Both Worlds

Come to think of it, growing up, I didn't have a single friend (or relative) who was white, religious, and not Jewish.

Of course, this group of people is the majority of the country. So when I remark that groups of people don't have any minorities in them, I suppose it's because my world was almost entirely comprised of (religious and/or racial) minorities.

I have many such friends/acquiantances/relatives now. Indeed I'm married into a Catholic family.

My point is to reflect, though, not to condemn. The fact is, when you raise a child, you want to be comfortable and you want them to be comfortable. And if you manage to do that, you've done a good job.

And in certain places, you have no choice. You live in Vermont, you're only gonna know white people. You live in certain parts of Texas, Hispanic people, and so on.

But this is NYC. It's very hard not to come in contact with people who are different from you. Yet many groups are very homogenous.

I will admit I sort of thought I was "better" than groups of white people with no friends of color. "Oh you, you emotionally lazy people. Look upon my Captain Planet group of friends and bow down to my awesomeness."

I kinda still think that, I guess. A little.

But anyway, it occurs to me that you bond with whoever you bond with. And most of the time those people are both near you and similar to you. And even in and around NYC, that means people who resemble you in some way.

I used to think this was the cause of much racism. And it certainly doesn't help. But if I can not hate Trans folks without actually having any close Trans friends (I just happen not to have any), I should probably (mentally) shut up about who people are friends with.

My parents had interesting views on my socializing with people of color. My mom insisted (not to me, but it was implied) I know some black people since my school was so white (four black kids in my 78 person graduating class, which isn't actually THAT bad for the era, sadly). So she enrolled me in Jack and Jill.

But on the other hand, when college came around, my dad, an HBCU grad, wanted me to apply to his alma mater and similar schools and my mom said I should focus on the Ivies, which would be a cocky thing to say if I wasn't actually good enough to get in, but obviously I did.

Jack and Jill helped me a lot. I was able to go and dance with women after their parties (and with rhythm!). But then I got to college and shrank away from the BSU because I didn't want to ONLY have friends of color. (These worries were unfounded, but 17 year olds are dumb.)

I've always wanted to do things My Way, like a little nerdy Sinatra. It's why I ran away to Korea instead of Wall Street, why I was determined to support myself in NYC as an adult educator (not easy!), why I ran every day for two years straight until I burned out. But, the fact is, I ended up, now, with a group of close friends that really wouldn't look out of place in Captain Planet.

This is all coming to the fore because I overthink things, and, many years from now (well, 4 is the plan), we might move to a suburb of the city (ew). And I realize my anxiety about that is because it's a homogenous environment and that scares me. Yet if I bury my head in the sand and force my hypothetical child to live the way I did because it's comfortable for me, I could miss out on hundreds of thousands of savings in not paying for certain types of education I would be inclined to look for here in the city, and I probably wouldn't ever be able to own a home. Just so I can feel good.

And of course, if I ever do have any political goals, I need to be able to relate to the majority, with which I still have limited experience. I only hope, if I do create a child someday, I am able to give them the experience I had and also the experience everyone else has, and show them both worlds that live right next to each other but often don't speak. I just hope my kid, if he or she exists some day, is close to people of every color and faith (or non-faith), but I suppose, I must admit, that means the majority as well.

Comment

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

So what is the new version of spite?

I started running out of desperation. I was unhappy, broke, lonely, and wanted to do something amazing like run a marathon.

In that first year, I was, indeed, broke, and miserable, and unable to keep up with the faster group, and frequently injured as well. Then the race was cancelled and I vowed to outrun the faster group because, in my head, they had shunned me like people I knew in adolescence.

In trying to keep up with them, I also got a better job and was able to afford real shoes and took running seriously. And then I got a lot faster.

Yes, there's talent there. And yes, training itself was a lot of it. But the fact is, I got fast, for the first time, out of spite. I also lost weight after Korea out of spite. Spite was fuel. And it still is, sometimes. I became a better student in my last semester of grad school to prove some folks wrong. And I did. I'm pretty good at it.

So then in 2014, it was all joy. I ran through trauma and enjoyed every race.

And then, in 2015, I wondered if I'd stay motivated, and I joined Hellgate, and joining the team made me finally feel like I belonged, so that was its own fire.

