Friday, December 5, 2008

Lessons learned

Christmas in the southern hemisphere just doesn't mean the same thing...

As my time in Sydney comes to an end, I want to share a few of the things I've been thinking about.

1) The U.S. plays a massively disproportionate role in global affairs.
I went out to dinner the night that the election results were announced, and people were stopping me to offer congratulations. This is only one of the many, many small and not-so-small things that have emphasized how very much attention everyone is paying to the U.S. It's a bit shocking to experience. It's also flattering as hell. I have to admit, this is one of the times in my life when I've felt most patriotic. Particularly following the biotech conference I attended in Melbourne. Let's just say that Australia has a lot to learn about the biotech industry. And they can learn it from US. I'm starting to understand in a way I never had before, just how much we have to offer in terms of innovation, drive, dynamism, and the success that can result from them.

2) The U.S. is frighteningly unaware for how quickly the rest of the world is catching up.
I've read The World Is Flat (most of it). I read the New York Times (sometimes). I've been hearing rumblings for years about how we are overly complacent, how Japanese thirdgraders can outperform our college graduates on everything including the memorization of high value three letter words for Scrabble and the ability to avoid credit card debt. And yet my time here, at this particular moment in history, has brought this home, all too vividly, and all too urgently. There are a lot of frighteningly smart people in school here, from all over the world. And they aren't looking for jobs in the States. Not even the Americans.

3) I am not 19.
That's how old I was when I lived in Paris. I guess I thought the experience here would be a lot more similar. Never mind that it's sunny here, and there's less dog poo on the sidewalk, and people speak English (sort of). My time in Sydney has provided a glimpse into how much the way I experience the world now is different from before.

When I was 5 or so, someone taught me about the idea of your Champagne Birthday. Most of you call them your Golden Birthday. It's the year you turn the age of the day of the month you were born on. So from that time on, I was looking forward to my 19th birthday. And then it came. And went. Life was good, but for years part of me has wondered if that was it. I hadn't found new milestones to look towards. Had I peaked at 19? Somehow, having this experience that brought back some of the images of being 19 so vividly, and then gave me something to compare those to, has been immensely satisfying. It's allowed me to realize how much I like where I am now.

I think I'm mellowing with age.

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