Where “YOLO” Meets “IRL”

Disclaimer: Don’t let the title throw you off. I hate those terms, too.

Certain acronyms and abbreviations have really caught on in this age of the Internet. LOL, IMO, BRB—most of today’s shorthand lingo comes from the desire to type common, mildly lengthy phrases using less time and space. Yet, while most acronyms have quickly become part of the online lexicon, many will agree that YOLO (You Only Live Once) has reached its expiration date. Though the term represents an overt acknowledgement of humankind’s impending mortality, frequent usage has transformed the otherwise meaningful concept into an annoying cliché.

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Countless advocates take to the Internet to state the obvious, but one has to wonder if they fully understand what they’re saying, for it’s not simply the fact that we only live once, but what we do with that one life that truly generates meaning. Many have yet to comprehend that posting YOLO all over Twitter or Tumblr does not constitute living, for life will not wait until you’re done posting that status or reblogging pictures of cats. When you are young, you feel invincible, as if time will never touch you. You believe you have so many years left to live life to the fullest until, suddenly, the days have faded into weeks, and the weeks into months, and years later you are standing with your back to the future, gazing at the past and wondering where all the time went because, in most instances, we spend too much time standing still.

Time marches forward (even if we don’t). We get extra sleep to gather energy for the things we want to do. We study harder so we can get the job we seek. We work twice as hard to earn more money for the goods necessary to survive. But, as our obligations consume every ounce of effort we exert, time slips further out of reach and we are left with mere slivers to spend with those we love. Even though classmates and co-workers may surround us all day long, we spend most of our waking hours in relative solitude. Our pets remain home alone as they await our return, and our friends and family toil away at their own responsibilities, allowing us to come together for only one mere fraction of the day.

Honestly, it’s paralyzing to consider how much time we waste working toward an imaginary future that may never materialize. Once you begin to understand how many moments we subconsciously let slip by, you can’t hope but pause to catch your breath. Much of life remains entirely out of our hands, yet we proceed with the assumption that there will always be another tomorrow, causing us to neglect today’s potential. We put so much energy into jobs that we dread in our pursuit of financial security, and we tackle tasks deemed mandatory by society’s standards, not realizing that what might be right in front of us one week could be gone the next, for just as we believe we’ll always have more time, we believe those we love will always be there, too. We must recognize that distance, illness, and death are not just possibilities, but eventualities, and that to truly embrace this one life we’ve been given, we must love and live in the moment, not in the future.

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