And then, finally, last year I got married, planned and held a big wedding, and acquired a new, big boy professional job which allowed us to move into a new place this winter and really plan for the future.

And now I'm slow (relatively) again. Yes, I am a bit worn out and can rest. But what if I just need a new fire?

What if all I really need is the 2017 version of spite or the new team joy? What will it be?

My life is great. I ran to make my lonely life better. I ran faster to spite people. I ran even faster to prove to my team I was worthy of their respect.

And now what? What's that fire?

If I just run for fun, I will run okay races, and keep doing that, for years. And that's not bad.

But I think I know, about myself, that to get to that next level, to get to that two sub 3 marathons in 3 weeks level, something really has to be driving me. And I realize, I don't care that much about getting to 2:56:24. Not enough to have a less fun life.

And I'm respected, in my field, in my job, in my personal life. If I were to go up to a stranger in a social sphere, I wouldn't fear they'd want me to go away the way I used to. I no longer work where it's crazy if I wear a suit. And we spent an hour yesterday comparing credit card point benefit plans.

Do I need to find something wrong, some hole to fill, to become blazing fast again?

Other happy people run well. What would it take to get high off the happy fumes and use that to push me the way the spite used to?

I wondered this before, in late 2014, and then I joined the team. But now, I'm an entrenched member of the team, I'm a relatively consistent performer, and the rest of my life is much better.

I think I'll use my own studies on behavioral design to try to tap into my motivation. Because if it was just as simple as "run harder," it wouldn't be very hard, now, would it?

I'm determined to unlock this key. Stay tuned.

Comment

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

Hangover

I used to laugh at pitchers who would have a large increase in innings from one season to the next and then pitch poorly the following year. You're being paid millions! Find a way to recover in the several months you have off!

Buuut I think that's what's happening to me.

You know, I started racing because I had a bit more money and I wanted to get faster and better. And then I started my streak because I wanted to stay motivated during the winter. And, somehow, I kept it going through amazing PRs, two sub 3s in 3 weeks, and it looked like I could accomplish just about anything.

And now I'm wondering if I'll ever be that fast again.

By the end of the streak, I was running on fumes, and although I did well in the Bronx last September, every other time I tried to run hard for more than 10 miles I fell apart at the end.

I took a tiny bit of time off in the fall, then went away in January and worked my way back in. But I really DOVE back in, because that's how I am. I moved, started a new job, and started training all in the same two day period. And honestly, I think my legs have been tired since last summer. Only a few times have I gone out there and felt light and fast. Yeah, I'm still doing better than my first racing year in 2014, but I'm running more or less as well as I currently can and it's not enough to challenge my best, and I'm not injured at all. I'm not lifting too much or anything like that, and I didn't miss a single workout all winter. But my legs are dead.

So we come back to pitchers. And sometimes they have a "dead arm," which I, again, always thought was a dumb cop out.

And I still occasionally manage something good. In the seven races I've run this year, I've had one solid PR, and one fairly good half, and five that were disappointing.

I wonder how I even got to the speed I was not even very long ago, where I could reel off 6:06 miles in the middle of a half and not suffer for it.

And the only thing I can think is that, like a pitcher who holds it together long enough to pitch deep into October, I had the energy to excel for most of the streak, but as it ended, and even since then, I'm still looking for that spark of life I had for two and a half years.

I just don't know how to get it back. I'm going to take a full six days off this time to see if I can reset the console here and then go for a long no pressure run Saturday and feel that energy that carried me to three marathons in six weeks not too long ago.

But yeah, sorry pitchers. I know how you feel now.

I have done a lot of silly things to prove things to myself emotionally over the years. I wanted to prove I could excel during the streak, and I did that. But can I excel after it?

It remains to be seen.

Comment

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 Brooklyn Half Marathon

Time: 1:25:something

How was it? Eh. I wanted to be faster. But I realize, my best halves have come in the middle of marathon training OR with half marathon specific training. This time, I half-recovered from this race and then half-trained (for a half, lol). And yeah, didn't have light legs. 

Staten Island will be better, mid-training. The September races should be great. And Club Champs should be good too, as I will have started training again by then.

Queens next month? Eh. We'll see. 

