Do I YOLO or do I YOLO?

Published on 8/7/2020

Living fast versus the fear of dying young.

You only live once.

This phrase is thrown around without caution. By people urging you to seize the day, a millennial carpe diem if you will. By people mocking it, tossing the words out to hide the self-conscious truth to them. Whether or not you say it in those letters or words, all of us are fixated on the concept of YOLO day after day.

We are aware that life is short, we are terrified of it. We have become a generation, a society that doesn't fear the process of dying or death but the loss of life instead. We have limited time and more options than ever. Social media dangles at our fingertips, reminding us of all the things we could do, or the things we want, or rather those we should want. Every Instagram post, every facebook update is a message tinged green. They’re doing this, why aren’t you?

But with that YOLO comes two opposing interpretations. Two ways that these four words can be taken and applied to your life.

You Only Live Once so…

Live for today, live for the moment!

I think this is the most common interpretation of YOLO, perhaps where it started and intended to go. This is the YOLO of living in the present, it’s the one fixated on making memories. This YOLO exists today and doesn’t concern itself with tomorrow.

I experience the urge for this YOLO when a friend tells me about a wild party they attended, or when I see Instagram stories of people at a club or beach all together. I begin to fear that I’m wasting my youth. That I should try harder to enjoy clubbing or nights out. That I should see friends more, fill my weekends with plans. Who cares if I don’t get a full six hours of sleep with work tomorrow? I’ll be fine, they’re fine so I will be too. I should order a cocktail, and another one. I should plan holidays to the beach, not worry about saving up for the future. I should have more fun, I don’t have enough fun. It’s often a YOLO focused on how others see you rather than how you view yourself. Measuring yourself by someone else’s metrics.

There are people who spend their lives in this field of YOLO. Many of them thrive in it, handling the lack of sleep, avoiding the hangovers and cherishing social situations. But for those of us not built for it, we quickly drain ourselves by chasing this theory of YOLO. If you’re an introvert, you’ll struggle more than others in the social expectations of living for the moment. If you’re ambitious, you may ache at the flatline of your progression. There is little time for reading books about self-development or working towards fitness goals. Most of this YOLO takes place in evenings or nighttime, and many mornings will be missed for it.

You Only Live Once so…

Look after yourself, make this life the best it can be

This is the YOLO that first stirs a few years into your twenties, it’s strangely silent during your years of studying, perhaps the tequila tranquilises it. But when it comes, it truly sticks. It stays in your mind, that guilty voice asking if you really need another glass of wine, whether you should go home and try to wake up early, keep your weekend free to work on your projects and self-development. It’s a YOLO looking to cherish your life and feed the sapling of it. It knows that you have minimal days, so it wants you to use them to your maximum. Every day is an opportunity to work towards your goals, to make yourself the best version you can be. You only live once so be the person you want to be, do the things that make you happy not the ones that others prefer. It’s all about tomorrow, waking up and enjoying the beauty of it.

This is the YOLO that overcomes my fear of letting people down, that makes me tell a friend that actually I can’t hang out this Saturday, as I want to work on my writing and clean my working space. It’s the one that agrees to dinner next Tuesday, but admits that I’d like to meet early so that I’m in bed on time. It prioritises my sleep, as it knows that I am at my best and happiest when I’m well rested and can conquer my mornings. It nudges me to spinning classes or my running shoes, not to look good in a bikini photo on Instagram, but to use the privilege that my body is, to be as healthy as I can. It’s the one dragging me to the therapy waiting room, and it’s the one spending my salary on ebooks and plants for my home.

It could be considered the old lady YOLO, or rather the YOLO that will get me to that old age. Maybe it does make me miss out on moments, maybe I will look back in years and wish that I had let loose. I sometimes feel those regrets about my golden age of studying, that I hadn’t been focused on what others thought and getting a better grade, that I had let more nights pass to mornings. This YOLO can make you feel like an outsider, not only to the norm but to your friends. They don’t understand this YOLO, it can easily be interpreted as being selfish or a loner.

I think we need both YOLOs. We need to sit tentatively on the seesaw of them and allow life to sway us to each side when appropriate. I think we should live primarily in the latter YOLO, as it’s the healthiest for us physically, mentally and emotionally. But that first YOLO, the wild teenager within, also deserves a place in your life. It deserves bachelorette parties, birthdays and trips with your friends. Sometimes we need to ignore the clock, sometimes we need to stay present and allow tomorrow to be ‘wasted’. If you never live in the moment, you never get to enjoy that tomorrow that you worked so hard for.

But that doesn’t have to be alcohol or endless nights, it doesn’t even need to be with friends. Maybe your today YOLO is bingeing your favourite show on the couch, maybe it’s baking cookies and eating the dough raw.

Take a moment today, sit down and create two columns on a page. One is your today YOLO and one is your tomorrow. Write down the things that you enjoy doing and place them in the correct column. Fight the urge to fall on cliches unless they come naturally and authentically. What do you enjoy doing to live in the moment, and what do you enjoy doing to contribute to your tomorrow? This is your life, you are the one who has to live it, no one else. So make sure that it is a place that you want to stay in.



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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