I think we all have certain methods with which we value ourselves. We can value our worth by our dress size, our GPA or our latest kill count in Call of Duty. We can count it by the amount of likes we receive on our latest youtube vlog or the amount of friends we have on Facebook. Some don't go by numbers, but in stead figure their own self-worth to be determined by how satisfied they feel by the end of the day, the month, the year or their own lifetime. Fuck these stable, self-congratulatory arseholes.
These all have very little to do with our actual market value, which, according to Time Magazine sits at about $129,000. So, more than your average prostitute and less than your average home loan. Depressing, maybe, but for some that could even seem a bit too high. The point is that there are a multitude of ways we can look at our lives and work out if we are worthwhile or not, and all of these methods are a giant, steaming pile of horse shit.
My own self worth has always been bottled up in intelligence. Sure, I have fallen victim to the numbers on the scale, the number of countries I've been to or the number of likes my profile picture receives as an estimation of how society regards me, but these numbers have never stressed me like the frenzied, hair-pulling anxiety I get when I'm sure someone thinks I'm an idiot.
It's quite possible my regard for intelligence is an inherited one, as I come from a highly educated family who passed their hunger for knowledge down to me through books, conversation and an overbearing and repetitious monologue about the importance of a university education. Yet I do not regard the graduates of university as necessarily intelligent. I've had plenty of encounters with graduates who have minds like cold chicken soup, gelatinous and bland. So too have I met people without degrees whose intelligence is as palpable as the nose on their face.
I tend to gauge peoples' intelligence not by the paper in their hand but by their sense of humour. This comes from a long childhood admiration of comedians and comedy actors. Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Whoopi Goldberg & John Cleese were all heralded as near gods in my household. Almost all American, because my mother is American and often despairingly homesick. Almost all male because, unfortunately, that was the state of the industry at the time. I remember the day John Candy died being akin to a national day of mourning in my house, where we gathered around the TV to watch reruns of Uncle Buck & Cool Runnings, crying and talking, sharing quotes and jokes, pledging to never forget the great man. We didn't just love these comedians, we took them seriously.
I watched Goldberg feign crack addiction, Murray drive off a cliff with a groundhog, Murphy wax lyrical about being beaten with a shoe as a child & Martin jab a knife into the Los Angeles elite, and I thought yes, this is what intelligence is. It is having the skill to find humour in the worst possible circumstances. It is having the conscious ability and will to laugh at yourself. It is being able to pick out the best and the worst of people and get them to laugh at themselves too.
You might think this an odd definition of intelligence, but it's the kind I've most admired through my life. To put it bluntly, growing up, if people didn't think I was funny, I figured they thought I was stupid. That's how I saw it, and to this day it remains my accursed yard stick in determining whether I am a worthwhile human being.
The difficulty in this is that I am not a natural jokester. The fact that I just used the word 'jokester' can attest to this. I was never the class-clown, or the extrovert. I could never tell a joke, or even a story worth a damn. My humour rested only in a private sphere of self-deprecation and small witticisms between close friends. My burning desire to be at the pinacle of comedy was starved of oxygen by my increasingly justified belief that I was just not funny.
After all, I couldn't exactly work out if I was funny by the number of laughs I got. Well, I could, but I would have been setting myself up for humiliating defeat. While I counted, many more people, those who didn't feel a pressure to be esteemed by their comic timing, would surpass me in a flurry of over-confidence and maddening nonchalance.
To value ourselves in and amongst a set of pre-determined standards is the most frustrating activity we seem to fall victim to in this society. It's desperation that wills it. We want so badly to become what we admire that we tend to forget who we are and the unquantifiable potential we each contain. A young girl looks at Kate Moss and thinks 'I want to be that'. She counts her life in calorie intake, in waist measurements and in number of boyfriends. When she grows up to be more of a Roseanne Barr, what is she? She's a failure - even though Roseanne is a Golden Globe and Emmy award winning writer/director/comedian/actress & producer who is just fucking cool, OK.
I'm never going to be Steve Martin. I'm coming to terms with this, slowly, painfully, and unwillingly. But that doesn't mean who I am & what I do counts for nothing. Does it?