Catchphrase not a free ride card

Musician Drake has been credited with the wildly popular “YOLO” phrase from his song “The Motto.”

YOLO is an acronym for “You Only Live Once” and has become common on brightly colored clothing and hashtags on Twitter. It is becoming a life motto for many young people out there today.

The motto, while true unless you believe in reincarnation, shouldn’t be a life motto. Youth shouldn’t use it as an excuse to act foolish, a crutch to spend the night drinking and partying, or a fallback for being an idiot.


Indeed, we all only live once and indeed, we should make the most of it. But I think we are missing the point of the motto.

If I were 15 right now, I’d probably live by the YOLO motto. I’d use it as an excuse to do the dumb things I did when I was 15, like sled off the roof of my house onto my trampoline, or nearly setting a field behind my neighborhood on fire. I get why it’s a popular phrase and motto, I do.

In early September, a young man was killed in a car accident 20 minutes after tweeting “Drunk af going 120 drifting corners #F***It YOLO.”

It is an unfortunate event to say the least. It should be noted that it was later discovered the young man was not the one driving at the time, but this thought and idea of YOLO, the idea that you are invincible, is being used as an excuse to be reckless. I also understand he probably meant the YOLO as a joke, a sarcastic reply to the situation.

Mistakes and recklessness are two different things. We will all make mistakes. We will all have dreams go down in flames. If you are doing something actually worthwhile in your life, you won’t need to follow it up with a hashtag YOLO. If you’re out drinking the night before a big test, you aren’t contributing much to your one life.

The idea of YOLO implies that life itself has become as disposable as a plastic water bottle, but with the idea that if our water bottle gets thrown away one night, another one is gained the next day.

The YOLO lifestyle seems to be popular among people who are caught up in shows like “Jersey Shore,” “Honey Boo Boo,” and other caricatures of reality on television. But life is not a caricature. Life is reality. Life isn’t something to be tossed out like something you use once. Life is meant to be given out and shared with those around you.

If YOLO-life is a condom for a one-night stand, real life is a 60-year marriage of people like my grandparents who loved each other until they died.

If YOLO-life is a plastic water bottle, real life is the stream that trickles down a mountain into a mighty river.

Don’t waste the one life you are given — because you do only live once and once only.

My brother likes to use the word “legacy” when he talks about his life and his three sons. He wonders what sort of legacy he will leave behind for his children. My brother, a great man, has probably never used the phrase YOLO because he doesn’t have to — he already knows what real life is and the difference between it and the disposable life many of us are living.

You only live once. It’s not a hashtag. It’s not a catchy song. It’s not an excuse. It’s a reason to live and to give your life away, not throw it away.

To contact Mitchell Richards, email

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