I’m tired, man.

I knew, as a kid - we all know deep down - that things weren’t really fair for me. That it wasn’t right that, when I wasn’t with family, I was almost always the only black body present.

I knew the little jokes people made, the things my classmates said, the history teacher who was usually very kind except that one time, I knew it wasn’t okay. But I didn’t have the strength to be the only person speaking up.

My dad always told me to be vigilant in looking out for racism and white supremacy. I nodded but I never really did it. Everyone else said they weren’t racist so I believed them. Maybe because they saw me as one of the good ones, right? So when people said affirmative action was problematic but that it was okay for me because I was smart, what did it really imply? Or when I was told, however many times over, that my (very safe) neighborhood was too far for people to travel to, what did it really mean?

I started speaking up a little in college. But even then I was in denial. I didn’t join any of the many welcoming black groups because I was still determined to be accepted by “them.”

They’ll never really accept us, though, unless we smooth out every single rough edge, and even then they’ll still laugh at you for having different cultural markers.

But then there’s the other part, which is that we had some money. Not as much as my classmates, but my life wasn’t hardscrabble. We went on great trips. I got to ride an elephant in Zimbabwe. I went to study French in France. So what did racism matter?

To come to terms with the fact that white supremacy doesn’t care how much money you have is to just get so bone tired it’s hard to bother to care. It would be a lot easier to go back to how I used to be and pretend the thousand cuts weren’t making me bleed out.

Yet here I am, committed, once and for all, to focusing on race and racism and white supremacy within a subset of education, within a field (ELT) that I stumbled into and came to love.

I remember, in Korea, how quickly any points I tried to make to fellow Americans about racism were shouted down. I remember how my well-meaning Korean colleagues othered me unintentionally, and how I just swallowed it because there wasn’t really anyone to tell. Eventually I got pissed off, and burned all my social bridges in Korea so I wouldn’t be tempted to come back like many of my friends had. I still sometimes say I’d rather be there than in certain parts of the South, but that’s not really true, because at least American racism is shared.

I can’t count how many times I’ve meekly tried to speak up about something that made me uncomfortable racially and been told, indirectly, to keep quiet. Only when a slur is involved do people suddenly become performatively woke.

And because my parents made money, it’s a unique challenge to get taken seriously as someone with personal experiences with racism and white supremacy. My life wasn’t as hard as it could have been - true - and so this is just another reason to keep my mouth shut.

I’m tired, man. I had a lot more energy when I paid less attention to the negative impact my skin color has had on my life thus far.

Sometimes I just want to go to sleep.

But I won’t.

My voice is creaky and unstable, but it’s growing in power.

I doubt myself much of the time, but I’m putting myself and my words out there.

In the work I plan and hope to do, a lot of people are going to be In Their Feelings all the time, and it’s not fun for me when that happens. I regret opening my mouth when people try to silence me. It’s really unsettling to be talked down to.

Yet their responses are about them. And if someone’s emotional about something I’m trying to say about white supremacy, then they have work to do, not me.

I can’t give up if everyone else hasn’t. My fight is only just beginning, and my parents and their parents and their parents before them didn’t live through what they lived through just for me to keep my mouth shut.

I’m going to keep writing, and thinking, and talking. I just hope people are willing to listen.


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

Neptune Notes 3/16/19

I haven’t written one of these in a while.

  1. He’s really big now. I never realized how much growing dogs do before they’re a year old. Humans, we develop so damn slowly, man.

  2. He’s learning really fast. Yeah, still an occasional accident or overnight wakeup but for his age (5 months), he’s learning a lot.

  3. There’s another puppy in our building that’s basically the same age, and that dog is what would happen if we weren’t planning as much. We are probably overdoing it to raise this dog right, but it’s so easy to end up with a poorly trained dog.

  4. I was always a little uncomfortable with dogs. I wasn’t scared exactly, but I wasn’t comfortable. And I realize it’s because I always knew poorly trained dogs. I imagine I’d feel the same way about children if I only knew poorly behaved ones, because I really like well-behaved kids and I struggle with others.

  5. He has basically dominated our lives for three months. I want to get to where he’s just a loyal friend and not, like, kind of a whiny baby, but I know once this time ends we’ll miss it. He’s a really warm and sweet boy, he just can’t self-regulate yet. He’ll get there soon. And then hopefully we’ll have years of joy.

  6. I can’t wait until it’s warm every day and we can spend the whole day outside (when he’s not sleeping). Aside from running, I sometimes don’t sit outside on nice days and I feel like the days are wasted (again, aside from running). But that time is over.


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

More To Say

This morning’s college admissions scandal has hit me in a way I really didn’t expect it to.

I have some scattered thoughts because that’s how I think.

  1. To be clear, it’s weird that the story focuses on the two female actresses and not their spouses. Macy is more famous than the other two. So, yes, let’s acknowledge that.

  2. I was indifferent towards Loughlin and actually really liked Macy and Huffman. They can all go to hell.

  3. It’s really hard for me to say this next part without coming off like a jerk, but, Huffman and Macy spent tons of money and time faking qualifications for their daughter’s Yale acceptance, and the fake version of their daughter still didn’t do as well on her SATs as I did. I mean. I mean.

  4. Re: the last point, education is not about competition, or it shouldn’t be. But admissions? Admissions definitely is. So that’s the only reason I’m bothering to compare. I don’t think doing better or worse on a flawed metric means you’re more or less valuable.

  5. So here’s my real point. My parents (and teachers, and advisors, and everyone) expected Great Things from me. I was special, I was told, and gifted. But I was sort of a listless student until about 9th grade, when I became very diligent. I was fortunate not to be impoverished in any way or physically unwell (and I’m still male). But admission to top schools is guaranteed to no one, and you can’t really be a listless student and expect entry. I didn’t do as well as people expected of me on AP exams, but I did well on various subject SATs, the SATs themselves, and I was a strong writer. Still though, I was told (and rightfully so) by educators to complete my Eagle Scout project, to talk up my experience abroad, all sorts of things (since I wasn’t an athlete) to have a better shot. I didn’t really do much of that and I applied early. And I got in.

  6. I figured from that moment I’d gotten lucky but earned it, but almost as soon as I got to school I felt like I didn’t belong. Everyone else, it seemed, could do just about anything they wanted to and I didn’t feel like I had any real skills. I was never directly told as much, but I got the impression some of my classmates really thought I was accepted through some trickery, and I came to believe it myself, especially as I initially struggled academically and emotionally. Yeah, everyone who cared about me told me otherwise, but it’s pretty difficult to get out of a mindset that surrounds you most days, and that’s how I felt.

  7. Unfortunately, my belief about my own skills persisted for more than a decade, really until last fall when I did well my first semester in my doctoral program. Even now, when I do a new task for the first time, my first thought is that I’ll be found out as some sort of intellectual fraud and tossed back into the ether. I know how to ignore those thoughts now, but they still occur.

  8. I say all this to say, what did these students think? Did they feel they belonged where they were? Did they ever feel excluded? Maybe they did. But I can tell you, at least to my parents, the only way in was to actually earn it, and, though it took me way too long to understand it, I really did earn it way back in 2002.

  9. This plan that these parents and students had, it was so elaborate and complex. And at no point did it seem like they ought to just apply to different schools or figure out what it would take to improve their qualifications. They even laundered the “donations” to be tax-deductible.

  10. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I’m just peeved that I always thought I hadn’t belonged when I really did, while apparently so many people who shouldn’t have been there were. I wasn’t ever less qualified than they were, and I wish I hadn’t spent so long believing that this was the case.


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

All Cylinders

Yesterday I ran 18:24 in the Washington Heights 5k.

I’ve run that race every year since I started racing regularly in 2014. My first year, I ran 19:15. In 2016, I set a still-standing PR of 17:55. Three other times I ran between 18:51 and 18:56. So yesterday wasn’t a PR, but it was a good sign.

I’m hopeful I can at least get back under 1:21 in Brooklyn in May. My mostly-indoor training has paid off since I was faster today than in the Superbowl race and that was only 4 weeks ago. I just need to build up my endurance and consistency.

But I’m gonna big myself up for a second.

I’m lucky to have a supportive wife and job etc. Because right now I am trying to help train a puppy, excel at work, excel at school, and be supportive at home (on top of the puppy stuff). This is not the same as having a child, no, but it’s a lot of balls to juggle.

And for whatever reason, I tend to look at running times and grades as barometers because they’re definitive. I finish a race in a specific amount of time. Etc.

I look back on times when things weren’t going as well in my life, well, I often excelled at one or two things (e.g., my best racing year was 2015, but I wasn’t exactly responsible for anything or anyone), but never all aspects.

This may not last forever - maybe I’ll fail the midterm in statistics - but there’s a balance needed to what I’m trying to do that would not have been possible without inner stability I didn’t even realize I lacked until I talked to someone who could help.

Yeah, sometimes I think back to the days when I was erratic internally and externally, and I wonder where I’d be if I had gotten a handle on myself sooner. But this isn’t a bad place to be at all, and most people aren’t fortunate enough to be able to say so.

I always thought I was healthy because, mostly, I was, at least physically. But there’s more to health than that, and I think I’m finally healthy now.


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 Long Walk to Neptune

Neptune is almost 5 months old now. He’s basically doubled in size, even with a haircut. He knows to sit and lay down, and he only occasionally pees on everything. And today he helped me realize something.

I think it started for me in eleventh grade. I just started to feel off-balance a lot, and I thought it was just how teenagers felt, so I started going for these extremely long walks.

Particulary when I was at my dad’s place, I’d just pick up and walk up to 86th, 96th, even 103rd, basically all over the West Side. (At my mom’s I played playstation into the dark.) And my dad didn’t really bother me about it so long as I did my homework, and I wasn’t going anywhere unsafe. By this point in my life, I did all my homework as early as possible - something that remains true even now in 19th grade - so I had a lot of my evenings free to just watch TV and think. I didn’t see my friends much when it wasn’t a weekend - and even then it was just movies, really - so most nights I would just go out and walk.

It never really made me feel better. But it felt like a good way to distract myself from my thoughts. So I kept doing it.

Whenever things got really bad, I got back into walking. I walked all over Princeton in college, just listening to whatever boxy iPod I had, staying out of my head.

I did it a lot after college, when I didn’t have a job, and then in Korea, when I thought the change of scenery would fix everything but only created different problems.

By 2014, I’d become a runner, and I turned all my wandering energy into running fast, no matter the weather or time of day. It did make me a good runner, this single-minded pursuit, but I still never patched the hole.

I finally started to do the hard work I (and probably a lot of you) need to do. I finally sat with my thoughts and the discomfort and the reality instead of trying not to look in the mirror.

Alissa likes to go for walks. She asked me years ago why I didn’t seem to like going for walks, and particularly wasn’t really able to stay silent while walking, and I didn’t have a good answer. I realize now that a long silent walk would just bring me back to all those nights I beat the pavement in all those different places I lived.

But now we have a dog. And dogs need walks. Neptune, with his age and breed, he really needs walks. We hired a walker, and we go to puppy class once a week (yeah, we’re those people), but he still needs long ones, especially weekends when we don’t have the walker.

I started feeling That Way this afternoon, for no real reason in particular. It just happens sometimes. And I realize, looking back, it happened on Fridays and Saturdays a lot. I think those were nights I really felt isolated, and I’d walk to be out around people.

Tonight, I decided I’d take Neptune for a walk, but I kept adding to it and adding to it as we went.

My mind started to wander, as it does when I walk alone, but every time I felt that way, I got a tug from thigh-level, and I remembered I wasn’t alone.

We walked longer than we ever have, nowhere exciting, just around Long Island City, but for all its faults, it’s our (and his) home. We stopped in Queensbridge Park at sunset, and it was getting cold (no gloves like a moron), but it was empty, aside from a guy doing laps on an electric scooter.

We ran on the soccer field and chased a pigeon for a second. I picked him up and hugged him and he bit me because he didn’t want to be hugged (jerk!). A lot of people care about me, I know, but my brain doesn’t care when I’m walking by myself, unless I’m running hard enough to think about other things.

I don’t have to walk alone anymore, though. I’m doing the work, I’m getting right, after however much time it’s been. But it’s never going to be completely easy when I’m by myself, and I can’t just force everyone to prop me up. But Neptune is happy to hang out, and happy to play, and happy to walk when I need to walk.

Sometimes I just need to walk, probably always will, but I’m not really scared anymore.

1 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

Nerd Status

This weekend, I ran a couple times, including a really good bridge run this morning where my psoas muscles felt long and strong for the first time in a couple years. Sore, yes, but I can do sore. They extended and I didn’t have to compensate from other areas. This really makes me feel good about my future goals for this marathon-less year.

I did find out I can’t run Staten Island this fall (same day as wedding, oops), so the Pelham half will be the fall goal race. Someone run it with me, we’ll win age-group awards!

But I was happiest this weekend when I got uninterrupted time to just obsess over my educational goals. Literally just doing homework and dreaming about what I can accomplish through my education and scholarship.

I think this is what it means to be a nerd.

So let’s talk about that.

There are three related words: dorks, nerds, and geeks. No one says dweeb anymore.

What are the connotations of each, and how do they differ?

“Dorks” are everywhere. In fact it’s so used that it’s kind of meaningless. In my view, it just means “socially awkward.” Hence the term “adorkable,” and the classification of Jess from New Girl as a “dork.” I mean, I guess, sure. But my point is, it’s not really an insult. Also dorks aren’t necessarily considered smart.

“Geek” is, in my view, specifically technologically or numerically focused. Computers, math, even certain parts of finance, geeks. And geek used to be an insult, but considering tech titans mostly run the world now, it’s not anymore. Geeks are definitely seen as smart.

And what’s a nerd? Well, you think Steve Urkel, right? Wasn’t he a geek or a dork too? Probably. You can certainly be all three (this is the dumbest form of intersectionality, hahaha).

But to me, nerds are people who derive joy from the specifics of things that the general public is mostly only interested in the surface thereof (so, usually academic type things, the sort of things you can mostly find in books). These days it might be more accurate to call nerds “wonks” (as in a “political wonk”), but the connotation of nerds/wonks, the one part of it that is still considered negative, is that they are not particularly skilled at relaying their interests to the general public. And this is something I do struggle with, sometimes.

The ability to communicate is vital for an educator, of course. You can’t just be a nerd with subject knowledge out the wazoo. And you can’t just be a geek. In my doctoral programs, we’re kind of all nerds - that’s what doctoral studies ARE, right? - but learning how best to communicate our burning passion to people who live outside of our heads is the only way we’ll succeed.

Circling back to my original point, why would I say I’m a nerd more than the other two? Well, not a geek as I lost interest in math and computers as study subjects after they were forced down my throat by adults who wanted me to be a math superstar (when I wanted to be a writer). And I used to call myself a dork because I thought I was socially awkward, but, uh, I just have a brain that works atypically for better or worse, so that’s not really a personality attribute.

I’m a nerd because there is nothing more joyful for me than learning and using my knowledge and sharing it with others.

Do you see these words differently?


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

Non-Neptune Notes 2/3/19

  1. I had a really racist friend growing up. I mean like he really found black people inferior. He didn’t use slurs so I didn’t really recognize it much at the time. I was a pretty naive kid who wanted everyone to like him. But I mean, this dude was basically Steve King. But because he’d known me since we were little, all the stuff he said didn’t faze me. Homophobic and sexist too. And he eventually became a cop, which he quit after a while because he thought cops were dumb. I don’t really care about him (he sent me a facebook request last year which I ignored), but I wonder how many people, in a very white space, were actually pretty racist but thought they couldn’t be because they spoke to me regular. For how many people was I the token or the buffer? It happened in dating, too, being told, “you know my parents would never be okay with this,” as if this was something useful to say. I was probably a lot angrier about all of this at the time than I realized. In retrospect, being a black guy in white spaces carries its own trauma. White friends, don’t think that knowing one or two of us excuses things you think about the rest of us. Anti-racism is really your responsibility, not ours. Please do the work needed to support us. Unfortunately we still aren’t in a position to do it by ourselves.

  2. Happy to run a strong race this morning. Not under 6, but wasn’t expecting that. Ran smart, consistent, 6:05, 6:01, 6:17 (Cat hill, booo) and then dropped to 5:55. And that was without really fully training. Will be sure to push it these next four weeks. PRs will be set in 2019.

  3. I feel much more plugged into the broader education world of late. And I no longer feel ashamed that I’m not a public school teacher. I still think “adult educator” sounds like it’s X-rated and wish we had a different name, but the fact is, there isn’t really one, so that’s how it’s going to be. Follow me @JPBGerald, people.

  4. Someone sign Harper and Machado already.

  5. I guess after you win the WS you don’t need to have a bullpen?

  6. A year ago at this time I truly didn’t think I’d get into my program. Now it’s just… normal. And I’m very excited I get to actually do a pilot study this spring.

  7. Speaking of which, I had been drifting away from the TESOL field since I got my current job (professional development/employee training). But I realize that my disinterest has never been in the field but in the linguistics/language acquistion side thereof. It’s just never resonated with me. But there’s a lot, a lot, a lot of room in TESOL for racial activism, since it’s still a very white field that could stand to evolve. I’m coming back to TESOL (I’m not quitting my job, I mean in my study focus), and I’m going to change the field.

  8. I would say that one of my most harrowing racial experiences was the week I spent knocking on doors for Save the Children. Developments make people feel like the rest of the world shouldn’t interfere, and boy did those people find me repellent. They didn’t train us at all for the racism we would experience, and the sad thing was I was a five mile drive from my college campus (not that they knew that). Add that to my friend I wrote about above, and it took me until the last couple of years, in professional treatment, to unpack the impact that these many microaggressions had on me.


