TV/Media Commentary and Societal Insights. With a Beard.
3 Ways the “YOLO” Mentality Sucks
We all need ways to help us get through the day, especially when life keeps giving us lemons but our juicer is broken so you can’t even make lemonade. There are billions of crazy fortune cookie sayings that, instead of telling us our fortune, tell us “the sun only rises for those who wish it to” or “consume goat’s blood over the Hellmouth on the hour of the beast.”
But cheesy inspirational phrases do have a point—living your life completely safe will definitely make you hate it. Which is why concepts like “Live like you were dying” or “YOLO” (an acronym for “You Only Live Once” that’s actually pronounced phonetically because God hates us) and variations of the like have always had popularity one way or another. “YOLO” in particular, after being popularized by that one guy from Degrassi who’s also a rapper apparently, has exploded with teens and young adults lately. Drake has actually described it as a legitimate “movement” (remember that nothing else important is happening in the world right now) and it’s a popular Twitter hashtag, reason for pranks, and even Zac Efron apparently tattooed the motto on himself, which is again the most important thing happening in the entire world.
The media can have its field day with Efron and teen pranks, but ultimately you can’t stop people from being fucking stupid. That stuff’s going to happen with or without a dumb motto. The problem, though, is that even for people who don’t consciously say the phrases like jackasses, the “YOLO” concept of “live your life to the fullest” is used copiously by young adults in their 20s—people who are out of school with no idea what to really do next. It’s an age where, yeah, we can be doing random shit. It’s way more likely that the job we’re working or place we’re living or even significant other we’re with won’t be the same in the next 5 or 10 years. And that’s okay, because plenty of people use their 20s as a time for exploration (especially in the current market) so of course you’ll be doing different things. But some people use “YOLO” or less BS phrases like “Carpe Diem” as their foundation, and instead of it being motivation to try new things, it just screws them over, mentally, emotionally and even physically.
3) It promotes quick, stupid decisions
The whole idea of “You only live once” or “live like your were dying” and such is to not take the safe or familiar road. When you’re on the fence about a choice, or you just have the urge to do something crazy, you take the road less traveled by you. People are scared to take chances, and rightly so, but sometimes in order to get anywhere in life you’ve just got to dive in.
But let’s be honest: that’s not how people use it. It’s easy to make it an excuse. Cool shirt? I shouldn’t buy it, but YOLO. Oh, 40-disc Power Rangers DVD-set that will use my entire paycheck? Come on, YOLO. Guy with a sports car wants to race your minivan full of children? Pssh, YOLO.
A movie about plants making people kill themselves? YOLO!
The thing that people in general—but especially young people—tend to forget when making the “crazy” choice is that, yes, there are going to be consequences one way or another. And I know that’s a totally square, typical parent-like thing to say, but it’s true. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid anything that can have any type of bad consequence ever, because then you’d never get anywhere. Sometimes you’ve just got to splurge and indulge if you have the opportunity, even if it’s just a little bit. But at the same time, you do actually have to put a minimal amount of thought into stuff. There are certain things you just aren’t on the fence over, and you know it.
Randomly deciding “I want to go skydiving” and spending your limited rent money on the lessons while taking off work to do it? That doesn’t make sense. But if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you have a weekend off, and you found a place to get you lessons really cheap? Then go for it.
Living in the moment doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to indulge and do everything you want, it just means you shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance when the moment arises. Living in the moment means there has to be a moment to live in, but if there’s no logical way to do what you want to do without disastrous consequences, then just don’t do it. That’s not using your time anymore wisely than if you just sat staring at a wall. There has to be a choice that’s completely logical first, and you decide to not take the safe route. But instead, people use it as a reason to pull stupid shit out of their asses.
2) It implies you’re old and dying already
There’s a collective revelation among everyone in their 20s when they realize that they’ve actually lived for more than 20 years. It’s the first time where your age actually sounds like a real, actual and kind of big number, not just “your age.” I don’t know how often this revelation repeats itself, but I know this is at least the first definitive feeling of “Holy shit, I’m not a kid anymore.” I mean, it’s scary—kids who were born after Power Rangers premiered can smoke and buy porn. Also, Power Rangers is 20 goddamn years old. It’s an awkward age to be, but the YOLO ideal pretty much expedites it exponentially to the extreme.
