NYC Half 2018

Pros: I finished second on the team. Yay.

Cons: If I had known I was only 30 seconds behind my teammate... oh man. Oh well.

Pros: Beautiful course! Truly! One of the best I've run in this city. Maybe the best!

Cons: Hard course! One of the hardest I've run in this city. Maybe the hardest!

Pros: I feel great! Truly!

Cons: I wish I was faster, truly. Only 10th fastest half out of 15.

Pros: You cracked your skull and strained your back. You're healthy and running!

Pros: And you only really slowed down because of 42nd street.

All in all I really good morning. I'm happy. It's been a good week.

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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

Getting Into School

(I can't write this without coming off privileged, but it's the life I've had.)

When I got into college, it was exciting, but it was basically a relief. It was something that had been built up over years and ultimately, because I applied early, I was just hoping I got in so I didn't have to apply to a bunch more schools. Our housekeeper called from our house to say there was a "large" package at home, and I delayed going home because I was so scared. Then I opened the envelope, and a map of Princeton fell out. And I knew I was in. 

I was kind of a middling high school student until the last two years, and so I was convinced I'd be rejected. I've always believed I was worse than I was. I called my parents (individually) and heard their pride, and it was a great moment, where success had not been inevitable but been achieved anyway.

There have been few moments that felt the same in my life.

***

When I got into my masters program (since I can no longer just say "grad school"), I was still living with my dad after Korea. I was actually coming back from my aunt's funeral, a sad experience where she had died far too young. I was sort of emotionally blank, and then I got the letter in the mail. It was nice, but I was in such a weird place that I didn't really get to think about it.

***

And then there was yesterday.

In January, I went to the open house for the Hunter EdD program, which lined up perfectly with my very specific goals (a part-time EdD program that was here in the city, reputable, and wouldn't explode my debt). I was told there that, after applying, we'd receive notification about interviews within a week. But it took two weeks, so when, at said interview, we were told we would find out our fates in the next two weeks, I assumed it might take three or four. That was Friday.

So when I got an email (21st century!) saying the result was available on the website (and I scrambled to figure out my password), I was shocked it had happened so quickly. And although I was still stressed, I can say honestly I didn't immediately think I would be receiving bad news. I never assumed success, but I wasn't full of fear. I was excited to read the news, and that could have been devastating - I really placed a lot on this emotionally - but it ended up being great.

I'm not the first in my extended family to attempt to acquire a doctorate - my great-uncle had a doctorate in education. My grandfather was an educator as well, and in a way I feel as though I am carrying on their tradition. But ultimately I'll be the first (that I'm directly related to) Dr. Gerald, and one day, I think I'll actually achieve the lofty dreams I've started to let myself really hope for in my career.

I've spent more than ten years fighting off guilt for running away from a financial career, and, before I met Alissa and got this much better current job, scowling when I saw classmates with outwardly impressive lives while I couldn't even afford a taxi home after a night out.

That's stupid, but it's the way I thought.

I think, finally, I can move on once and for all now. I think I can finally sit in my skin comfortably.

This is the last time I'll ever get into school (I hope, dear god I hope I don't do this again), and I think it's going to make all the difference.

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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

Social Comparison

I'm not about to break any news here, but most of us, even if we would prefer not to, compare ourselves to others in one way or another. Sometimes we do it by choice, or because of external factors (eg school rankings, quintiles, etc), and sometimes we do it without thinking about it, looking at instagram pictures and thinking about our own lives and what they might lack.

If you want to read up on social comparison theory, here's a summary of it.  But I write today to say it's something I've long fallen prey to, and I bet most of you have to.

I am committing to new practices not to get lost in measuring myself against others, but the question is: can you do the same? It's much easier said than done, and one's own brain chemistry sure makes it harder.

But when you feel yourself slipping, remind yourself of something good about yourself that doesn't have anything to do with being better than someone else.

Would I advocate turning off all social media? No. I'd say, though, if there's a particular person you often compare yourself to, maybe hide them. Or make it harder to see what they're doing it.

Or think about the fact that something is a challenge in their life, no matter what they are choosing to show the world.

We all have objectively good things about us, valuable things to cherish. It's lip service for me to say this when I have a tendency to compare like all of you, but it's still worth saying.

