The Problem with the Yolo Mentality


YOLO has become a very common phrase among teens and people in their 20's.  It means "you only live once."  True statement.   I agree with it.  We all need to be reminded from time to time that we only get one shot at this life and we need to make the most of every opportunity we have.  I get it. However, I have also seen the YOLO concept abused.  People, especially young people, have used this as an excuse to dive in to reckless behavior without thinking through the consequences of their actions.  "YOLO!  Let's get hammered."  "YOLO!  Let's get high."  "YOLO! Let me leave the party with the guy or girl I just met."  The idea is I'll only be young once, so I better have fun before I get old and lose my chance to.  The media and society only perpetuates the problem.  Making reckless decisions has become a right of passage in our society.  As if destructive behavior and rash decision making were a "normal" part of being young.  I agree that it has become normalized, but the message I want to send out to the young people in my life, and even to my peers, is it doesn't have to be your normal.

I've always been a goody two shoes.  I haven't gotten myself into too much trouble and people sometimes treat me like I have a personality defect because I have never been a partier.  In a recent conversation I had with an adult in my family, I was asked, "If you don't go to the club or the bar like everyone else your age, how do you ever expect to get married?"......What????  People feel like I'm missing out on my golden years to have a good time.  I looooooove having fun.  Me and my friends act like we're drunk without ever sipping a drop of alcohol.  I love to laugh and I do it on the regular.  My thing is that I've observed the YOLO life from a distance and have reached the conclusion that it doesn't look like a good time.

Hear me out for a minute.  I feel like the need to live it up, in the reckless let's get obliterated sense of  the term, comes from the desire to escape reality.  Reality can be bad.  It can be stressful.  It can be hard.  So out of a desire to escape real life pressures for just one night, you shout out "YOLO" and knock back the beers and take the hits until the pain goes numb for a little while.  The problem is when you wake up the next day the problems are still there, left undealt with and you feel empty.  You probably have a hangover and you may have made some decisions the night before that only leave you worse off with a lingering sense of regret.  The worst part is it's never a one time thing.  People live from weekend to weekend for the next buzz or the next high, repeating the same behavior over and over again.  It's a repetitive cycle and despite all the attempts to make yourself feel better and escape, you never actually do.  In the meantime, life ticks on.

Part of the reason, I am even writing on this subject is because I have individuals in my life, friends and family members, that I love and adore tons that have lived months and even years in this YOLO cycle.  I have had conversations with individuals who have hollow looks in their eyes, as they tell me that they aren't ever really happy.

The real tragedy in all of this is that the YOLO mentality robs people of the best years of their lives.  When you are in your teens and your 20's, you make the decisions that set the stage for the rest of your adulthood.  You begin to dream of a bright future and set goals for yourself.  You begin to learn how to deal with pressure and conflict and to jump hurdles as you pursue that future.  You're unmarried and unattached and you have all the resources and time at your disposal to make your dreams a reality and to make a difference.  My heart breaks when I see young people living in the YOLO trap, because I know that they are wasting some of the best years of their lives.  I know too many fully grown adults who look back at their teenage years and early twenties as a hazy period of nights they can't even remember.  I know too many fully grown adults who look back feeling as though they never accomplished anything, with dreams and potential that they never tapped into.  Everyone always looks back in retrospect and wishes they had done things differently.

My encouragement to you, especially young people, is to do YOLO the right way.  You only have one life.  Use every moment and each decision you make to propel you in the direction of your future.  Make goals and use this time to accomplish them!  Discover who you are and who you want to be.  Don't waste anymore time, because you are never going to get these years back.

YOLO. Make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:16)