Published 2007-05-30

For most of my tenure in high school, I didn’t “get” high school. I didn’t get the cliques, the sports, the clothes, how to manage classes, none of the John Hughes drama stuff. Until the second semester of my senior year. Like someone flipped a switch: “hey, here’s how high school works.” Suddenly it didn’t suck, I could totally navigate the weird social/cultural currents of high school. Ironically, this happened at the exact moment high school ceased to matter for me. Then I graduated.

(For any high schoolers reading this, here’s the key: almost none of it matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re popular or get good grades. Try not to get arrested or flunk out, and score well on your SAT. The rest of the time: geez, enjoy yourself.)

The same thing happened in college. At least with college, I had one full year (my senior year, natch) of really getting how college worked.

(For any college kids reading this, here’s the key: don’t date the same person you dated in high school. S/he is a wonderful person, I’m sure, but college is all about becoming something you didn’t know you were, and staying with your hometown sweetheart prevents you from growing up.)

This pattern (the last-minute getting-it thing) isn’t usually the case with me. Usually I start out strong (at a new job, for example, or on a really long bike ride), and fade to a plateau. I’ve learned to manage my energy in such a way that I know my energy will perpetually decline, so despite which my performance, in toto, remains excellent.

China (and Ports) is like high school. This week someone threw a switch and everything is humming along smoothly. At about 200 miles per hour, sure, but humming nonetheless. Just like high school: I didn’t “get it” until the point at which “getting it” was no longer necessary.

This is gonna be a really busy five weeks.