I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Mixed race and working class. Depression ran on both sides of the family. I was a nice kid. I had a good heart. My father was dark and brooding and sometimes abusive. It messed me up. By 11, I was deeply angry. Home was miserable. As I grew up, I poured myself into everything. Everything gave me an excuse not to be at home and a chance to prove myself. I became obsessed with proving myself.
I got into Cornell but I dropped out. I was too poor and too messed up. I moved to California and wound up working construction and sleeping in my car. I hit rock bottom, became depressed and then suicidal. I got some antidepressants and they helped, but then I couldn't afford to get more. So a girl who loved me gave me hers.
I got back into Cornell. I studied with the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Michael Kammen, who became a friend and mentor.
I graduated from Cornell Phi Beta Kappa, turned down high paying jobs, and went to teach high school English in inner city Baltimore. I broke up riots, got cut, got maced, was on the news, fought constantly with my principal (who in my view was immoral and incompetent), and ultimately got thrown out of my first school (the most violent school in Baltimore) and transferred across town.
I went to law school at Georgetown. I was poor, worked a bunch of odd jobs, and barely went to class. Whenever I ran out of money or food, I went to whatever functions or receptions they had on campus. I made law review. I graduated. I went to work at Boies, Schiller & Flexner with some of the most brilliant lawyers practicing law today.
I left Boies, started my own law firm, and went broke in short order. I moved into a crappy little apartment and put my truck up for sale. I applied for other jobs. But in the end, I hung on just enough and started to build.
I did some big cases, but the most important work I did was represent poor people against bogus non-compete agreements. Factory workers. Janitors. Security guards. Interns. I went to bat for these people. For free. To protect them from being abused and exploited. I called it modern day slavery and indentured servitude. That offended lots of powerful people. I made lots of enemies. But I started a national movement against non-compete abuse. It's a modern day civil rights movement. I wound up on PBS News Hour, in the New York Times, Bloomberg, FundFire, Law360, and more. Then the tv networks started calling. Vice News. People from Stars.
Meanwhile, I was speaking all over the place. Cornell. Georgetown. National Urban League. Trayvon Martin Foundation. And blogging on LinkedIn, which apparently took off because I'm brutally honest in a world full of liars.
I met the love of my life. Healed all the hurt and hate that I had carried for 30 years. Forgave everything. Stacked nearly enough money to walk away from the law game.
I'm happy. I'm whole. And I'm still uncompromised.