I hate clichés. I hate them. But what I hate more than those simple statements that seem to slip off the tongue in hopes of sugar coating any rotten bite of reality you are about to have shoved in your mouth, is that sometimes they are true. Don’t you hate that? When I hate something I don’t want it to ever make sense or ever teach me anything. I want to be able to sit on my mountain of bliss judging and ridiculing those meaningless platitudes. Shit hits you square in the jaw, though, when you find yourself writing a blog post about one of the most overused, obnoxiously optimistic clichés in the book. In fact, it is so obnoxious that Drake himself coined an acronym for it adding to its already effortless delivery. Yes, unfortunately, I am speaking of YOLO: you only live once. Oh god, I nearly had to run to the bathroom out of disgust at myself for merely typing those words. I apologize.
See I would never be writing this post if I hadn’t had some experience with the annoying truth of those oversimplified four words. No shit we only live once. Such an obvious statement riddled with the weight of humankind’s imminent mortality, but somehow meant to lighten the mood or guilt people into enjoying what little life they may have left. Carpe diem, if you will. Oh god, sorry, another cliché. Though, hearing YOLO rapped by Drake while interspersed with profanities, casual sex, and the glorious life of riches and fame seems to have created a different meaning for this overused phrase. Now twenty and thirty something’s often use it to encourage rash decisions in the heat of the moment, because, hell, you only live once right? Why not take that extra shot, kiss that stranger at the club, spend a little more of your savings? Somehow this cliché has been turned into a way for people to defend a culture that loves instant gratification (You want something? You can have it, all of it, now!) or it is used as a way to cool the inevitable sting of regret one may feel about past mistakes or choices. You only live once and, if nothing else, at least you’ll have a story to tell next weekend, right?
I got caught up in this life. Maybe it did not look like hooking up with random guys or spending extravagant amounts of money, but I was living without a moment of pause. I was living in the fast lane because if I stopped I was so unhappy. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I hate that cliché so much because whenever I heard it whether from Drake or from some sappy love story I desperately watched during a Netflix binge, I always knew deep down that it didn’t mean throwing caution to the wind and doing the next crazy thing that would make for an entertaining story. For with that mentality, all you have in the end is a disjointed pile of stories that gather a fleeting laugh here and there from friends, but nothing sturdy enough on which to build a meaningful life. Hearing the truth screaming beneath the cheesiness of that phrase always terrified me because I was twenty-three and hadn’t been genuinely content with life for more years than I could admit. I had to start living for the present instead of hoping that some happiness or contentedness would come tomorrow or next year or when I was working or when I was married or when I made enough money. I had to recognize that I had choices in my life. That what I actually wanted mattered more than what people wanted for me, who people saw me becoming, or what external expectations I was trying to achieve. You only live once means that life is happening right here and now. Life does not start in some future plan you have of being successful or rich or in love. So as I began to let these realizations hit me one after another, I found myself bruised at rock bottom, having tumbled down the side of my own mountain of bliss sitting in the unbearable discomfort of the truth. I only live once and this means something. I actually have to start having a meaningful experience and stop being lulled into complacency by the enticing words of Drake: YOLO, bitches.