Winnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day

Sometimes, when Alissa is asleep and I'm not going to bed for another hour or so, I go into my old facebook albums (back when I used to actually post albums) and look through them. Mostly I'm visualizing the moments when pictures were taking and trying to remember how I felt at the time.

I look at the comments and the picture tags, and I come across people whose existence I entirely forgot. And this is most specifically from 2007 to 2012 or so, right up until the point when I got a better smartphone, and instagram, and started posting individual pictures more than giant photo dumps after a fun weekend.

There's a few things I notice. Like I mentioned, I remember people from back then, and I see what in the world they're doing now, and it's cool to see how many of them (or, us, I should say) have found a path, and a partner, and a place in the world.

I remember how I felt on those 5 am nights in Seoul, and I see the comments on all the pictures, and how I looked in them, and it's no wonder people thought of me what they thought. I was basically a hot air balloon, and I was afraid stop being so puffed up lest I come crashing to the ground.

A lot of us were like that. A lot of us were scared. For all but a small percentage of folks, adolescence and young adulthood is kind of terrifying. It all worked out for me, but it easily might not have. I told Alissa the other night that, had I not gotten off the elevator at that very specific moment, I probably wouldn't have got her off guard and gotten a smile out of her in the first second.

Part of me feels ashamed I was so full of false bluster and that I careened between such hills and valleys instead of just being honest with myself and thus everyone else. It was too hard, though, to just live within my skin, because I didn't feel comfortable there. I created someone to protect me, someone who didn't really exist on his own but without whom I couldn't navigate the world.

Ultimately, although it caused a lot of people to have an impression of me that isn't really aligned with who I've grown into, I owe the Captain a lot. He knew just being authentic at the time would have been too difficult. It does feel cowardly, but it happened because it had to.

I compare all of those albums, where, taking pictures with people with my mouth wide open (even when dead sober), to my wedding(s) last year, when we were surrounded by genuine, lasting love and appreciation, to my surprise party on my birthday, to this past weekend's karaoke, when the fun I was having was not at all a put-on or full of it.

I talk about this stuff a lot because I find it interesting, to experience the change from feinting joy to feeling it, and to know and see the difference. There is so much less fear now. And I hope for all that I know and love that they aren't as scared as I once was. And if they are, I hope they can someday know what I have of late.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Race Report: 2017 Queens 10k

yeaaaaah nope.

I'm banged up and I'm only just now admitting to myself that I'm not a running machine.

I've been searching for "answers" to why I've slowed down since last spring. Looking for some existential clues.

But it's the simplest answer, you know? I'm not physically 100% and, like the subway and its broken signals, I keep running 24/7.

Specifically, my left leg, probably because I'm right handed and right-heavy, tends to get tight, always has since I started running, and I probably banged it into the ground in the two years I ran 9 miles a day (I still can't believe I both did that and excelled during it). I am sure it starts in my lower back, which has always been tight since a rugby injury in 2005, and then leads to my hip, which leads to my quad and hamstring and calf. Even my left foot is tight.

It's not painful, so I don't want to call any of it an "injury" when people are out there tearing muscles. But it restricts my range of motion and forces my right leg to do more of the work, and so here I am trying to PR with one and a half legs and, no.

I can do fine in intervals, because they just don't last very long. And honestly, today it was humid and so I would have been a minute faster with better weather. But I am going to take two weeks to try and find every tight spot. I start training in early July, but will make sure my intensity is lower before really ramping it up as the summer goes on. And by the fall, I want to be the best I've ever been.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

There is no defeating social media, at this point. And it's not what I want.

I am a user of it, mostly just facebook, some pics on instagram. But mostly facebook, since it came first and I got used to using it to connect when I moved overseas.

And so now it's a part of my life, and inextricably so. I can honestly say I would not be friends with several of my current closest friends had it not been for its existence.

My college friends, I might still be friends with since I met them in person first, but would we have stayed in touch? How often would I be emailing them? And I'm not much of a texter.

My running team? I only started running altogether because of a friend from college I reconnected with on facebook. She told me about Team for Kids, I joined, eventually I joined my team because of a different friend I met through a different social network.