With this revelation comes with the idea that, for the first time, you’re getting closer and closer to death. So that, coupled with the revelation that yes, you are progressively getting older and older, makes everything just feel incredibly bleak. There’s nothing wrong with having a cynical view of life—at least you’ll be realistic about things—but losing all hope because you didn’t immediately fly to France for vacation or go to the crazy expensive art school or move to New Zealand and audition to be a Power Ranger doesn’t mean you’ll never ever have the chance to do it again, and definitely doesn’t mean you’ve screwed yourself over. It just means you aren’t doing that now and you’ll have to do it a little bit later, or at the very least you’ll just have to find something else just as good. It’s okay to be a little patient.
F’real though, this WILL BE ME.
One of my bosses was 75, and still travelled all around the world, ran a whole company, and worked out everyday. He wasn’t much different than people in their 40s I know, was in way better shape than I am, and still had lots of long term goals. Hell, people I’ve known and worked with in their 80s and beyond that have already been diagnosed with debilitating illnesses like cancer are still working, having fun, doing what they want to do and contributing to society, and they know for a fact that they’re going to be dead in a few short years. And you think your life is “a waste” because you spent one year working at Staples instead of going straight to Grad School?
Being “old” doesn’t automatically mean the end of your life, and you shouldn’t need to have “fear of death” being the only thing that drives you. If you want to aim for anything, aim for staying mentally and physically active for as long as possible. Sometimes that means doing crazy things, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes your health is out of your control. But the bottom line is, you just aren’t that old now. You’re not. At all. There’s an infinite amount of terrible things that can kill you, and you never know what will happen, but there’s also an equal chance that nothing will happen. And either way, dying of “old age” anytime soon isn’t one of them. If you constantly worry about that, you’ll go insane.
1) If you don’t do it, you’re a failure
This is really the worst part: people take it the wrong way. The sayings imply that this is your one chance, and you’d better hurry up and do what you need to do right fucking now because you’re gonna die before you can. The idea here is to get people to stop pussyfooting around and do what they want to do if they really want to do it. It makes sense—we’re all afraid of making the wrong decision, and when you’re on the fence you’re more likely to fall on the safe side of it. So thinking of “Carpe Diem!” should prompt you to say “screw it” and jump in the maybe-shark-filled lake filled with a billion dollars.
But it ends up going in the wrong direction—when you don’t do the great thing you think you should have, you feel like a failure. The thought process becomes: If you aren’t living like you were dying, it means you’re one step closer to dying, since you only live once. It’s your one chance to live, and you already blew it. “Nice job, you lazy fatass,” you say to yourself. Which doesn’t consider the fact that there might be actually be a lake filled with a billion dollars definitely without sharks a few miles down the road.
WAIT NO NOT THAT ONE
If you don’t accomplish your dream tomorrow, so what? You’ve only been alive for 20 goddamn years, and chances are you’ve got another 70 years or so left to live. More than likely you’ll be living the amount of time you’ve already lived four times over.
And if you actually do die tomorrow? If you get diagnosed with a terrible illness or hit by a car or suffer a random brain aneurysm? Well…what if a meteor crashes into Earth tomorrow? What if some jackass invents a time machine and creates a paradox that destroys our entire existence? Or alternatively, what if a morphological being gives you power coins to save the world from an evil space witch? What if it turns out your dad ran a meth lab for the past few years and gives you the quarter-billion dollars he has saved up?
Point is, no one has any fucking clue what’s going to happen tomorrow—dying or living or what. Just strive for what will make you happy in the long run, and be aware that there will, without a doubt, be a shitton of pain along the way that just makes the happiness worthwhile. But more importantly, there’s no real endgame. There’s never a point where you have everything “figured out,” and you’ll always be trying to reach some kind of goal. Don’t live like you’re dying, live like you’re living. Experience it, make the choices that make the most sense whether they’re the safest or not, and don’t kill yourself if you fail…just give yourself enough of a kick to ensure you don’t fail the same way again. Because that’s all part of life, whether you live once, twice, or forever in a loop on Groundhog’s Day.
Also, stop actually saying YOLO. Please, just, for the love of God, just stop it.