A Return to YOLO

April 14, 2013
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“I’m going to, ‘cause YOLO”: A ubiquitous phrase that always seems to precede a stupid action. Aside from being the justification for stupidity in our generation, “you only live once” has become a motto. The idea of “you only live once” has been around for decades but “YOLO” in our generation has resurged because of Drake’s song, “The Motto”. In it he says “You only live once: That’s the motto, [expletive], YOLO”. In the song, Drake and Lil Wayne rap about their party lifestyle, throwing money around, doing drugs, using women, and gun influences. Thus, the notion of “you only live once” has changed to justify stupid and dangerous activities for teenagers.
Now I am all for “Carpe Diem” and such, but “YOLO” is just a way for teenagers to rationalize a moronic activity. My hand twitches to hit my face every time I hear it. Often these adventures in reasoning end poorly. “I’m going to 50 mph in a 30, ‘cause YOLO!” Boom. Speeding ticket.
The current usage of “YOLO” is a disease in our generation as it encourages risky and stupid behavior. Its influence has infected young adults nationwide. The Huffington Post reported that Ervin McKinness, an aspiring rapper, tweeted, 'Drunk… going 120 drifting corners [expletive] YOLO” minutes before dying in a car crash. The most horrifying part of this tragic situation is that other people, young fans of the rapper, were cheering for his poor decision making with the tweet getting 1,500 retweets and 443 favorites on twitter. The case of McKinness is an example of the symptoms of “YOLO” in our generation.
But at the same time, I like “YOLO”. Not what it has become, but the idea behind it. If someone spends all their life in a state of apprehension or caution, they will get nowhere. Thus, risks are essential to living a successful life. But like I said, our generation’s battle cry of “YOLO” could use some work.
“YOLO” as it is currently, is the parasite on our generation. However, we can change that. The structure of it is good. I think our parents and grandparents had it right when they looked at “you only live once” to mean that people should seize whatever opportunities are in front of them to enrich their lives. Risks are essential to this philosophy and I believe that risks are necessary for living a good life. While I admit that I have not always taken risks, the ones I have taken I have not regretted.
I’m a pretty shy kid who does not like to be away from home but for whatever reason I decided to go on a service trip to a Native American reservation in Montana. I stayed there for about ten days and gained a greater insight to the world as well as greater insight into myself. The reservation was nothing like my comfortable Chicago suburb. It was pretty run down with dirt roads, dilapidated homes, and dogs running around from families that could no longer afford to feed them.
My friends and I spent a day with a nun and a few kids from the local school whose parents were in jail. Our job was merely to be cheerful and friendly. We hiked to the top of a mountain and looked out on the reservation from 5,000 feet up. The little girl I was walking with pointed to a holy mountain and told me about “spirit journeys” in which people from the tribe spend days on a the mountain for guidance as a rite of passage.
While I am not from the tribe and cannot do one of their spirit journeys, I felt as though I was on a spirit journey of my own. I was immersing myself in a different culture and learning new ways to think about things. I learned different ideas about the values of respect and tradition. I learned to see dance as something spiritual. I learned how to appreciate things that I don’t completely understand and that people think differently than I do. I was so affected by my experience that on top of the mountain, 5,000 feet up in the air, my friends and I spelled out “YOLO” with our arms. I look at it as a reminder to always take advantage of opportunities, even if it is a risk.
I think my experience is the true meaning of “you only live once”. I was truly able to take advantage of the opportunities in front of me to change my life for the better. That is the original meaning of “YOLO”, and in my opinion, it is better than the current meaning which emphasizes drugs, alcohol, and heavy partying. I think we as a generation should make this move back to the original meaning so that we can avoid the dangerous risks and only take the ones that enrich our lives and help us grow. For some it might be trying out for a sport, taking an AP class, or auditioning for a play. And while the risk may not always pan out, I believe the experience of taking the risk will always help us grow.
To echo one of my favorite cartoon teachers “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”

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Megan123 said...
Apr. 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm
Well said!
krad1192 said...
Apr. 17, 2013 at 9:05 am
I really like this article!  I agree with you 100% and hope we can change "YOLO."  PS Nice Magic School bus reference!
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