Rapport

We talk about this a lot in education, but it covers several fields and frankly should be useful for anyone who ever has to talk to anyone for their work.

Just like anything else, educators have to be great at building rapport in a short period of time in order to achieve their goals.

I see a lot of advice for how to build rapport. Things like, "make sure you say everyone's name during the class." But this robotic advice only works if you make your students or audience feel like you genuinely care about their progress.

I suppose you don't have to actually care. I do, but I can't force you to care if you're coming off some sort of serious illness or family drama. But if you want people to find you interesting, what they need is to feel like you're interested.

Yes, to be perceived as interesting, you have to be perceived as interested.

There's a lot more to it than that, of course. Merely seeming interested doesn't mean you can teach a subject or win a vote.

But we sit here and bemoan people who support figures and ideas we don't agree with. It's not that complicated to say that, for complex reasons, people want to feel like they have a voice, and a person who can build rapport can make them feel that way. And if they're unethical, they can make them feel like they have a voice even if they absolutely don't, but that's a topic for another time.

I challenge all of you to develop your ability to create a rapport with people with whom you don't have much in common (because anyone can do it with their friends). You can be the smartest person in the world, but with zero emotional intelligence, you will achieve nothing, unless you truly have a career in which you never have to relate to others (day trading? I dunno).

And of course, even when you have developed these skills, there are still people you won't be able to reach, or days when you're not at your sharpest. The trick is to always keep learning how to connect, how to reach different groups.

Everyone is an acquired taste to some extent. Make yourself more accessible to more people, be able to build rapport in a snap, and it will carry you farther than you might think.

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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

Sophistication

We don't really like to talk about class in this country, or even this city. Yeah, there are sad stories about the rural poor, but for those of us here in and around NYC, it's always going to be at a remove.

Unlike suburbs and such, in the city, we're at least all aware of the truly poor. We try to ignore them but they're there, suffering publicly. And we go on with our lives unless we work with that population.

But aside from that group - an important group, just not what I'm writing about here - we still seek ways to separate ourselves from others in smaller ways. We just don't think about it in terms of "class," because it's not really about income.

First of all, we rarely know exactly how much other people are being paid. We can guess, but you can have a very similar job to someone but have a very different pay scale for many reasons. The fact is, I think because we don't actually know about salary, we seek to seem better than others in other, subtler ways.

Some construction workers, for example, make plenty of money. Roofers, electricians, plumbers, those folks were surely making a lot more money than I was when I was running an ESL department at a nonprofit. We tell ourselves we're open and kind to all, but a lot of us, we are sure we're above such work and the life we imagine they have. The Others, we think but don't say, they don't know anything about foreign cuisine, they don't know about independent movies, they've never been anywhere that wasn't a tourist trap. And I think the fact that they may have more money than us is part of this awful judgment we make, because we need a way not to be the worst.

A lot of us get upset at people in certain communities, working class whites who have plenty in common with working class people of color but are vocally racist. But no one wants to be the worst, so we create a strawman we can defeat, the same way those folks do. That doesn't justify it, but it makes some dumb human animal sense.

I mean, come on. Let's compare. Going tens of thousands of dollars into debt we can only barely hope to pay off in decades, are we truly the paragons of virtue we make ourselves out to be? Doing that means we're automatically smarter? Surrrre.

There's a third group, of course. The people who came out of school and hit it big fairly fast, like the handful of friends I have at Google and Facebook and Microsoft and JPMorgan etc. Maybe for them they have entirely different concerns and they're just out there buying boats. I don't know. A boat would be fun.

But ask yourself if you've ever told yourself you were "above" certain choices that would be perfectly solid for others. It's natural, this tendency to assign yourself sophistication that others lack. To think that your privileged experiences separate you from the chaff. I have certainly been there and am trying harder not to be, especially getting to know my students and colleagues at my current job. I make an effort to engage with tourists, fighting off my initial snap-judgment, even though I know it's still there.

