When I was in college, YOLO — the acronym for “you only live once” — became popular. I think it was supposed to be inspirational, encouraging us to take advantage of our time and do something worthwhile. However noble the intention was, that’s not what it became. I remember it as something that many would say before doing something utterly stupid.
I’ve been thinking about the phrase, the philosophy driving it, and my feelings about it. A couple of weeks ago, I watched a TED Talk by disability advocate Estela Lugo, who is also medical outreach manager of the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation. During her talk, she introduced a phrase I hadn’t heard before. And while it is a bit too crude for me to quote verbatim, I think saying, “Holy shoot! We’re alive” is sufficient.
Despite the expletive, I prefer that proposed aphorism — attributed to Thinx founder Miki Agrawal — to YOLO. And I agree with Lugo when she asserts that the spirit and philosophy behind “Holy shoot! We’re alive!” is something worth taking to heart — especially when trying to manage a debilitating illness such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
My fellow millennials may disagree, but I believe there is a difference in philosophy between the two phrases. In the face of tough times and harsh realities, we can take a fatalistic perspective or appreciate the beauty during the time we have on Earth.
When I was in college and YOLO antics were popular, most could be attributed to immaturity. But for many millennials, I think there were elements of fatalism and bitterness.
I remember my peers talking about their disillusionment with the American dream. I think many were pessimistic about their futures and the fate of the planet. When combined with the general silliness of the college environment, the YOLO culture took a particularly cynical and unproductive turn.
Many of my peers seized YOLO as an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry to excess. But it was tinged with an element of hopelessness.
And it’s not like I can’t relate. When I think of confronting a chronic disease that has no cure, it’s easy to engage in shortsighted and self-destructive activities.
But this is wrong. We can choose to focus on struggles or cling to hope and look for second chances.
I’ve been looking for a witty way to express this feeling — a more satisfying and optimistic alternative to YOLO. There are alternatives found in songs, novels, movies, and religious texts. But maybe I’ve found another in “Holy shoot! We’re alive!”
And yes, “Holy shoot! We’re alive!” It’s a precious gift. And what a time to be alive.
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