And all the parties I organized in the mid-20s era, they don't happen if I'm just sending emails, though amusingly I have circled all the way around to a more official e-vite for a party next week.

But, and there's actual data to support this, if life is difficult, the newsfeed is not the place to go for help. Oh facebook itself can be of help, as there are plenty of valuable communities within it, groups for people in certain situations, bonding that would be impossible because of physical distance.

If you open the app, or the site, and just look at it, people post their best selves. The people who are sharing the difficult parts of their lives on a regular basis are thought of as deeply unwell. It's not said explicitly, but it's true that people tend not to open up when they struggle. People will share if someone has passed away or been diagnosed, but the only ones who usually post about their difficulties are people who are struggling overall.

It's all a mix of small talk and ranting. I try not to be this way, but I'm sure not posting pictures of the version of my body I wasn't happy with 5 years ago. I wasn't posting pics after failed dates. And I have only been open about my struggles with loneliness and isolation now that I am mostly past it. So I'm guilty too.

I think we need the people whose outer lives look amazing to open up a bit more. I don't mean every single negative thought you have. And if you don't use the tool to share emotionally, that's fine.

But if you're only sharing the emotional highs and the fantastic vacations and the race PRs, maybe think about sharing that some days you worry your career isn't what you want, or that you feel shunned and ignored at work, or that you are fearful you'll never meet a partner and that you know you really do want one.

I think we all think our inner issues are unique, and to some extent they are in the sense that our lives are different. But we all want to feel safe, and heard, and loved, and successful, however we define those terms.

When people post a longer emotional post, most respond with wide-eyed alarm and slowly back away. And hey, no one really enjoys reading that.

But, and not to pretend our lives are harder, especially for men, it's still seen as rather unhinged to admit to emotional turmoil, despite the fact that we all feel it.

The famous quote that's probably misstated goes, "Never compare your insides to everyone else's outsides." And our profiles are, by nature, almost entirely our outsides, spiffed and shined to brilliance. Jealousy isn't great, but it's natural, if you look at your bank account and then look at the pictures of someone's new house, or if you think about the date you just had and then look at the pictures of someone's wedding.

I used to walk to Team for Kids practice by crossing the entire east side, and think about how I'd never have a life like the people I passed on Madison, and knowing it was mostly my own fault. I could easily have walked a different way, but I think I was metaphorically flogging myself like the albino monk in the Da Vinci code.

I digress.

I started this site because I like writing and it's therapeutic. But as my life has changed completely since I started this 4.5 years ago, I still write about running, and occasionally politics (but rarely). I see my main purpose here to try to be of use to people who might read (and the data shows that about 15 people read each post, lol).

The greatest service I think I, or any of us, can give, is to be honest that even if things look perfect, they're still hard in some way.

Some might say that, well, this inner life is no one's business so who cares? And yeah, I can see that argument. You wouldn't start talking about your anxiety in the middle of a dinner party unless you're a character in an HBO dramedy.

But perhaps I myself would have felt less inadequate those years back if I hadn't looked up to see everyone seeming to be living their best life all around me. I came out of it, but I was lucky, and not everyone is.

There is no reason not to celebrate your triumphs publically. You best believe I will post every marathon medal I receive, and announce any great success. But we should all, I think, admit to some of the things we feel that might not be as fun. I think, in the long run, getting a clearer picture of everyone around us might help those of us who could use a boost.

It would have helped me, and maybe it can help someone in the future. Just my thought.

Peace and love.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

SJW PR

Anyone who uses SJW as an actual sincere insult is a moron. And I would say, though not as liberal as I was at 20, I'm still an absolutely committed progressive, particularly on the subject of civil rights. There are things I think are so far-fetched as to be non-starters in my mind (eg prison abolition) but lefty to the grave here.

(Note: Data suggests that young people around 14-18 have their views solidified by the popularity of the current president in their social circles. And, well, NYCers sure didn't like GWB in 2000-2004.)

