I can remember being younger and listening to my Dad and older brother discuss current events like it was some foreign language. Much of the time we were sprawled out in front of the TV or packed into my Dad’s truck with me eavesdropping in the backseat, unable to really contribute any thoughtful insight. Many of the issues they were debating over were things I heard in passing. I desperately tried to filter through the information, using my problem solving skills and middle school deductive reasoning to make sense of it all. Sometimes it was about the war in Afghanistan or the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, about the strained conflicts between Israel and Pakistan or the latest NASA discovery.
It was all white noise to me.
At that age, my ignorance was often infuriating because it kept me from being able to hold my own ground in any of those conversations. It made me feel young and naïve. I was, and no one wants to be those things until they are older and the burden of responsibility forcefully kicks in.
Having knowledge about what was going on in the world seemed like a sense of power, a sort of glue to fill in the gaps between the missing pieces of my education. It was a validation of maturity, and I couldn’t wait until I could take part in a serious conversation with my dad or brother.
As I got older, however, what I realized was that knowledge and worldly awareness takes effort. Nobody hands it to you and it doesn’t seep into your unconscious while you sleep. It requires diligence, research, and engagement in conversations surrounding the topics. Often times, I found that I didn’t feel like I had enough time to stay current, or that other things took priority and I simply did not care enough. But, time after time, I’d find myself amidst a conversation between friends or family about these issues, and once again, I would feel complete ignorance.
As a millennial, I have been making a conscientious effort to avoid that ignorance. I have found that once that habit is practiced consistently, it really doesn’t take much effort to keep it up. I have found a couple shows that I will watch weekly (The Daily Show, Real Time With Bill Maher, etc.) that I feel give me a good recap on what has been happening, and I track the headlines on the top news websites to keep tabs. There is a gratification for being aware of what is going on in the world and being able to form my own opinions.
Growing up, we rely on our parents or older siblings to tell us of the important events going on in the world, and those people heavily influence our opinions on these topics. It is hard to find a 16-year-old who isn’t a political carbon copy as their parents, which is perfectly normal. But as we get older and have to face other responsibilities of adulthood, the ability to form our own opinions and having worldly awareness is a catalyst in growing up. Many of the issues going on in the world around us have a more direct impact on our lives once we graduate from college and enter the working world.
The truth is the next Presidential election could very well have the most significant impact on our lives. For many of us, the policies that will be instilled over the next four or five years will influence the economy we will be building our careers in and, “cross your fingers,” possibly help alleviate the burden of our student debt. A clean-energy plan passed could shape the environment of the future.
Now is the time to educate yourself on the major crises and topics we are facing in the world today establish your own stances on each. Take responsibility and engage in the world around you while being cautious of avoiding the ignorance that unfortunately has come to plague so many in our generation. Hold your own in those conversations, even if you mourn over the days of being a kid and not having to worry about that “adult talk.”