I have written on this site before that I was "broke" for a section of my 20s, but the real way to describe it was that I spent all the money I had saved in Korea and, instead of getting my self together, continued to spend all my time and money on nights out and vacations I thought I deserved. I wanted the trappings of a sophisticated life without actually doing the work to earn it, probably because I was lonely and unfulfilled and sitting at home saving money like most other people would have had to do was sadder than I wanted it to be (and I had loud roomates, so being home wasn't super relaxing). And I guess I just assumed nothing catastrophic would occur. And I was lucky it didn't. I wrote all of this because it was a narrative I had told myself in order to avoid responsibility and guilt and shame.

I bring all that up because I think, unless I am woefully mistaken, that it's something a lot of us do. It's this arrested development pride face-saving thing. You get a Certain Type of education, you go on to do Great Things, which each of us defines differently but not THAT differently. And if you're not doing Great Things, at least you're not unsophisticated. But what use is sophistication if you can't actually support yourself or help support your family?

The calculus is different when you're single and not particularly close to having a spouse. It's real easy to live in the present when you don't know who will be around in the future, so I get it. I don't think the way I or others I knew lived their lives was bad, it's just important to recognize its temporary nature, which is a lot easier to do after it's over.

Ultimately, the only thing that's truly unsophisticated is being capable of supporting yourself but not exploring your options because it seems beneath your station or status or some such.

I remember, right before I got my last job, I took on a second job at night, tutoring people in ESL. I didn't stick with it once I got the nonprofit job, but I remember, one of the first times I went to see a client, and she lived on Central Park West. As I entered the building, I saw a longtime classmate (both high school and college) exit with her boyfriend at the time (husband now). I lied and said I was there "on business" (which wasn't entirely true, nor was it entirely untrue). But this woman was my age, and living on Central Park West, and hardly independently wealthy. It was definitely a "you put yourself in this damn position, Justin" moment, and there were a lot of those. The times I struggled to pay rent were entirely self-inflicted, and entirely based on a general assumption I'd be okay one way or the other, something most folks don't have.

Being born and raised lucky doesn't guarantee you a damn thing. It gives you opportunities most others lack, but for all intents and purpose, it's leading you, the horse, to water, and urging you to drink. To use another metaphor, it opens some doors instead of forcing you to break them down.

But you still have to take those extra steps yourself.

Again, this is not shaming anyone who is ill or something else. Please don't think of it that way. 

I just know, I would have stayed in a little circle of the same sort of job if I hadn't had a more grounded partner who thought I could do well at something outside the box. And I still have the little hero complex, the desire to do Great Things for my community. 

I write this only because I think a lot of people I know are "stuck" in the same way I once was. Too educated to consider XYZ but not educated or experienced enough to reach up and grab the brass ring.

I used to think I had all the time in the world, and then I was rapidly approaching 30 and knew that, if I happened to have a child, I would not have been able to give them a great life. I don't say this a lot, but it's the reason I refocused, to be a good father someday. Can you be a good parent without much money? Sure, though as I said at the start, you can be super educated and making peanuts. I am not sure how fair it is to your offspring to not try and make changes you are within your power to change, though.

And I think what stops a lot of us is the idea that we're too sophispicated for the type of hard choices we might have to make if we had different upbringings.

That's it, there, isn't it? The good fortune we had allows us to kick the can down the road and make the hard choices later than we would have been forced to. And it's quite a gift, this pause we get to have. But unless you hit the lottery or something of the sort, we're all going to have to make hard choices at some point. And I hope more of us can get over our pride and self-image.

Easier said than done. And maybe it's only my own warped mind that ever thought any of this.

But maybe it resonates with someone reading this. 

 

That's the hope, as ever.

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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

2017 Fall Marathon training week #3

Miles: 53

Nothing much to report this week. I was just off my pace on Tuesday, farther off on Thurs due to the weather, and then felt strong for both long runs this weekend, the 3rd weekend in a row with back to back double digit runs (which will happen again next week).

I have no idea how ready I am or am not for the 5 mile race in 13 days. I want to crush it, and lead the team. I haven't run a race I was happy with since early April, and only three of my eight races this year have left me satisfied. 

What happened in the March and early April races was I had been putting in serious miles and so I was able to put it together. I'm doing that again now, plus far more work on hills than I did this winter, when I only did bridge work every few weeks for some reason.

I should - should - be much more prepared this time. We'll see.

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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

Jargon

I really hate jargon. I do.

I don't hate large words, of course. I am not the President.

