When I first heard of the common acronym Y.O.L.O. (assuming it’s still common — these things seem to rush in and out of popularity faster than I can comprehend) I was actually pretty impressed. “You only live once” is not only a true statement, but I thought a pretty useful one to remember.
It didn’t take long, however, to start to notice that people apparently had the meaning confused. How did something like, “Beer for breakfast!” (minus the correct grammar and capitalization) warrant such a phrase? To me, it seemed like the fact that we only live once would be the very reason one might refrain from such detrimental behavior.
Truly, the growing trend of assumed immunity to consequences perplexed me greatly. How could people act so nonchalant about actions that were so obviously stupid (pardon my French) and, on many occasions, dangerous? To me, it would have made more sense to see a tweet or status with something more like, “Buckled up before leaving the driveway! Y.O.L.O!” or “Ate a full serving of fruits and veggies today! Y.O.L.O!”
Now, you might have noticed that I’m speaking about my confusion in the past tense. You may have guessed, but the mystery is a mystery no more. I was only baffled by this odd behavior long enough to realize how thoroughly guilty I am of it.
No, that is not to say that I periodically post reckless things that I do on the Internet (because honestly, I am easily the most boring person I know) and then attach a classic, Y.O.L.O. to it. However, it all came crashing down on me one day how immune to consequences I had previously believed myself to be.
It all started when I walked out of the bank with a crisp bill in my hand ready to spend it on something trivial and useless. I glanced distractedly at the receipt in my hands and stopped short.
How had $200 disappeared from my bank account? Surely there had to be a mistake.
I quickly scanned over the list of withdrawals, figuring out what had been the purpose of each and calculating it all up in my head. My heart sunk with the horrible feeling of having no one to blame but myself.
All right, maybe it wasn’t the most reckless behavior in the world or even the most reckless behavior I’d ever participated in, but for all the times I’d scoffed at the people who misused Y.O.L.O. and had acted rashly, disregarding consequences, I was one of them.
And (naturally) that wasn’t the only example. Once I’d thought of the first one, hundreds of examples popped into my head of all the times I’d disregarded my parents’ council and been sorry or procrastinated until the last second and received a poor grade because of it. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been foolish with money.
It’s shocking how often I forget about negative consequences of negative actions. It’s shocking how worth it or inconsequential the risk sounds until the risk is a reality.
Having an out of sight, out of mind outlook on life is comfortable and, for a time, preferable. However, Y.O.L.O. is as correct as it is misused. You only live once. Don’t waste your life now on things that will ruin the rest of it.
Siera Gomez is a freshman at Brigham Young University.