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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

Faster than Last Year

Yesterday I ran my first race since the fall where I actually felt strong.

 

My goal this year is simple enough: get back to Boston for 2020 and then never go to Boston again.

I have two marathons lined up in the fall. Sure it would be nice to PR, but mostly I just need to stay healthy, and get the right nutrition so I don't get sick during/before the race again.

Instead of fixating on those races, though, the goal is simple: be faster this year than you were last year, in every race.

I failed this goal immediately during my first race of the year, on Superbowl Sunday. But, I was coming off 3 weeks where I was unable to run more than half a mile without considerable pain.

Now that I can actually do both speed and distance work, it was good to see that I could equal my pace from last year. And it was particularly good to see that last year was the thick of marathon training and yet I, coming off an injury, did better this year.

If I don't hurt my back again (big if, but still) and train smart, I should be able to keep improving until the fall.

Not sure how the NYC half will go, but I approach it with excitement and confidence rather than my usual anxiety and trepidation. 

 

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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

Boredom and Anger

Do you write nine-page-long comments on social media? I was once one of you.

Sometime in 2013 or 2014, I mostly stopped doing this. It just lost its appeal.

I don't look down on people who do this.

But I know that for me, taking the time to full-on rant online meant I was either bored, or angry, or both.

I was really angry in my early twenties, for reasons I need not get into. I said a lot of mean stuff to displace that anger. And I think I spent way too much time on facebook just provoking people and ranting all day long.

I've calmed down. The world is still full of things that make a person angry. I don't begrudge anyone that.

But I try not to rant anymore. And it feels better.

I won't tell you what to do. I just know it was a change that was best for me.

The only time I get into arguments now is when white-guys-with-beards yell at me about Bernie. And frankly I'm kinda done paying attention to them. I actually have more pleasant conversations with Republicans.

Ranting rarely convinces anyone, I realized. And it doesn't make me feel better. So I stopped.

Peace and love,

Justin

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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

Erik Before Killmonger

I've been saying a lot of stuff on Facebook but I wanted to say something longer here. And no, this isn't really about my own life, before you wonder.

Spoilers aware, yo ho.

The thing about Erik Stevens is that, honestly, I think it shows how many black men are corroded by a lack of emotional support. 

Not everyone who suffers Erik's sort of tragedy goes on to devote their life to vengeance. Indeed, most people who lose parents in such a way are not out there becoming mercenaries and black ops soldiers.

Yet it's easy to draw a straight line from his pain, suffering and isolation to his barely contained rage.  Trauma always leaves victims in its wake. Cruelty and neglect always leave scars. Sometimes the scars can be healed, and sometimes they return to the surface when a person loses control. And then sometimes you're extremely controlled and organized, which I guess is how you become a supervillain.

There are oceans of black men who never receive the help they need to process and come to terms with their emotions. When you combine the toxic way men are socialized not to deal with (or really even have) emotions that aren't pride, lust and wrath - and then you add his clear natural abilities and decades of patience - you get a Killmonger. But even if you don't get a charismatic killer who is nonetheless worthy of empathy if not sympathy (and who is definitely wrong), you might just get what is in evidence every single day: unaddressed and unresolved black male trauma.

The movie also shows a man who is dealing with what might well be his first personal tragedy, the death of his own father. But, with the help of a massive support system and, well, the wealth of an entire nation, he might be okay. If you're Erik Stevens, however, when something life-shattering occurs, the next day, you just have to try to keep living. And for many, the only way to do that is to swallow what you feel, and hold it down until you can unleash it in one of the three acceptable male emotional outlets, unless someone can help you.

I don't write this personally at all, by the way, as I said above. Though I'm hardly a king, my life was much closer to T'Challa's than to Erik's. Plenty of loving, supportive relatives of all ages and genders. And if emotions can even sometimes be confusing and complex for me, I can't imagine what it's like to endure what someone like Erik did.

Look. It's a Marvel movie. And soon Thanos is going to be there and it's going to be stupid and whatever. But while Erik might have made the arguable point that, if there really was an African supercountry hiding from the world, it could have provided more help than it did, in reality, the help that was needed was for the little boy in Oakland.