But I hate language that is used primarily to signify membership in an in-group.

I don't mean that every industry term is useless. Certain things deserve labels. A scientist studying an animal needs to classify it according to its Latin name. A lawyer needs to refer to an accurate statute.

But if what you are saying is intended for a broader audience and it is resolutely cerebral and inaccessible, it is of no use. None.

This is one thing I learned from teaching in Korea. I had a lot of colleagues who, faced with the challenge of making themselves understood, would start shouting in pidgin English. "Teacher go home now" and nonsense like that. It's the same thing that Trump's lack of vocabulary does. It dumbs down the discourse.

On the other hand, we all known there's a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism out there. Mostly nonsense, but I do have to admit that most people, even brilliant people, don't have the dexterity or will to change the way they discuss their own field so that others can understand it.

I'm an educator. I spend a lot of time talking about education with educators. And I don't think any educators are going to be truly impactful if they can't take their industry-speak and translate it into laymen's terms.

There is a value to laymen's terms. If what you are doing or saying can't be transformed into a digestible explanation, it is probably needlessly convoluted. Or perhaps you haven't figured out how to summarize it effectively.

Mind you, if you read this and other posts, I certainly don't skimp on the vocabulary. But there's a reason peple used to denigrate words like 'denigrate' as 'SAT words,' words people only memorized for a test only to never use them again.

Back to Korea. I don't know what I did consciously. I know that I heard many of my friends were speaking in pidgin English and I thought about how to make myself understood. Teachers (or anyone who speaks to an audience) want to be compelling, for sure, but you can't be compelling if you aren't understood. If you aren't understood, you might still be compelling to a small group of people, the people who are just fascinated by trying to crack complex issues. So you'll have adoring fans. I've had these before in class. But I realized, when I wasn't very well understood, that I needed to broaden myself and my message.

I'll always score most of my points through my zeal in the classroom (or on stage, or on a panel). I am almost embarrassingly earnest, much as I want to imagine I'm smooth or slick. I give off the impression that I'm competent and prepared and that I care about what I'm saying and that I'm not hiding behind any sort of pretense. I believe, truly, that that goes much farther than trying to impress people. In fact, I think trying to reach people ends up being far more impressive than trying to impress them, if that makes sense. In fact, I think the contrast between my somewhat polished look and my sincerity is its own strength. I wonder.

This isn't always true in my personal life. I still get anxious and worry I'm not impressive enough to people close to me. I know I do well at work these days so I'm not so worried in my career.

You can come off as very sharp without trying to show off. As I finally get to a place where my achievements can speak for themselves, it's worth remembering that connecting with a class or an audience without jargon is far more valuable and effective than trying to bowl people over.

Honestly, when I (and you!) find a way to relax and demonstrate true skill, the rest comes along behind it.

Leave the jargon in the books where you heard about it. It has its place there. Talk to everyone else like they're people instead of talent scouts.

 

That's all.

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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

Impatient

I wish, sometimes, I hadn't spent much of my 20s "finding myself" because there is so much I want to accomplish for this city and in general and I am worried I'll never have enough time.

I'm not going to say what my ultimate aspirations are. Yes, I want to make Alissa happy and eventually raise a family that is happy and healthy, too. 

But professionally, I want to reach a point where I am responsible for genuine achievements that have an impact on many people.

As an educator, I've always had some sort of impact, and indeed, part of the reason I went back into classroom teaching is because I get a thrill out of it. Not just a thrill but a purpose, a reason to go into work that makes me excited to enter my office. A lot of folks hate work, and I haven't always been jazzed about every job, but I am an educator and will always be one in some capacity.

This morning I had to give an important presentation and came to find that, for tech reasons, I wouldn't be able to use a screen at all. That was a setback, to say the least. So I stumbled for a bit, but we figured it out eventually, and I could feel myself lifting up once I got my screen back behind me.

Mind you, I am not incapable of speaking without tech so much as I was surprised. But anyway, all of this I'm doing makes me think I really can do so much down the line. I do want to go back to school, and I want to get published (those childhood writer dreams are no longer dormant) and I want to be on more panels and have policy influence in education.

I have aspirations that are even bigger than that, of course. And I suppose those will just be years in the making.