But I will admit, I think our marketing is kind of awful sometimes. We're right, you know, we are. We should treat everyone with respect! We shouldn't harm or hurt people!

What's the knock against us, though? That people can't just live and let live without being called out, essentially.

And most of those arguments are nonsense, of course, because it's really not hard to avoid saying bigoted words, for example. You can fight with that all you want, but that's on you.

I think, however, our biggest PR problem is the impression we're mealymouthed and terrified. That we have to preface everything with six disclaimers and warnings and that we think doing so makes us "warriors." I mean, they derisively call us warriors because they think we can't actually fight and stick to tumblr.

We have to change this perception.

I don't know how.

Because the other side is led by a man who isn't afraid to say anything and never apologizes. And people respond to that perceived frankness, despite most of it being dishonest, let alone abusive and cruel.

Some folks are going to disagree with this. I'm not talking about changing our ideals. But they've painted us as weak-willed cowards and we need to flip the script on them.

You see these fools making ungrammatical declarations in all caps and you respond with kindness and they laugh. How do you overcome that? It seems impossible, and it kind of can be.

I don't know how to fix our public perception. But it's crucial to actually achieving success on such social issues.

I am not at all saying we're more cowardly than they are. Indeed quite the opposite. But are painted that way and we need to (metaphorically) plant our feet and address the crowd with no disclaimers while holding true to our ideals.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Bad Teacher, Good Teacher

I don't know if I was ever truly a bad teacher. 

I have taught classes badly.

I have been an unprepared teacher.

I have been a distracted or unfocused teacher.

I have been a teacher relatively lacking in experience and/or knowledge, especially before I went back to school.

But, and maybe it's just relative youth, I've never not wanted to help my students, whether they were 5 or 85.

But I wasn't great, once upon a time. And sometimes I look back to that and I feel bad that I didn't teach them the way I teach my students now.

It's a shame, because this happens a lot here in the States. We send our least experienced teachers to the most difficult areas, and most of them either leave the area or the profession as soon as they can because they aren't supported.

I think about myself, teaching in a cushy life in South Korea, and how, had I been in Teach for America instead, I would have had a bit more guidance but still would have been prone to only sleeping a few hours before class (because 21 year olds are stupid). I also had dumb and immature beliefs about class and gender back then, and I wonder how they might have diminished my abilities with kids from struggling communities.

This all could have gone differently, too. My plan, upon leaving Korea, was to enter Teaching Fellows, but I was rejected, and then applied to the grad school program I got into. I'm not sure I'd still be a teacher if I had gone that way.

It's really a shame, because most teachers don't get the chances I did to figure out what kind of classroom leader they are without the pressures of an inner city classroom with zero budget.

It's at the point, now, where I stride to the front of the room, plant my feet, engage every student, and I am afraid of nothing. I've had a lot, a lot of fears in my life, some silly, some justified, but put me in front of a class of students who are, at the very least, more than zero percent engaged, and I'm not scared. I don't care what I look like or what my voice sounds like. I know I know what I'm doing.

It's been nine years since this started. I probably won't be the same teacher 30 years from now. But I do know that, in some fashion, I'll be standing in front of a classroom at least some of the time, because although I stumbled into it out of desperation when college ended, I'm flying now.

Would that everyone could feel that strength after searching for it for so long.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

31

When things are going well, it all feels like everything has led to it, so it's clearly a cognitive bias.

With that said, I think, often, about how my parents, either deliberately or just because that's who they are, raised me to be stubborn and independent yet not self-destructive (most of the time). So I refused to learn to write clearly, or take certain careers. And this is all something my parents gave me, the option to choose to do my own thing, even before I knew what it was.

I happen to recently have figured out what it was, but it's clear that in all the time beforehand, I was just searching, and I felt lost and confused until I ran myself into being a new person and my skills and talents were clear.

You've heard the story before. But when I think of this year, and moving father into my 30s, it's finding the ways to enhance my skills and enjoy my life and create as good of one as I can for the people around me.

Onward to another year then.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Subway Stories

You know, I really wish the MTA wasn't run by incompetent and greedy asshats, because what an amazing system we could have otherwise.

