You Only Die Once

I strongly dislike the phrase “YOLO,” the perky abbreviation for “You Only Live Once.” I was never a big fan of carpe diem, but at least the Latin gives the sentiment a little class.

Urban Diction defines YOLO as “The dumbass’ excuse for something stupid that they did.” Which is, I suppose, pretty much how it’s used.

It is, of course, everybody’s prerogative to embrace YOLO or whatever other life lessons they so choose. I’m not here to judge. But I find it disturbing when people shout the phrase with unbridled cheer.

You only live once. Indeed. Embrace the sentiment if you would like. But what does it really mean?

You Only Live Once means accepting that you can’t change the past. It means recognizing that the present will soon be gone, and that whatever you do today you’ll have to live with tomorrow.

You Only Live Once means cherishing every moment. It means there’s no such thing as wasted time. The line at the grocery store is a opportunity for self reflection. Sitting at the bus stop is a chance to watch the clouds. Every moment is a moment for thought, reflection, observation and beauty.

You Only Live Once means not worrying about what will happen after the here and now. These are the only moments you control, and this is your only chance to control them.

And, of course, You Only Live Once means that you might die tomorrow. And if you hope to die with no regrets on your lips, you’d best accept your death every moment of every day. You Only Live Once means you should fall asleep prepared to never wake up, and you should wake up prepared not to make it through the day.

Again, it’s everyone’s prerogative to embrace such sentiments if they so choose. But the dark reality of what it means to only live once seems more appropriate of Nietzsche than a girl downing jello shots.

So I’d propose a slight modification to this expression. Instead of You Only Live Once, let’s say what this really means. You Only Die Once. You only die once, and if you’re unlucky, that might happen tomorrow.

A bit wordy, perhaps, but that’s an expression I could get behind.


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