I want to roar into the stratosphere tomorrow. But I'm going to have to take my time.

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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

2017 Fall Marathon training week #2

Miles: 50

Still no races.

If you are paying close attention, and why would you be, I ran more miles last week, about 5 or 6 more. Why the decline?

Well, first off, I had 7/4 off like everyone else and used it to add in an additional long run. And second, this week I switched my Thursday park loop run to another bridge run, which just happens to be slightly shorter in distance but, I feel, more beneficial.

So 50 is the baseline. There will be zero weeks under 50 that don't involve a race or my one week out of town when I'll be swimming the whole week.

How was this week? Fine. Tuesday's bridge repeats were stellar, same exact speed each time. Weds I did a few 800s at 2:50, which isn't my very fastest and there's a few more seconds I want to cut off there, but it was very sticky out. And then my bridge repeats the next day were... slow. But still faster than the pace I had been running just a few weeks ago. There has been real improvement I've been able to measure on the bridge, and the bridge being a set distance, with inclines, crests, and declines, really helps.

Today was my second Sunday in a row doing a double-digit run after a double-digit Saturday. I used to do this all the time, and I'm getting back into it now. 

Tomorrow is my last Monday with just a short easy run before Monday becomes an additional day with hard work in it. I will get back to my best post haste, just watch.

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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

Sticks and Stones

I've been lucky in that I've never had to deal with "sticks and stones," or violence of any sort. I was not raised in a dangerous area or situation. I did not deal with abuse. And the handful of times I've been genuinely scared mostly have to do with wild animals I chose to get close to - itself a privilege, since they don't really have those in nearby places. Well, I guess there are bears nearby. But whatever.

So the violence for me, the damage, has always been verbal. Not from my family. Not from (most) authority figures. But mostly from peers. And I think it all makes sense now. I guess I sort of was able to compartmentalize most of it, but you can't really ignore insults and pretend they never occurred if they really did hurt you, and they did.

As a result, all of the most unkind things I've done have involved saying bad things to people out of bitterness or anger. While that is relatable and understandable to all of you, there's still no excuse. But I think I'm figuring out a reason why this happened.

The times people I trusted insulted me - and it was mostly friends, but also partners, as well as a few supervisors - left a mark on me while I was still trying to build my confidence. And at heart, I think I believed what people said about me because I didn't have anything to fall back on, internally.

When people told me I was annoying, I believed it.

When people told me I was boring, I believed it.

When people told me I was weak and effeminate, I believed that too. And I am not saying the latter is bad, but at 12 or 13 it sure felt that way. (I have long since embraced my atypical masculinity, btw.)

I was reminded of this because I was just reading a post online about summer interns. I was an intern a couple times, and one of those times was in the summer between high school and college. I got a job at a prestigious magazine, and it quickly became clear that it was a program designed almost entirely for people to have the name on their resume but not to actually develop people. I of course was unable to articulate this at the time, so I was mostly just bored.

I'll admit, I wasn't a great intern. I never skipped out on work or showed up late, but I was a bored 17 year old and I could have been more proactive about seeking out assignments. Mostly they had me helping with copy editing, and specifically with editing apostrophes for style. They didn't set up regular check-ins on my work, so I just did my work and they, I guess, didn't much like it.

So when I left, feeling confident, I received an assessment that, for some reason, not only told me what was wrong with my work but also gave me stern warnings about how to improve my character. I sat in the park across the street from the job and read it. I think my manager meant well - he was a nice man - but it hit me like a ton of bricks. And so, here I am, saying that being told I was a careless, disinterested intern who "didn't seem to understand" (I remember that part specifically) much about professional norms was a significant moment for me. But it was.

And my professional confidence was dead before it even came to life. I didn't really get it back until 2015 or so.

By chance, it was the very last day before I went off to college. So I threw the letter away and just swallowed how it made me feel. I shouldn't have done that. Should have kept it as fuel. But I didn't think that way at 17. I just tried not to cry in public and went home.

The unspoken refrain in my head went something like, I thought these people liked me.

Boohoo, right? Everyone gets insulted. No one's tried to beat you up.

But I have to admit that that letter, plus the supervisor who told me I was "off-putting and socially awkward", or the group of co-workers who told me how annoying I was, really did a number on me, and I didn't realize at the time that it was all connected.

