ll change your mind”, or “It’s just a phase”. If you are one of those people please don’t throw this in my face… seriously, there are only three or so people whose friendship I would keep if they did that. Doing so would tell me you discourage personal journeys, exploration, and investigation. If someone is heading down a path that is different than yours, especially when your path is “normal”, you are an asshole if you tell them that they will eventually come around. It comes off pretentious and degrading. If you want people to live life the way you do then live your life the best you can and show them why and how you are happy. I am happy now, but I don’t think I  would be if I blindly embraced any of my views without winding my way down a relatively unpaved road to get there.

Pope Francis Is Just Alright By Me

I like this pope, and it is not only because I’m an atheist. I grew up in a series of non-denominational churches, which means I pretty much have no idea what the hell Catholicism really is. My paternal grandmother was Catholic but I only met her a handful of times. I think there is something about praying to Mary, lots of candles with angels and stuff on them, and I’m pretty sure the Pope is infallible. I think they also are cool with My knowledge of “protestants” is just as vague because protestant Christians are like the colonies under the Articles of Confederation, they are more united by what they aren’t (Catholics) than what they are. I’ve been to Lutheran and Presbyterian churches (both chasing girls) and I always wondered where the electric guitar was and why their pastor wasn’t wearing jeans… I’m getting off topic, sorry about that.

I like this Pope because I think public discussion, debate, and disagreement is good for everyone, particularly when the subject is faith-based. There is a real danger when all leaders of a group agree on something, or at the very least they all publicly agree. Francis seems to be different (at least to this guy who knows nothing about Catholicism). He seems to disagree with prior Popes and even disagrees with his own assistants. I haven’t seen this much debate on my Facebook wall since I asked whether I should watch Harry Potter.

Individual members of any group do not hold a monopoly on understanding or the truth. Every person who subscribes to a belief or teaching or philosophy should take it upon themselves to become experts and question everything. That is something that I always found lacking in the church, the Bible studies and church services were too rigid and too “right or wrong answer”. The documents may be 2000 years old but you don’t need a degree in Theology to read them and try to digest them, but in reality that seems discouraged by the churches. I was told what to believe and if it didn’t make sense I was told to “have faith” and unanswerable questions (or those that defied current science) were chalked up to “the lord works in mysterious ways”.

We should all process new information and change our minds when necessary, even when it comes to matters of faith. This Pope seems more willing to do that, particularly when it comes to the complexities of human sexuality. Church lacks Socratic dalogue and bible studies too closely resemble elementary school arithmetic exams where the “teacher” knows the answer and anything that deviates is “wrong”. There are too many people who believe they have the correct answer so they stop processing knew information.

If there is a God surely that is not his intention, I agree with Galileo “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.” Even Proverbs 27:17 agrees, debate and discussion make us stronger, surely faith and intellect should not be allowed to rust because our leaders have told us (not taught us) the right answers. Pope Francis sparked debate inside and outside the Catholic community, and because of that I think he rocks.

Unrelated: If you haven’t seen the “True Facts” videos you should… here is one about owls and one about Morgan Freeman… and some music from my youth.

September 11th

There are a lot of posts going around on this day about how the events 12 years ago impacted the people in my life. Some lost family members during the attack. Some lost loved ones in the wars afterward. Some carry demons and guilt inside them for the things they saw and did. Some gained inspiration from the love and courage of the first responders. Any person who was alive during that time remembers where they were and they have a story to tell about that day and how it has continued to be a part of their lives. I have a story too. I don’t know if others think it is worth telling, but putting my life into words gives me strength and helps clear my mind. Maybe my words will also help another… I never really know, I think all stories are worth telling even as I’m not sure if mine has value. Regardless, here is my story of 9/11 and how it has echoed through my life to this very day.

On that Tuesday morning I was still awake. The sun was barely up on the west coast but I had been up all night. I was restless and tired. I had graduated high school over a year earlier but was still working for Papa John’s and saw no real end in sight. Having just finished the book “Black Hawk Down” I was interested in joining the military. I was up most of the night looking up the requirements and procedures… it seemed like an answer to my future, or at the very least it would delay making any more decisions for at least four years. I knew my family would worry, but be supportive. I grew up in a Christian conservative family who saw America as special, America was God’s chosen country and our exceptionalism was a given.

So, when the towers were hit I was wide awake with the news on in the background. I don’t remember really watching it until the first tower was hit and all I thought was that it was a horrible accident. It wasn’t until the second tower was hit that I really believed it was an attack. It sounds crazy conceded but I saw this as a sign from God that I was supposed to join the army. After watching the news for a little while I drove down to the recruiter and talked to them about signing up. The recruiters assured me that the events that were unfolding before our eyes were not going to lead to war, I assume they knew differently and were just telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. In fact, they seemed really surprised when I told them I wanted to join the infantry despite my high ASVAB scores. I wanted to fight though, if I was going to join the army I wasn’t going to sit in some office processing paperwork. After a few more visits, a physical or three, and one waiver for my eyesight I was well on my way to Basic Training to be an infantry paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.