I want to do better for the team. But I need to crack the code, the ideal volume for me without burning out. And how the hell did I run every single day and run three marathons in six weeks in 2015?

2015 Justin, I salute you.

Comment

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

This City!

Today I woke up, ran on a sturdy old bridge, took a subway from one borough under another, saw a celebrity, taught my class and walked around a glistening neighborhood that has completely changed from its ugly industrial past, walked to a park that didn't exist when I was a kid, picked up my bib for a race, then took a ferry most of the way home which literally didn't exist until this year (and walked through another shiny neighborhood to take the subway to my own shiny area).

There may yet come a time when I leave the city proper, if real estate becomes possible. I'll be sad but I'll always work here and spend much of my time here.

But today, even though it was too hot, I saw what all the developers wanted me to see. And it really is nice.

On the flipside, how many people can have a nice life here? Not many, not most. I am very lucky, to no longer walk through neighborhoods bitterly like I did in 2014 but to count myself among them.

I can never take this for granted. 

This is what I always wanted when I came home from Korea: to have a nice life here in my city. I don't mean this fatalistically, but today was a "now I can die in peace" sort of day.

I wish this for everyone I care about. And boy am I glad I no longer spend any time on the Upper East Side.

Comment

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

Simple Minds

I remember the first time I said this out loud. It was 2007, and I graduated college and set up a message thread with my best college friends before leaving the continent.

It was a whole lot of stuff to do to go to Korea - including FBI fingerprinting - so I never sat down and thought about things.

But I finally said, before I left, that I was scared my friends would forget about me.

I went to Korea, and I made a few good friends but mostly met drinking buddies. And I remember some distinct moments in those two years. First, when I came home for two weeks and my not-super-close friends were all excited to see me. And then, when I was in Korea and anytime I saw people I hadn't seen in a while, people were hyped.

I think a lot of people in that Korean life were as lonely as I was (I don't really mean romantically, though that was sometimes true). I was around people all the time. But I was still always searching.

And I think, ever since I was six or so, I just didn't want to be forgotten or excluded or ignored.

I'm not sure what the emotion is, that guides all of it. Those are all related feelings. I still feel this when I go back to Princeton - I mentally puff up my chest because I hope people remember only the best parts of me when I know how difficult college was for me emotionally. (It doesn't happen at Terrace, of course.)

That feeling of recognition, that you had a positive impact on someone at some point, is why I teach. I love to learn, and to share, and to stand in front of folks, obviously. But it's not so much being there that I love - it's coming back and having them remember what I once did.

Maybe this is dumb. I'm just telling the truth. It's a weak spot of mine - I turn into an emotional turtle when I feel ignored or forgotten by someone I expect will care.

But that's why the site has my name on it. Because it's the truth.

At least I can anticipate this. But at the moment it caught me off guard, so I wrote about it. 

Thanks for reading, as always. I never feel forgotten when I write here.

Comment

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

Get To

So in my job now, we take turns teaching/presenting the material. And it's dense, technical material. It is not the type of thing I taught for the last nine years, although I do have some students whose first language isn't English.

The point is, it's not what I ever would have expected to be teaching.

But, after my first time doing it, it's remarkable how much I look forward to every time I get to stand in front of the class and help them learn.

This is something I GET to do! It's a blessing and it's good fortune. And somehow I am paid a solid salary for it.

I always loved teaching, even for organizations that were either poorly run or treated me poorly. But the rest of life was some sort of struggle because of choices I'd made, so it was the only salve I have.

Now, most days, I spring out of bed before dawn, run hard, leave for work earlier than I really have to, and wait until the moments I get to do my job.

I have gotten through life by finding exciting moments or milestones. But a whole job that's exciting? (Not perfect, of course, but exciting overall?)

I hope I never forget this feeling, because it's not something most get to experience.

 

Comment

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

Get Off My Lawn

The oldening, it is happening.

I have said before how much I hate the trend of wealthy techies/hipsters/bros who wear hoodies despite being rich.

Today I was on the subway, and, considering it was 8:15 am, there was no reason to be on that train unless you were going to work or school (or the airport, or something time-sensitive). I see this lady with ripped jeans (intentionally so) and I'm thinking, "Young lady! What occupation allows you to dress in such a manner?!?!"