As most of you know, I've been to all 472 stations in the system, plus the SI railway for completest purposes. I dressed up as the R train for Halloween in kindergarten. And I am often thrilled to take a route I rarely see.

Other systems are cleaner, faster and more reliable. Truthfully, the most unique thing about the system (the fact that it never stops running) is what is holding it back. Because we expect a 24/7 system, when they try to shut it down to do the needed work, we get really upset (as we depend on it). Witness the people who complain about weekend construction and then about the delays caused by the things they need to fix on those weekends.

And it's going to get worse unless they finally just fill the streets with buses and shut down station after station until they fix all the signals. Tax the drivers to get the revenue. Fuck cars.

I really really hate cars, you guys. The thing we stupid Americans love about cars (control!) is why cars will ultimately kill you. Stop driving. It is dumb.

But I wanted to write about three delightful things I saw.

The first was yesterday. It was crowded, and a guy started yelling about being pushed. Older guy, white, late 50s, deep voice. A black guy starts yelling at him to shut up. Looks like it might escalate. I try to ignore it.

By the next station, they're having a chat about city politics and policies and smiling. If these people were driving, they'd've cursed at each other and left it at that.

Today, on the way to work, a young woman was very clearly watching a J-pop or K-pop video on her phone and practicing the moves from the video while looking at her reflection in the door window. It was amusing. She stopped once she noticed people could see her (what did you think?) but I like the enthusiasm.

And then finally, I switched trains, and the conductor on the A train said we had reached "High Street. The first stop in the borough of Brooklyn!" And he was just excited!

I really hate the isolation of cars, and the danger, and the fact that you can't read. And the fact that, if there's traffic, you might be stuck there for an hour (rather than the usual 15-20 minute delays on the subway).

The MTA is stupid. And needs a ton of work. But subways, at their best, are so so much better for the world, and for this city, than cars. And you should just take me out to pasture if a car is ever my primary mode of transportation, because it will mean I've given up on life.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Acting

Everyone, everywhere, is performing, to some extent. But I want to be specific here and outline a difference between acting and performing.

I used to act, quite literally. In high school and in the beginning of college, I was in shows. I thought I was pretty good, and indeed one of my directors, when I ran into him in NYC a bit later, said to keep going. "You've got something," he said.

But I'm not a very good actor. By this I mean pretending to be something I'm not. I am a terrible chameleon. Whatever Daniel Day-Lewis is, I'm the opposite of it. I can try to be things I'm not - and we all do, from time to time - but I'm awful at it.

I am thinking about this because, as reunion the 10th approaches (well, already started but I'll be there tonight - omg), I reflect on why I rubbed so many people the wrong way when I first got there. And it's because I was trying to be someone I wasn't. I've said this before, but it makes more sense to me now as I realize how terrible of an actor I am.

I mentioned performing before. It turns out, I'm an excellent performer. When I bring myself into my performances, I excel. The audience goes with me. It always works when I find a way to believe in what I'm selling and my zeal is visibly genuine and effective.

I don't want to diss cheerleading, which is very hard. But I think, much of the time, a lot of cheerleaders are probably acting, in that they might not really care that much about the team on a given night. And that's their job, so they do it well. I could never (aside from not being fit or pretty enough, lol). I am terrible at selling things I don't believe in. 

That's not entirely true. I can role-play just fine. When I have my students practice, I can pretend to be an angry client and I'm funny. But it only works in the context of a larger whole. I couldn't actually convince someone I was a single father trying to figure out his child support.

When I got to college, I was 17, confused, and scared. I should have asked for advice, but didn't have any slightly older friends to lean on the way I should have. So I guessed that being some sort of boastful Stifler guy was what would work. I should have waited around for the 4th American Pie movie, where it turns out Stifler is basically unemployable and nobody ever wants to spend time with him and everything is really sad. People don't like guys like that, especially if, despite also being scared teenagers, they can tell you're putting it on.

But it was acting. And I finally stopped acting, in college, when I joined TFC, where I could just be an overly excited dork all the time.