Help the little boys and young men that you can. They aren't exactly likely to turn into supervillains if you don't, but a lot of them are probably suffering right now, even if they can't express it or even know that there's anything to express.

 

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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

For Granted

Runners are foolish, you know. 

This month has not been the first time I've been injured, and not even the first time I've stubbornly tried to power through an injury and made it worse.

And every time, when I start to become healthy again, I tell myself not to take the ability to train for granted, because it won't always be there.

And then, months pass in which I am healthy, and I do take it for granted.

My back is still very mildly sore and so I was about 10 seconds per mile slower than I usually am on this Thursday long-ish run. Still, this will be a 50 mile week without the aid of the ellptical or the bike, and by the time I come back from the trip next week, I should be ready to go with absolutely no restrictions.

But I need to remember this past month so that the next time I yank something or roll something I don't freak out and do something stupid.

Who am I kidding though? I will be stubborn next time, and I know it.

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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

10 out of 50

I know enough about myself to know I won't really retire young. Even if I somehow hit the lottery (figuratively) and make enough money that I could, I get bored far too easily. I get bored if I'm on vacation for more than ten days. And when I get bored, I get anxious, and that's just a mess.

However, I don't really want to work until the very moment I keel over. That doesn't sound fun.

This is of course a privileged thing to say - to have this choice at all - but, oh well.

Fact is, I hope to stay healthy and mobile long enough to be spry into my early 70s. No matter what it is I'm doing - maybe it's still some version of classroom work, if classrooms still exist - I think I want to be able to say I had a 50 year career.

I've been thinking about this lately because my adult career started in February of 2008, when I got on a 1:30 am flight from JFK and flew across the Pacific Ocean to Incheon airport. I made the best of it, had my fair share of parties and long nights out, but I was scared and lonely most of the time I was over there. And although I stayed a second year, I knew I needed to come home to my city and work for and with the people who live here. I miss those Korean kids, though (well, they're adults now, as I can see on facebook).

This first decade - and I'm not pretending my career is long - can be broken down into three parts, really. The Korea part, where I really could have just stayed without much effort, the volatile underemployed part when I first came back home and blamed myself daily for leaving an easier situation (and absolutely did not take care of myself), and then the last five years, when I got myself on a more stable track.

We shall see what happens with my application to school next month, and a lot of the next decade surely depends on how that goes. But although I'm hardly living the life of some of my college classmates - things I shouldn't think about, but you and I both know we do when we see people - I'm actually at a point where, if you had told me this when I got on that plane to Seoul, I would have actually been happily surprised, and that's something I'm fortunate to be able to say.

I think about that time a lot these days, especially as facebook reminds me of 2008. I really needed to leave to, cliche alert, find myself, but all I did in Korea was realize that my best self was to be found right here in NYC. I'm lucky I never put myself into credit card debt when I easily could have, and I'm glad I started taking care of my body at 25 instead of waking up and being an unhealthy 40 (and that, of course, I wasn't struck by an illness out of my control).

There's no guarantees here. The next ten years could always end in catastrophe. But I think, by 2028, the years I spent unable to keep my feet firmly on the ground in my mid-20s will have receded into the background. And hopefully I'll be able to say, to a family that has grown, that I'm still proud of all I've done, and all I will still have yet to do.

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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

Grammys and Color

So the Grammys are tomorrow. And for the first time in I don't know how long, the Album of the Year category has nary a white man. In fact, the only artist who isn't a person of color is Lorde. And it seems set up for Lorde to win and people to get upset, but of all artists, this isn't late-period Beck or Steely Dan: Lorde is really good. That said, she shouldn't win.

It's been a decade since an artist of color won AotY, and that was late-period Herbie Hancock. Hancock is a legend, too, but that's not exactly contemporary urban music. So what I'm going to do is go over the last 20 years, list the winner and the other nominees, and decide if a contemporary urban artist should have won, based entirely on my own opinion. I'm not getting into other albums released that year that should have been nominated because I don't have that much time.  The Grammys get one point for correctly choosing a contemporary urban artist, they lose one for choosing some out of touch album when a hip-hop/R+B etc album was nominated and better, and they stay neutral if one wasn't nominated and better.