Only recently have I truly stopped believing in the worst things people have said about me. And at the same time, I've stopped throwing these things back out at people.

I do wish I'd had enough of a sense of self not to be cowed by people's insults and negative descriptions of me, and to let them corrode me into bitterness.

The lesson, to me, is to limit my descriptions of peoples' character unless it's a very close friend (or, like, Trump). I don't actually supervise anyone at the moment, but long before I deride their character, I'll certainly try to work with them on things that need improvement. If they do something wrong in their work, we can fix that. I can analyze a decision someone made, an act. But the person inside? It's not for me to judge people as people unless they're my kids, really. Or unless they ask.

The people who said these things probably barely remember them. But the words are frozen in time for me. And they weighed heavily upon me until I finally had enough strength to shrug them off.

I wish I hadn't believed what they said at the time. I continue to feel remorse about the people I said unkind things to when I believed the worst about myself.

I don't write this to fish for compliments. I know what I can do now, and I know I couldn't do it if my character were truly lacking. But that was a hell of a long time to spend thinking people or groups would never accept you. And it could have been avoided if people had stopped to think about the way they delivered their messages. I think very hard now about how I deliver mine.

Ultimately, it all made me a better person, as I've done so much to prove to myself I'm not what they all said that now I have proof that it's not true.

I would rather have dodged some sticks and stones though. I think I might have healed a lot faster.

 

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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

2017 Fall Marathon training week #1

Miles: 57

It's weird to call this "fall marathon training," but that's what it is.

Anyway. This week felt mostly great. The most miles I've run since the thick of March's training, and yet I feel a lot less tired at the end of the week than I did at the beginning. Indeed, I ran back to back double digit runs this weekend, and while I've done 6 in a row before (why?), this was the first time I'd done this since about February, and I am no worse for wear.

Working on my form has paid dividends, even in just a short time, and comforming my schedule to what will work best for me has made this a great start. And unlike spring marathons, it's not suddenly going to be 20 degrees hotter on race day, so there's that.

We'll see how team champs goes in early August. I've got a few weeks left to get comfortable pushing it sub-6 again. 

 

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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

Debt

I guess, as an adult, I have felt like I owe so many people a lot, as I've come to really understand the world around me.

Do you know how easy it would be for a black man to find himself in very unpleasant circumstances? Even an overly educated one like me. One wrong move with the wrong people watching, and the NY Post finds a picture of me at some Halloween party looking silly, and then I could be that guy forever.

Or the few times the cops have hassled me over nothing, if I had not been in my right mind and escalated the situation, that would be that.

Or even just the fact that, if I hadn't gotten the job before this one right at the moment when I got it, I would have had a truly rough go of it career-wise, and never would have met Alissa or found my future to be bright. And wouldn't have been able to afford all these races or trips.

The fact is, especially for a black boy, things have to go right, extremely right, not to end up troubled. I was always lucky to have grown up wanting for little. But my position was precarious for a while. You can be as smart as anyone, but things only work if people care about you.

A lot of black boys don't have parents who have the time, ability or willingness to guide them. You and I both know that if left to our own devices as kids, we'd probably just do whatever seemed fun. And in certain places, that fun can lead you astray. I had parents who, when I really sit down to think about it, went through considerably more difficulty than I ever will. Yet never just gave in to frustration and let me run amok. Of course it led me to put pressure on myself, which in turn led me to become defiantly singular in my goals, but ultimately, I feel like I owe it to them, to my teachers and mentors, to my friends and everyone who has supported me, and to me, to have a considerable impact on the city around me, in some way. I feel like this is the debt I must repay. And no one has ever said this to me, but it has guided me through many of my decisions that probably didn't make a whole lot of sense at the time.

I really didn't have a difficult life. It was never a question of whether or not I'd go to college. It was only, which elite school would be best for you, young man. I chose Princeton with a shrug and then I got in and that was that. I didn't really have to make any hard choices until college came to a close. And hard choices are taxing, and they're a lot of work for an adolescent, which is probably why some just give up, and it breaks my heart to think I've only avoided that because of the circumstances of my life. I surely didn't have any more common sense than a poor kid, and indeed probably a lot less.

