Section: Opinion

What happened to the YOLO energy of middle school years?

It’s 2011. “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars is playing at Rachel’s bat mitzvah. You’re killing it in a sparkly tutu dress. You want to ask Johnny to dance but are feeling nervous. Suddenly, the phrase everyone has been chanting all year makes you forget your worries: “YOLO.” You Only Live Once. You decide to be bold and live your life to the fullest by asking Johnny to dance. He of course accepts, and                             “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz blasts while you celebrate your victory. Mazel tov.

It’s 2012. YOLO is still a thing. You see a girl sitting alone in the cafeteria and you love her wedge sneakers. You want to tell her but are worried she may think you’re weird. But the YOLO energy takes over and you go tell her how awesome her style is. You’re best friends now and have sleepovers every weekend. She lets you borrow her wedge sneakers.

It’s 2019. You match with your crush from sociology class on Tinder but never message him. You think about learning how to crochet but decide to scroll through Instagram instead. You dress as a sexy angel for Halloween rather than what you really want to be, which is (of course) Shrek. You only do the things you’re good at, only wear the colors that you know look good on you and always play it safe.

The YOLO energy is gone. And it’s time to bring it back.

We live in a time when it’s cool to procrastinate, when it’s “in” to be lazy. Although I can only speak for the circles that I inhabit and the bubbles that I occupy, people have stopped living their lives with any sort of urgency, completely ignoring their mortality. We live on social media rather than in the present, and take the easy way out rather than act with gusto. While this problem may be more due to societal trends than popular slang terms, I still think that YOLO can help.

I will admit that the idea behind YOLO has not always been a positive influence. Back in its peak, it may have been the reason that a frat boy named Brad climbed on a roof intoxicated, or it may have encouraged Stacy to dance on an elevated surface only to quickly fall a few twerks later. I’m sure that people have made bad decisions solely because their friends had shouted “YOLO!,” but those people are completely misinterpreting the phrase.

YOLO does not mean, “You Only Live Once, so let’s not wear a seatbelt and die quickly from bad decisions.” My personal definition (the correct one) is, “You Only Live Once, so let’s go message that cute boy from sociology class on Tinder, learn to crochet and dress as Shrek for Halloween. Let’s take advantage of each and every day and acknowledge that they are numbered.”

If people regularly recognized that their lives are short, then maybe they would feel motivated to live their lives in the present and with courage, rather than bragging about how much Netflix they binged that weekend, or how last-minute they wrote an essay. It’s time for being lazy and staying in your comfort zone to go out of style. We should empower people to be bold, fearless go-getters.

So if your friend wants to try out for a team but isn’t sure if they’ll make it, your response should be simple: YOLO. If you are a woman who deserves a raise but don’t typically advocate for yourself, just think: YOLO. And if you want to reach out to Johnny from Rachel’s bat mitzvah because it’s been eight years  and you want to see how he’s doing, the answer is simple: You Only Live Once.

Mia Sherin ’22 is an undeclared major from Wilmette, Ill. You can contact her at


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