Over the years I grew and matured and focused, and my actual skills emerged. And now, in my career, as I set off to make a big presentation before going down to Princeton, I realize my greatest strength is the fact that I am a ball of genuine and unforced energy, and that it comes across when I teach or present or train. I never yell, and I've come to terms with my high-pitched voice and lack of stature, because I nevertheless have stage presence.

I hope that, tonight and tomorrow, I can finally relax and let the person I am in the classroom re-introduce himself to that campus instead of backsliding like I have before. I think it's high time I stopped acting around my classmates and that they get to know, even if only for a day, the guy who isn't a scared 17 year old anymore and can really command a room. 

I am sure they never thought I'd be this person, and neither did I. But while my director may have wanted me to continue acting, he wasn't wrong that to assert that I had "something." I just only recently figured out what that something is.

Hip... hip....

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

Threshold

You get so focused on pace, you forget that it's really about how you feel. Because your speed doing repeats will not translate quite precisely to a race.

In the winter, I was trying to avoid races where my stomach felt awful. So I think I shied away from puke-speed training. And I think that made all the difference.

I still am not at my fastest paces, but it's the offseason (as much as any time really is) and it's getting warmer. I want to cut my .6 mile (it's a weird length loop) time from the 3:23 it is now (so, about 2:48-2:49 800s) to 3:12 (2:39-2:40) by October. Mind you, my best work on the track has always been against teammates, and this is alone, so I'm bound to be a bit slow until I get it back.

But today, on the last repeat, I had to stop and take deep breaths to hold my banana down when I finished. And I realized, if I can go back to doing this every week, plus hill repeats, my form will return, and my comfort with discomfort will as well. And I'll be back.

And now, to mess it all up with Reunions tomorrow. 

But all signs are positive.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality

A Decade

Going to your 10th college reunion is a thing, for sure. Milestones are "supposed" to have happened. And it's sort of a way to "check in" with people you knew, people you loved, people you hated.

But for me, as you can imagine, it's all of that plus a way to check in with myself.

2007 Justin was a lot of things. Angry, lonely, confused. But most of all, he was scared.

He knew that trying to become a consultant without the drive and/or natural skill for it would be a disaster so he decided to avoid that. And he'd spend most of a decade trying to find a mix of lucrative and fulfilling that only privileged people can search for.

But he was so scared. He was scared that, with many of his friends being from later years on campus, he'd be forgotten.

He was scared that he'd never make friends as an adult (it's hard!). 

He was scared he'd never meet someone who wanted to spend their life with him.

He was so scared he never even really thought far into the future because too many unpleasant things could have occurred that far off.

When I walked through the gates in early June of 2007, I was underwhelmed. It had all led to a commencement where we tried to dodge raindrops. And then I had a diploma and it was over. I did a lot of silly poses like I always did, but it's so obvious to me how much of my persona from college was a put on that I can't believe more people didn't see it at the time.

I've talked about my Captain Blastin alter ego before. He came out to try and defend me and make me more confident. And I needed him back then, just to avoid curling into a ball and giving up.

He wouldn't have believed that I'd be at my best when I was concise and understated. He only knew bombast. But it wasn't his fault. The adult Justin who teaches at a high level simply didn't exist yet.

The Stifler-like alter ego I had wasn't always nice to people. And I've long been worried that that was my most accurate self. But I realize now I was trying to play a role I thought others wanted me to play. And it took Terrace, and friends, and years and years of time, to realize it was okay to take a breath and be the person people actually respect these days.

I get mad thinking about how people didn't treat me very well socially a decade ago. And some of it was entirely not my fault. But I realize now, had I had the strength to be who I am now, a lot more folks would have warmed to me in college, the way more of my classmates speak to me now than they ever did.

It's all very weird, and emotional for me. My life is great and I sort of feel weird that it's great, because everything told me that it wasn't going to be this way ten years ago. 

It's been a long time. I want to continue to grow in the next decade the way that I have in the previous one. And I hope to keep coming back and showing that the person I was too scared to be in 2007 is the person I really am now.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality