Stranger 031


What is your full name?

Nicolas Thomas Gerst

Were you named after anyone? 

I’m my dads first born son so he wanted me to share one of his names so we share the middle name Thomas. My first name my dad also picked out because he liked the name Nicholas, but my mom being Hispanic, she snuck in the Hispanic spelling without an H.

My last name is an old name meaning ‘Barley’ in German and is such because my family grew barley in southern Germany beginning in the 1500s up until they immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s.

What’s your average day like? 

Wake up between 5AM-7PM depending on when I work my cafe job, then go to the gym after work, and if I have an opera rehearsal I go there from 7PM-10PM. Interspersed are the random activities like hanging out with my pitbull Diamond, or having coffee with friends.

What do you consider to be your home? 

I’d say the home of my soul is Santa Cruz. I went there for undergrad and grad school and it’s the place that I love to escape back to when I need to reset myself and also just a place that makes me infinitely calm.

I’m from Stockton, California and that place never really felt like home. It felt like the place I was born and where I was going to be leaving as soon as high school was done. I’d also say home for me is also defined by where the friends and family I love are. If I have my loved ones, anywhere can be home as long as I have my connection to them.

How far away do you live from where you were born? 

About a 2 hour drive. I don’t visit enough but it’s not really a place that I have a strong desire to be in.

Is that distance something you think about? Do you have any connection to your place of birth?

I often don’t think about the distance. The only things still connecting me to the place are my oldest brother who I don’t speak to, and my paternal grandmother, who I do speak too, but I don’t see enough. There aren’t many connections to place, and I don’t consider it home.

Are you in touch with anyone from your youth? Is there someone you wish you stayed in contact with but didn’t?

Besides my family, I switched a lot of schools s a child so I wasn’t able to really make very strong connections with anyone from my youth. The only people I have a connection with still are from high school and it is just fleeting connection with people, and we barely have interactions with each other because we all are too busy. I wish that I had stayed in contact with more friends from high school, and we had been able to develop friendships better as adults, but those seemed to be more superficial friendships, nothing more than a happy birthday via Facebook or a comment or random text every year to year and a half.

At the moment, what’s something you’re looking forward to? 

I am looking forward to a summer program that I am doing in New York this year mainly because I am excited for the focused amount of work with amazing professionals in my field.

I am also incredibly excited about a vacation I am taking to New Orleans this year with two of my closest friends. It is the first real vacation in 5 years, and it’s going to be the second time I have gone further east than Nevada (the first being New York).

Is there anything you need with you throughout the day to feel complete?

I need my phone, as I work multiple jobs and need to be able to check my calendar as often as possible to make sure I am making my multiple different obligations and I need to see my dog to also feel complete, as she is one of the happiest parts of my life.

When you look in the mirror, what do you notice first about your appearance?

I usually notice my hair. It’s something I inherited from my mother, so it is thick and wavy.

If you could change something about your appearance, what would it be?

I would want to be thinner. It isn’t something that I am happy about but it is definitely something that I would appreciate would be different. My weight has been something that I have always struggled with as it is something that has always been super all over the place. It is superficial but it is one of the few things that I try to not dwell on.

What do you first notice in strangers?

With men, I usually notice whether or not they have beards and collectively (gender aside) I also notice whether or not people have tattoos because I find them fascinating. To me, I think tattoos are one of the few things that to me are the most indicative of a person’s true self because it’s a choice they made to put something onto their body.

 What do think those that know you say about you?

That I am loud, that I am opinionated, that I work hard, and that even with all of this loudness and all the opinions that I am genuinely a nice person.

What would you hope they would say?

All of the things from above. I don’t want people to sugarcoat what they feel or think about me. So I hope they think these things because they are honest.

What do you think strangers notice first about you?

I think they notice my size. It’s usually one of the things that define me in strangers eyes.

What is your proudest moment? Biggest victory?

Getting my masters degree. I am the first person within my generation of my family to get a bachelors degree, and I am the first person in my family, on both sides, who was able to continue with higher education and earn a masters degree.

One of my biggest victories was a personal victory in swimming, I swam in college, that was more about beating myself than actually winning over someone else, was my final swim meet of my swimming career. I swam the best meet of my entire life and I was able to end my swimming career on the highest of highs.

What is your biggest regret? Biggest failure? 

One of the biggest regrets of my life was never insisting that my maternal grandmother, who passed away when I was 17, come see me perform when I was younger. Music has become my literal life and my passion, and I never got to share any of that with her.

I don’t feel that anything is a failure, just trials and stepping stones to achieving the goals that I need to achieve.

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

I would change how my brain processes rejection. I am a professional musician and my career is filled with buckets of rejection. No matter how often I say that I don’t care how much a rejection does to me, I do always care, even a little bit. I usually have some sadness with rejection and have gotten better at handling it, but I do wish I could rewire my thinking so that I wouldn’t be affected at all.

Are you making plans for the future, or are you more spontaneous?

I want to be a working musician, so while I can plan all I want, the nature of my life is to be mildly spontaneous, because the ebb and flow of where I go is dictated by others.

When was the last time you cried? 

I cried two days ago watching an episode of Pitbulls and Parolees. I have a soft spot for dogs, especially pit bulls, and they had a senior dog that passed away 3 weeks after getting into his forever home and it made me feel upset about all the dogs who never get that and die in shelters, and that I cannot do more for them.

When was the last time you ever made someone else cry?

Arguing with my friend probably a year to year and a half ago. We both were arguing and then we both got upset and cried.

If you could know exactly when and how you would die, would you want to know?  

Not at all. I don’t want to think about something like that, it would color any enjoyment I would have in life, because all I would ever focus on would be my death.

What do you do to relieve stress? 

I play with my dog, I watch trash t.v., I knit, I like to go get food with friends, and I like to lift weights. I enjoy powerlifting as sweat seems to be a fun way to blow off steam.

Do you make friends easily?

I think I make friends easily, I just don’t seem to keep them very easy. I have had dozens of “Friends,” but true meaningful relationships with people are few and far between, so I enjoy the meaningful relationships that come from the making of friends.

What is the one rule you try to live by? 

Work hard, nothing will be given to you.

Do you feel successful at following it? 

I think I have been very successful at following it, I would rather work hard and earn something than be given something and feel like I never earned it.

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