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

Neptune Notes 1/22/19

Sorry I’m not writing about much else. I’m not training for any races right now (that’ll start in mid february I figure) and I’m still off from school soooo that’s really it.

  1. There is a family in our building with a puppy almost exactly the same age as ours. I see every other dog in our building either in the early morning or the evening when I take Neptune out. I have never seen this dog. I suspect they’re following the super strict guidelines their breeder gave them - breeders are like that, ours was - and following the letter of the law rather than the spirit. That poor dog has probably never been outside and is going to be terrified when they take him out.

  2. They say a puppy is truly all-consuming and he really is. It certainly would have been easier to adopt an older dog and skip all this training stuff. Easier financially, too. But I mean, that’s probably true human babies too - we could just pick them up once the diaper stuff is done and it’s easy! There’s a joy in the struggle, though. It’s made parts of our lives much more difficult, but overall he’s a sweet little boy who is mostly just loud when he’s confused or bored or scared. And I can relate to that.

  3. I have learned how to carry him in one arm and do many things in the other, including using the bathroom, picking up things, taking out garbage, and, best, way back the first week, cleaning his own waste off of him in the sink while he tried to escape.

  4. He looks a lot bigger than he is because he’s got really long hair. We’ll get it cut someday after his shots are done and he’s all set to run around in a few weeks. I wonder what he’ll look like.

  5. He doesn’t get cold easily. He does get hot easily. I think summer is going to be a lot harder for him than the winter has been.

  6. He loves peanut butter and yogurt, so, again, he is basically me as a child.

  7. Most people react positively when he runs up to them. A lady cursed at me last night. That was a first. But I didn’t like when random dogs came up to me before I had one. I wouldn’t go so far as cursing though.


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

Neptune Notes 1/13/19

  1. They need to write advice for keeping cigarettes out of dogs’ mouths.

  2. Also, people, stop smoking, Jesus Christ. I usually can ignore it but not with Neptune.

  3. I am exhausted on weekends since it’s basically all Neptune all the time. But I tell myself it’ll be worthwhile to have a long-term companion once he ages a bit.

  4. It’s clear to me that a ton of people are lazily raising their dogs. Alissa will not allow this, so we are up on the research daily and incorporating new things. I am exhausted.

  5. In a way, this period without homework was good time to be occupied with Neptune, because I can’t fall behind at school, but on the other hand, I can’t really take a break from him since, well, not much going on otherwise. We’ll see how it goes once school starts again.

  6. Planning everything around his limits is a challenge and has really re-shaped our plans from day to day. The adjustment has been difficult for me, especially with my emotional challenges, but I think in the long run it will prove to have been good. At least I hope so.

  7. Ultimately, it really is difficult to be a first-time pet owner in a small apartment. I’m lucky I already get up at five so that waking up to take care of him isn’t an issue. But this isn’t for the faint of heart, and I remain very annoyed that all the writing is from a white, suburban, wife-stays-home-or-works-part-time perspective. This isn’t good for owners, it’s not good for dogs, it’s not good for anyone who has to interact with city dogs, either.


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

Neptune Notes, 1/9/19

Hey, look at that date, that’s cool. Last time we will see that in our lifetimes (month/day/year as such).

Anyway. Neptune trains easily, he knows how to sit and to lay down. He is very good with the bathroom with rare accidents, and he sleeps through the whole night most nights.

But he barks a lot.

Now, look, he’s three months old.

Everything we’ve said suggests this is normal. He barks for attention or if he’s confused, so he’s basically me, except we can’t understand him. (It’s just as annoying to Alissa when I do it.)

There probably isn’t much we can do about it. We asked the vet, he said it was normal unless he was barking whenever he saw a person. But he literally only barks at us when he wants something. When he sees other people he just runs to them happily becuase he’s Such A Good Little Boy And We Love Him.

We crate him to force him to rest (he needs rest but he will just keep running around if we don’t put him to bed). Sometimes he barks when we do that, and we give him a treat (he likes peanut butter, but doesn’t always digest it well, and yogurt, which isn’t a problem). Or we give hi a chew toy. But sometimes he just barks.

It’s only really an issue because it’s hard to get anything done when he’s going at it. But ultimately, he really is a well-behaved little boy. Our neighors complained once - but really, he makes the most noise at about 7 pm, and never at all after 9, so it should be okay.

We’re getting close to being able to take him to puppy training and finish his shots (so he can really go outside for more than brief periods). By February, he’ll be a calm and happy boy. But until then, he’ll be a ball of energy and that’s okay.


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