1998 (the year listed is the year of the show, so it'll be 1998-2017:

Winner:

Bob Dylan, Time out of Mind

Other nominees: 

The Day – Babyface

This Fire – Paula Cole

Flaming Pie – Paul McCartney

OK Computer – Radiohead

Verdict: uhhhhhh what were they nominating back then? I guess Radiohead should have won. So, no, no, that's a nope. Score: Zero.

1999:

Winner: 

Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Nominees: YOU DON'T NEED ANY OTHER NOMINEES THEY GOT THIS RIGHT.

Score: One point.

2000: 

Winner:

Santana - Supernatural

Nominees:

Millennium – Backstreet Boys

Fly – Dixie Chicks

When I Look in Your Eyes – Diana Krall

FanMail – TLC

Verdict: uhhhh. My god. Look, Satana tied Michael Jackson's single ceremony record with 8 wins that night, and sold like a jillion records. And that is hardly TLC at their best. So... yeah, no. Score: Still one point.

2001 (aka the year I started paying attention, oh boy):

Winner:

Steely Dan - Two Against Nature

Nominees:

Midnite Vultures – Beck

The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem

Kid A – Radiohead

You're the One – Paul Simon

Verdict: You know what I'm going to say. Radiohead would have been fine, but no, the Marshall Mathers LP should have won. Come on now.

Score: Back to zero points.

2002:

Winner:

Various Artists - O Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack

Nominees:

Acoustic Soul – India.Arie

Love and Theft – Bob Dylan

Stankonia – OutKast

All That You Can't Leave Behind – U2

Verdict: Oh man, this is the most Grammy thing ever. A random bluegrass soundtrack from a movie that was more than a year old. Either India.Arie (what happened to her?) or OutKast should have taken that, though OutKast got theirs later, so.

Score: -1.

2003:

Winner:

Norah Jones - Come Away With Me

Nominees:

Home – Dixie Chicks

The Eminem Show – Eminem

Nellyville – Nelly

The Rising – Bruce Springsteen

Verdict: That Norah Jones thing didn't last very long, did it? She's actually an artist of color (her dad is south Asian music legend), but boy was that not contemporary music, and they love that. As for the choices? Nelly? ehhhhhhh 

If I'm being honest, this isn't really a bad choice. I'm being an Eminem stan, of course that's wrong. But I'll let them have this one. They'll lose more points later.

Score: Still -1

2004:

Winner:

OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Nominees:

Nope, they got it right. Good job. Though you and I both know they won because Andre 3000 likes to experiment, not because Big Boi is awesome too.

Score: Zero.

2005:

Winner:

Ray Charles - Genius Loves Company

Nominees:

American Idiot – Green Day

The Diary of Alicia Keys – Alicia Keys

Confessions – Usher

The College Dropout – Kanye West

Verdict: Charles had died, and they had recorded "duets" with his voice. Of course the Grammys love that nonsense. They had so many choices here. Kanye was the best, as he will be again on this list.

Score: Back to -1.

2006:

Winner: 

U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

Nominees:

The Emancipation of Mimi – Mariah Carey

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard – Paul McCartney

Love. Angel. Music. Baby. – Gwen Stefani

Late Registration – Kanye West

Verdict: Do the Grammys know they actually HAVE a lifetime achievement award? They don't have to give competitive awards as such. Here's Kanye again, and a legit very good Mariah album. There's a lot of hip hop on that Stefani album too. Bad, bad choice.

Score: -2

2007:

Winner:

Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way

Nominees:

St. Elsewhere – Gnarls Barkley

Continuum – John Mayer

Stadium Arcadium – Red Hot Chili Peppers

FutureSex/LoveSounds – Justin Timberlake

Verdict: Oh man. I'm torn. Cee-Lo Green and JT are jerkholes, but those are great albums. On the other hand, the Dixie Chicks had their lives threatened and made a great album out of it. I can't fight with that.

Score: Still -2

2008:

Winner:

Herbie Hancock - River: The Joni Letters

Nominees:

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – Foo Fighters

These Days – Vince Gill

Graduation – Kanye West

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Verdict: It's Kanye again, for the third time. Sigh. Though knowing what we know now, Amy (whose music was def urban) should have won. Fail.

Score: -3.

