"You Only Live Once -- YOLO." It's been the motto of the year. Made popular by Drake in his song "The Motto," the expression took the nation by storm and not only changed the way people think, but the way they act as well, and not always for the better. Recently I read an article on the Huffington Post about Ervin McKinness, an aspiring rapper who was tweeting while driving drunk at 120 miles per hour at night. He tweeted "YOLO," and later that night got into a one-car accident that he killed himself and the four others in his car. I can't tell you whether this is what Drake meant in his song, but I can tell you this result is clearly not what he was going for. So I've started to think about the expression "YOLO" and analyze what it means. And through my thoughts I have come to two conclusions.
1. Immortality and living forever are NOT the same thing.
Now I understand that according to the dictionary definitions, these two terms may have the same meaning, but the actions are very different. Immortality implies living for eternity in both the physical and mental world that we have come to know, experience, and appreciate. Being immortal would require a lack of aging, devotion unlike any other, and probably an altered sense of reality. Living forever, on the other hand, doesn't have to mean these things. Living forever can be as simple as leaving a legacy. And leaving a legacy is the essence of my interpretation of YOLO. More on this later.
2. Death makes life worth it.
Our determination to do something is related to deadlines we must meet. And if it isn't the deadline that a teacher or boss gives you, it's the deadline that society gives you or that the world gives you. These deadlines exist because that is how the world stays in order. If we lived forever, what reason would we have of completing our work? Why is it important that that paper gets turned in tomorrow if you can do it in 6,000 years? There would be no time crunch, so why rush? But because of the reality of death, we are able to think clearly and act purely. We do what is best for ourselves and for the people around us because we know that one day we won't be able to do them anymore.
Before I move any further, I need to tell you where the inspiration for this piece came from. Recently I found out that while out on a run, a counselor at my summer camp suffered a brain hemorrhage. His parents flew out to Switzerland where he was studying and have been documenting his condition online so that all of us back here in the US could stay updated. Although I wasn't even that close to him, I have tried to stay updated through everything. But through reading the stories his mother tells, and reading all the posts on his Facebook wall, I have learned so much more about him than just his condition. I have learned how much of an impression he has had on his friends and family.
Through my experience, I have noticed that the opportunity to truly live is an opportunity that far too few people follow through with. I know I am one of those people. Every night, I go to sleep and think to myself, "I remember going to sleep this exact same way yesterday." And I refuse to do that anymore. I've learned that life and death have a mysterious relationships and one can never know when and if they will meet. I don't have time to wait and see, I'm not immortal. I have a deadline. So it's my job now to go out and leave a legacy just like the counselor from my camp has. If I'm not going to be immortal, then when I die, I want to know that my actions and my story will be remembered. And I know that others feel the same way. That is why, whenever I get the opportunity, I try to let people know how much they have made a difference in my life. Because telling someone they have made a difference in your life will probably make a difference in theirs.
So if you have become a YOLO enthusiast, I hope you see the expression for what it represents; living life to its fullest and leaving your mark on the world. So go out and do what you love and do it now. You'll be glad you did.
To Reuben and his family: Thank you for giving me the inspiration to write this article, I owe it all to you. You have all opened my eyes to the opportunity of life and I want to take on the responsibility of conveying that to others. You are all in my thoughts.