I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person. I always have, ever since my mother pointed out a flock of birds on the side of the highway when I was two years old, and I very crossly informed her they were, in fact “crows, Mummy.”
Of course, there are different kinds of intelligence. I’d like to think I’m both book-smart and street-smart, but above all I believe it takes a smart person to know their own limitations. And like many people of my generation, perhaps the first that was raised to truly be anything we want to be, I tend to want to know and be and do everything, and better than everyone else.
And so I’ve embarked upon a little campaign to re-educate myself. While for the past half-decade I’ve been religious (bordering on fanatical) on keeping myself informed about my own field of work, I’ve felt myself slipping where it counts.
To be honest, I’ve been watching a lot of E! and reading a lot of Chick Lit where I probably should be tuning in to C-Span and picking up the Times once in a while. And because I’m self-aware enough to know that there’s an ever-widening gap between my college graduation date and my current age, I’ve been slowly training myself to reach for Popular Science rather than People when I have the opportunity.
That isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but for my own ambitions, it’s probaby best if I can discuss something other than Ben and Jen’s divorce. You know?
But here’s where a special kind of smarts, and one that isn’t so common comes in – I failed to realize, in my quest to become a little bit more well-rounded, that I am a child of my generation. Millennials have a bad reputation for self-important know-it-alls. And I’m here to tell you, friends, that in some cases? We are.
I blame National Geographic.
Don’t mistake me: National Geographic is an icon. An institution. A beacon of knowledge and learning. And for good reason! You absolutely do not last as long as National Geographic has without being a paragon of excellence. The problem is, they’re a little too good at what they do. How do I know?
Because they’ve got me convinced, apparently, that I am the proud owner of a PhD. Or several of them, in fact, as in the past few weeks I’ve spouted irritating-to-my-own-ears facts about everything from the Kuiper Belt to kangaroo reproduction. I’m terribly (and vocally) worried about the state of the world’s vulture population, and fascinated by the recently discovered lost leaders of Jamestown colony.
I call this phenomenon “WebMD Syndrome,” and as I’ve noticed it becoming more aggressive within myself, I’m also more attuned to the fact that it seems to affect my generation more than any other.
Is it because we have something to prove? Absolutely. What generation doesn’t? But of course we aren’t the ones who suffered through the Depression. We didn’t paint on our stockings or live in fear of nuclear war. No, ours is the generation struggling to prove that we are intelligent, educated and employable. That we’re worth it.
That we matter.
So maybe that’s why we supplement our Paris Match with Project Runway. Maybe it’s why we keep up with the Kardashians rather than Kierkegaard. Maybe that’s all okay.
And of course, if Vh1 ever revives the World Series of Pop Culture, we’ll totally be $250k richer. So there’s that.