It never became an explicitly stated goal, but at some point my senior year, while I was dutifully slogging away at an overlong thesis (why did I write 116 pages...?), I suppose I realized I wasn't very impressive, to myself. Yeah I was smart in an IQ sense, but so was literally everyone else I knew. I went to a political group and didn't feel interesting enough to say anything. I got a retail job to make some money, but I was too miserable to really be good at that.

So I left the continent, perhaps in a sense trying to set fire to a mental safety net. And almost everything since then has been a rather intense series of events designed to prove, mostly to myself, I could excel on my own. And the times I've been down since then were moments when I felt I couldn't. I remember frantically pacing in the hallways of one of my old jobs, trying to do some arithmetic to see if I could cover my rent with my part-time teaching paycheck. And under the surface of all that was the reality that I had put myself in that position because I wanted to prove things. But I forced myself not to think about that. 

And at the heart of it is the fact that I was only able to make these choices - some stupid, some wise - because I had had people care about me for so many years. If I come out of high school with a kid, I'm not going to Korea. I'm not seeking fulfillment. I'm getting a job, and then the next job, and then the next, and that's that.

I guess part of me felt like I was on a conveyor belt being driven by others until I left school. Life is a bit of a conveyor belt anyway - we're all gonna end up in the same place - but I've spent the last ten years forcibly grabbing control, with many ups and downs. And now that I've genuinely gained control, I see that my debt is to have this impact. I need to be respected, I need to have professional integrity, and I need to become a leader. I do this, then all of the work, the time, and the money invested in me will be worthwhile.

I used to get upset that it didn't seem like anyone cared if I was happy. But I also didn't know what that word meant. And it's kind of useless, by itself. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is laughing at a joke. It's fulfillment that we should chase if we have the chance. Fulfillment can last forever, though you have to work at it.

So I've been lucky to be able to run after fulfillment. And I owe it to everyone, most of all myself, to be fulfilled. And I am finding fulfillment in gradually becoming more accomplished in my field, and finally believing in the skills I have purposefully developed, and in forming a family.

Yeah, I still owe many thousands of dollars to grad school, which, well, is a fun bill to pay every month. But my real debt is to the people who lifted me up when I had yet to figure out how to carry myself. I honor them with my ability to propel myself forward, and run faster, stronger, and better into the future.

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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

The Bridge in 2017

You know, I've moved a ridiculous amount of times since I got serious about running 5 years ago (4 times), and each time I move, I've found a different area to run in. In 2014, it was completely alien to me to run near Astoria Park, an exotic place I'd never seen before. In 2015, I ran by the water in LIC for the first time. Last year, I spent a lot more time up past the factories every single morning (though I'll be back up there for my Sunday runs starting this week). And this year I'm only 20 minutes from the first place I ever ran consistently, Central Park.

But there's one thing that hasn't changed, and it's that any training program of mine has involved the Queensboro Bridge.

I am planning to spend more time training on the bridge this summer than any other. Why? Well, I'm a bit too far from the track to drag myself there unless I wake up at 5:00 (or get home at 9 pm). So I found a new park to run in circles in, but my god I hate this stupid park. It's pretty there, right under the bridge. But it's dominated by baseball fields, which is fine, except baseball fields are full of sand, which is coarse and rough and gets everywhere. But more importantly, it gets on the path. And it's very, very hard concrete followed by patches of sand. Every time I try to go fast there I feel like I'm going to fall down. And I'm doing fine in my paces. But it's unpleasant, and not in a "this is hard" way. Just in that it's a place I don't enjoy running in.

So instead of just whining, I'm going to hit the bridge twice a week. I love the bridge as speed work because it's one long, sustained incline, followed by, in my opinion, the hardest part, the plateau, where the work you've done to push yourself up the hill can be ruined if you relax too much and coast, and then a chance to really push yourself to high speeds on the downhill.

There is never a time I feel stronger and faster than slamming down the Manhattan side of the bridge when I have a chance to hit my time goal. And mentally, I can always use the bridge as a pick me up.

Will I abandon track repeats? Well, no. I'll try and join the team on some Wednesdays, and some Saturdays too. And I'll add strides to my other workouts to finish fast.

But the best version of me is one that attacks the bridge often. And so shall it be done.

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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