And then I said, "Justin, don't police womens' choices. That's not nice."

But then I remembered my antipathy for men in hoodies at work, and I felt better that I wasn't looking down on a particular gender and am simply an old man.

Because at least it was always inevitable I'd become an old.

At my last job, things were more casual. Indeed, the people who dressed the way I do now stood out as the top brass. When I felt like wearing something formal, it got comments and questions (which made interviewing for this job hard...). Which is the formula there. I am grateful I had the freedom to dress down at a time in my life when I frankly couldn't afford nicer clothes.

But I'm definitely getting to where I feel like A Professional because of what I wear.

And yes, it's absolutely somewhat classist to think there are "proper" clothes. As I just said, I couldn't afford more formal clothes on my previous salaries, and I was hardly below the poverty line. I acknowledge these flaws before you point them out!

I am growing old, gray, and crotchety. Coupled with my lack of blind hatred for Wall Street, white college students would probably hate me.

That's okay. Just attempting to be honest. 

Comment

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

BE/PJ

My job has me studying behavioral economics and procedural justice to make presentations on them to (as is my job) city employees.

I'm not really going to go into them here (I will over time), as was made clear by posting a status this morning on which I looked out of my depth since my research is just beginning.

But I think, really, my talent is making things interesting to people when I speak. Conation, BE, PJ, it's not a list of things people really talk about or want to hear about, but they're all relevant and valuable and slightly off-center.

The TESOL conference is in Chicago next year, which is close enough that I will go even if I don't present.

I have limited time to submit a proposal. But I want to really dive into these concepts and use them to help other educators reach their students, or administrators help their programs.

I think both can go a long way towards increasing motivation, student retention, and persistence. I really give less than a single butt about the economic impact of the subjects, to be clear. But I think it really has applications for adult education and I hope to put these into practice.

(If you want definitions:

Behavioral Economics - "a method of economic analysis that applies psychological insights into human behavior to explain economic decision-making.

"behavioral economics helps explain why people under-save for retirement"

Procedual Justice - "Procedural justice is the idea of fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocate resources. "

Or, that people end up caring more about perceived fairness than actual outcomes.)

 

I hope you can see how this would have applications to education, especially for adults. But it's my goal to make that case, and I absolutely will.

Comment

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 Way In

So when I talk to people in a cocktail party/networking sense these days, all of the sudden people find what I do to be endlessly fascinating.

Perhaps because it's unusual and something they haven't heard of. I sure hadn't heard of it before my wife sent me the link.

But I think it's also delivery, and the way I explain it. Delivery is vital, and will transform something seemingly dull into the most fascinating subject. Honestly, that's my job, in a nutshell, and it's a skill that can carry you far.

A lot of folks think the best way to talk about something that "seems" boring is to lampshade it and say things like, "Hey, I know this is dull but we have to get through it." NO.

After teaching, among other things, grammar for 9 years, despite it not exactly being my favorite thing to teach, the absolute key is finding a way in for yourself as a trainer/facilitator/instructor/teacher/educator (the last word is the best one). If you can find a way to sink your own teeth in and then turn around and find a way to entice others to do the same, you win every time.

Find your own style, but it's all about energy. I don't mean volume, although I'm pretty loud. I mean if it's clear you have found a connection between yourself and the material and you can help build that connection for your audience, they'll go right along with you.

To bring it back to my original point, now when I talk about my work, I think, although I don't have a traditionally sexy job like, I dunno, CEO of a startup (which some of the people I talk to have done), without even really trying to do so, I explain my work in a way that makes it seem revelatory (which it is, to me).

Last night, someone asked me if my new job was stressful. I said no. It isn't. It's harder work, and more work, but I leave work the good kind of tired. I spent this past week instructing all day long, to students I'd mostly never met (and therefore had to build a rapport immediately), and at the end of each day, I went home satisfied.

I am very lucky to have this experience, not just because I like teaching (that's always been true), but because I think this really turns the corner to any other subject I may end up having to teach. 

If you can find a way in yourself, and convey that clearly and confidently, your audience will eat it up.

Sorry I've written less - I've been busy and of course the marathon is over so there isn't much to say about running until the next race in late May.

Things are good. And exciting.

Comment

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