The Story of Greg Berzinsky

—Josh Lawson

We're back again with our bearded friends to bring you the past, present, and future of Greg Berzinsky. He is the most senior (the oldest) of everyone on our team of influencers. It's kind of ironic that he's seen as that way since he has the newest beard. Maybe it's the grey hair, or just how he presents himself. That view, helps him strive to be everything the community needs him to be. Even in the 2-3 years, he's had a beard, he's grown so much.

So, we're going back to Greg's childhood. He grew up in a rural suburb outside Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It wasn't a farm, but it wasn't your typical white picket fence either. It was a coal town, and his father actually worked in the local mill. His family was a local, working class, blue-collar family. His roots are considered humble, based on the economy he grew up with, where he lived, and the house he had. His parents loved each other and were very vocal and animated. He's chosen to tone it down a bit in his own life.

As you may have seen already, his last name is very interesting. It's a polish name. His father was Polish, and his mother was Russian. He grew up in a cultural melting pot, but mainly around people from Eastern Europe. His parent's we're 1st generation, and both their parents immigrated over via Ellis Island around the 1910s. The grandparents on his father's side were very pro-America. They refused to speak Polish around their kids, as they wanted them to grow up without an accent and only speak English. Greg admires them for it, but wishes they at least taught some. They know no Polish nor Russian.

Growing up, he was the sensitive kid in the neighborhood. That's Greg's polite way of saying he was picked on. He's carried that with him throughout his aging process. At heart, he's an artist and likes to draw. Bullying is a subject that is close to his heart, and he always tries to stick up for the little guys. Even hateful comments bring back those memories. Everyone goes through it in different ways, but Greg's main point was that he was thin and not athletic. He didn't fit the model of what a guy should look like. One of his best memories he has of his father is that they would go an watch other kids play little league; One of the other dads came and asked his father, "Why doesn't Greg play baseball?" and he responded with, "He can play the trombone really well and is good at art." He just remembers that seeing his father, who grew up in the 50s where hypermasculine guys play sports, supported him.

In school he was a good student, and there was a part of him that was always interested in design. He never put it to use or connected the dots, until he got to high school and the counselor suggested he make a career out of it. His parent's had a secret agenda that he was never going to work with his hands. Neither of his parents graduated high school. His father quit school at 16 to take care of mother and sisters after his father died. And his mother quit as well since she was the last child at home and her parents were no longer able to care for themselves. So they decided that all of their children would finish school, go to college, and get a job. They sent all of their kids to college, and even helped some of them get advanced degrees as well. In college, he realized that not everyone came from a working-class family. It was the first time he saw people living in a life that was not similar to his own. With that came a slight bit of resentment. He always knew he wanted to be an architect, and he finished with his degree in five years.

Right out of college he was recruited by an architecture firm in Philadelphia. He was worried about telling his family, but they were ecstatic! They loved he lived in a big city and was doing well for himself. His wife didn't come into the picture until much later. He'd been living and working in Philly for about five years. He met Mary via a friend, who invited him to a Christmas party that an interior design firm was throwing.

Greg carried the result of years of bullying with him way into adulthood. When you're not perceived as a "real man", and the bullies highlight that. You begin to question your own masculinity. The biggest insecurity he took with him was the feedback he got from his weight. When he graduated high school he was 6'3" and weighed 138lbs. He was always the thin kid, and continuously carried the comments he got from bullies and even family members. It didn't manifest itself into an eating disorder, but Greg did begin to see himself as unattractive until he was in his mid-40s. Greg definitely tried to bulk up during that period too, but after looking at his dad, he realized it was genetic and there wasn't a lot he could do about it.

He began growing his beard much later in life. The guys he looked up to in his 20s didn't really have a beard, so he didn't really worry about it. It came as more of an experiment. He watched it grow in and get thicker, then he would trim it and repeat the process. His beard is white, so he gets perceived as older, but it actually makes him feel much younger and confident. It wasn't until he tried to grow passed Movember, that he realized he finally had enough to get a full beard.

Instead of wishing for something in life, you have to do something about it. With a beard, it just isn't your time yet. Rock what you can while you're growing. You don't need to have a full beard to be part of the community. You can have a mustache, a goatee, or just some chops, and we still love every strand of hair you have.

For those who feel that you're being bullied and there isn't anywhere for you to go, just talk to someone. Talk to your teachers, your friends, your family, someone. It helps to get it all off your chest. If you keep it all bottled up, it's going to eat away at you from the inside.