When I first moved up to State college, I had a reputation as a "black magician" This was admittedly part of my own branding that I'd done in high school to get people to leave me alone, but it surprised that this branding followed me to a place, where I knew almost no one. You have to remember that this was 1996, so even the internet was being used, it wasn't the same as it is today or will be in the future. But there was a lot of e-listservs, basically email newsgroups. Regardless of how that particular bit of branding got spread, the reality was that when I came to State College, I had to deal with it, both when I encountered the College pagan group and when I encountered the locals. I remember with the locals that there were a couple of guys my age who wanted to learn how to practice magic. They were part of the music scene and what you could think of as hippies, or rainbows. There was this woman they both knew. She was a Dianic Wiccan and she told them men couldn't practice magic. So when I came around and they found out I did, she promptly labeled me as a black magician, because she didn't want men practicing magic. It struck me as juvenile, but it was telling just how influential she was because then some of the locals either avoided me or started acting rather careful around me.
I never had a good relationship with the locals as a result, and similarly my relationship with the pagans at the collage group was not a good one. Some of it was me...I was young and brash, and lacked a lot in those essential social skills that can make life much easier. And some of it was them. So it goes. I also found I didn't have a lot in common. Most pagans or magic practitioners I encountered weren't doing hermetic magic or experimenting. There wasn't a lot to talk about.
So I turned more toward the internet, joining e-lists including the infamous Zee-list, as well as lists about Demonolatry and ceremonial magic. I have and had an insatiable hunger for learning and I wanted to learn as much as I could. I also wanted to share ideas with people and I hoped I'd find a more receptive audience online than I'd found in person.
Even with that said, I did find a few people to work with in person. They were people who were just as interested in experimenting as I was. We would get together and share ideas and then try experiments out and talk about results. Then I'd share those experiments with the different e-lists online and see what others had to say. I did this from the late nineties to the early 2000s and it was a period of my life where I really stretched my wings, and began to look outside hermeticism, Golden Dawn ceremony, and neoshamanism to other forms of ceremonial magic and to Tantra and chaos magic, while also beginning to explore themes of pop culture and different applications of hard science to magical work.
Those years were interesting years in other ways. I lived with a drug dealer for the better part of a year (I didn't find out he was a drug dealer until a couple of months in), then lived in a sober house for a year (Not because I drank, but because I was straight edge back then and wanted to be in an environment where others felt the same way), and then lived with friends, before finally moving on to a Masters degree at Clarion University. Those years taught me a lot about magic, people, and how I interacted with all of it. I learned some hard lessons, but I the most important lesson I learned was to never let anyone discourage my creativity or belief in myself. It's a lesson I've held to every single day since those times and its served me in good stead.