2009:

Winner:

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand

Nominees:

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends – Coldplay

Year of the Gentleman – Ne-Yo

In Rainbows – Radiohead

Tha Carter III – Lil Wayne

Verdict: What a barf of a nominee list. Frankly it should have been Radiohead. But their choice was SOOO out of touch that, yeah, even Ne-Yo was better.

Score: -4.

2010:

Winner:

Taylor Swift - Fearless

Nominees:

I Am... Sasha Fierce – Beyoncé

The E.N.D. – The Black Eyed Peas

The Fame – Lady Gaga

Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King – Dave Matthews Band

Verdict: Here's this damn girl. Sigh. But Kanye was right (at a different awards show), Beyonce should have won. Because of course.

Score: -5.

2011:

Winner:

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Nominees:

Recovery – Eminem

Need You Now – Lady Antebellum

The Fame Monster – Lady Gaga

Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

Verdict: Honestly, that Katy Perry album might be the best one. But I really like The Suburbs and Arcade Fire. I'm okay with this.

Score: Still -5.

2012:

Winner:

Adele - 21

Nominees:

Wasting Light – Foo Fighters

Born This Way – Lady Gaga

Doo-Wops & Hooligans – Bruno Mars

Loud – Rihanna

Verdict: I didn't realize Lady Gaga had lost this three times, too. Uh, yeah, 21 is a really great album. It's way better than 25, which we'll get to.

Score: Still -5.

2013:

Winner:

Mumford and Sons - Babel

Nominees:

El Camino – The Black Keys

Some Nights – fun.

Channel Orange – Frank Ocean

Blunderbuss – Jack White

Verdict: I don't like Frank Ocean's own music that much (and his performance was terrible), but everything is better than Mumford. So is fun.

Score: -6

2014:

Winner:

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Nominees:

The Blessed Unrest – Sara Bareilles

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – Kendrick Lamar

The Heist – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Red – Taylor Swift

Verdict: Oh man. Oh man. Daft Punk is awesome. I'm sorry Kendrick. That album bumps too hard.

Score: Still -6.

2015:

Winner:

Beck - Morning Phase

Nominees:

Beyoncé – Beyoncé

x – Ed Sheeran

Girl – Pharrell Williams

In the Lonely Hour – Sam Smith

Verdict: So grammy. SOOO grammy. Beyonce, of course.

Score: -7.

2016:

Winner:

Taylor Swift - 1989

Nominees:

Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes

To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

Traveller – Chris Stapleton

Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weeknd

Verdict: This was the acceptance speech where Taylor ruined her image by lying because Kim K had those receipts. hahahaha. Anyway, yeah, nope, nope, nope.

Score: -8.

2017:

Winner:

Adele - 25

Nominees:

Lemonade – Beyoncé

Purpose – Justin Bieber

Views – Drake

A Sailor's Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

Verdict: Even Adele thought Beyonce should have won.

Score: - 9.

So, in 20 years, the grammys have given the top award to a hip hop/r and b record twice. There were a few times when hip hop and r and b didn't deserve to win, and then 11 times they should have given it to them but didn't. That's not a good omen for tomorrow. Beyonce, Eminem, Kanye and Kendrick will be fine, they have like 20 grammys each (well, Kendrick will someday). But maybe tomorrow can buck their stupid trend.

And of course, if anyone, it'll be Jay-Z, who is now the U2 of rap (except his album was good).

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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

Middle Goals

If I'm going to get back to where I want to be as a runner, I need to hit my middle goals. That's the shorter races, distances 10k to half, where I run well and don't fade. 

Last year, I should have known the marathon would fail after all my build-up races didn't go well. Yes, it was hot and/or humid for those, but still, at my best, I'd've done much better.

And I should have known this was the case for all of last year, since I only rarely held a strong pace even in the shortest races.

This is not foolproof, as my precursor races for Boston 2016 went great and then... that happened. But I truly think that that was just not being mentally able to deal with having to run slower because of the weather. Won't happen again if I can make it back to Boston for 2020.

So, the 60 mile weeks and the quality workouts now are important. Every week has a few longer runs and bridges plus two examples of intervals (bridges were cut a bit short today as I was sore), so I expect the shorter races to go well enough to give me the push to the big ones in the fall.

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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