After training ended I was sent to my unit, C. Co 3/504 PIR (Blue Devils) where I found out quickly that we were deploying to Aghanistan in early 2003. I spent 10 months mostly bored walking around the mountains and deserts with my trusty M249 SAW over my shoulder. After a couple months back in the states we were mobilized again for Iraq where my unit was stationed in Nasiriyah. As is expected these years and deployments had an effect on me, but the most important thing I took away from my time there is that I felt lied to by the government and media. The nature of war, the “enemy”, the simplicity of “they hate us for our freedom”, all collapsed around me. What I saw on tv was not reflected in what I was experiencing on the ground.

Despite the best efforts of the recruiters I did not re-enlist active duty after my contract ended. I did decide to sign a one-year contract with the South Carolina National Guard though. That unit got activated shortly after I joined but I was not required to go, instead I spent the next few years in school, first at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach and later at the College of Charleston. My choice of Myrtle Beach was primarily because I was engaged to a woman at the time who lived down there and my limited travels had diminished any desire I really had to return to Oregon.

While in college I listened to a lot of talk radio, my favorites being Sean Hannity and Neal Boortz. While I was still a conservative at the time I had seeds of doubt planted in my head by my experiences and what I was hearing on talk radio, particularly by Boortz. I think Boortz is the place I first heard the word libertarian and while he was pretty hawkish that actually helped a guy like me who would have quickly rejected libertarianism as extreme if introduced to it all in one package. Instead it took questioning government involvement in social issues to incrementally  move me away from conservative Republican views on things.

During this time I also had a political science professor at HGTC that included libertarianism as one of the four political viewpoints (the other three being conservative, liberal/progressive, and statist). When he described libertarian as meaning “the government should not use force to control your bedroom or your wallet” I was intrigued. He listed Reason magazine as the official magazine of the libertarian view point so I bought a couple issues and dove right in. I was working as a security guard at Broadway At The Beach by this time (and my engagement had broken off) so I had a lot of free time to do reading. Reason introduced me to Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Ron Paul but the most influential article I read was about how we should be able to sell our own organs. After reading that article I started calling myself a libertarian.

Soon 2008 was upon me and I was really getting into libertarian views. I’d read Atlas Shrugged, The Fatal Conceit, and Free To Choose. The field of Economics made a lot of sense to me and kind of came intuitively so I was pursuing my Bachelors in Economics at this time. The Econ department is where I met two professors who changed my life, Peter Calcagno and Frank Hefner. Hefner introduced me to IHS and I went to one of their summer seminars where I was introduced to anarchy. Calcagno is someone that I consider my mentor to this day… his impact on my life cannot be understated and I feel like I can still come to him if I have any personal or professional problems. Truly both of these educators are what we should all strive to be.

After college I was accepted into the Koch Associate Program and spent one year working with the Center For College Affordability and Productivity. As a new anarchist my KAP days were spent taking the more extreme market position and generally pissing off the more conservative people in the organization. On day 1 I made an an-cap flag and put it on my notebook… soon fellow anarchists approached me and admitted their own hatred for the state. We had a little collective of a dozen people who gave each other knowing smiles and tried to partner up with each other and support each other in discussions and debates. This is when I met Isaac Morehouse who introduced me to Clark Ruper, my future boss. Isaac put in a good word for me when I applied to work for Students For Liberty and I’m sure his endorsement was a major reason I was offered the job. I’m not sure if he regrets it or not.

SFL was the dream job. My entrepreneurship was encouraged, the organization was dynamic, and it was a cause I believe in. There is no other organization that could have kept me in that hellhole of a city, but there were a couple that tried. Intellectually SFL challenged me and forced me to refine my views on the world. Being an anarchist was not enough to discourage debate, SFL had plenty of anarchists who are way more well read than me. If anything, I continue to be intimidated by the students that I was once tasked with leading in some ways.

But, like all good things my time in DC needed to end and I headed back west. The lessons learned on my two month cross country bike ride are to numerous top discuss here, but it was life changing. I felt I finally got to meet the people I was once charged with protecting. And I met many people who changed my life and thanks to modern technology I can still correspond with. The greatest impact the ride had on my life though was it unleashed my nomadic spirit. I am a wanderer. I feel most home when I’m on the move with a journey ahead, even if I don’t have a destination.

So, that’s my story in a nutshell. I don’t know if there is a lesson to learn yet, for my story is far from over, but for me the best starting point is 9/11.