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The YOLO Epidemic This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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YOLO: You Only Live Once. These four words are the basis of humanity, the thing that separates us from the divine. For thousands of years, humans have been trying to find a way to postpone and even eradicate the one thing that we all have in common: Death. It seems that now, in this world of advanced technology and medical miracles, death has become a relative term. Doctors and scientists believe they can find a way to evade it, but we teenagers know better. And that, my friends, is the history of what I would like to call the YOLO Epidemic.

Even in ancient times, people sought immortality. In one Greek myth, twins were born to a mortal mother and the god Zeus. One twin, Polydeuces, was immortal, while his brother, Castor, was not. When Castor was dying, Polydeuces gave half of his immortality to his brother so that they may live alternating between the Underworld and Earth. The Chinese have a legend of a mystical medicine that could prevent someone from aging and dying. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, was bent on trying to find it. He thought that by ingesting mercury he would live forever, but his belief only hastened the inevitable.

We are born, we live, and we die. That is the cycle of life. To teenagers, life seems too short. When we are young, we look up to our older brothers and sisters and think about how much older and more mature they are. We float through elementary school on a cloud of ignorance, not knowing what lies ahead. Then we step into junior high, and reality hits us like a glass of cold water thrown in our face.

Grades, grades, and more grades are suddenly all that is important. Think of it as a highway, if you will. Expectations of others are the hills we have to cross, and of course there are exits along that road, which serve as less likely paths and detours. At the end of the highway is a giant looming tower called college. Now, it might seem awfully long, but in reality, this highway is just a mile long. It goes by in a flash. Youth is a time when everything seems possible, and once we grow up, that is when real life starts. That is why the concept of YOLO was created.

The phrase YOLO has swept the nation. Used as hashtags or photo captions, YOLO infects the minds of every teenager who goes on a social networking site. Countless times, I have witnessed people use YOLO. At first I saw it occasionally on Facebook or Instagram, but soon it invaded everyday conversation. What was once a topic of great philosophical thought is now used so lightly and loosely that it is almost meaningless.

At its worst, YOLO is a way for people to justify their actions. Any action that is risky, spontaneous, or just plain stupid at some point will be justified by YOLO. Of course, there is some rationale behind it. When you have the opportunity to try something new, why not take it? You might not get another chance.

That may be true, but life should also be lived meaningfully. The point of life is to help others and try to keep improving yourself, and if you die doing something reckless or stupid, then isn't it just potential wasted? YOLO should not be used to justify recklessness and placate consciences; it should be a reminder that we must try to do some good in the world.

So, next time you use the term YOLO, don't use it like “I'm going to go skydiving even though my leg is broken #YOLO.” Use it like “I'm going to wear a helmet when I ride my bike because YOLO.”

This is a topic that is difficult for many teens to comprehend, and in trying to unravel it, I may be in over my head, but at least I tried. #YOLO

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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countrygirl28This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 6 at 2:29 am:
Absolutely brilliant! 
 
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