“What the heck is a YOLO?” A phrase uttered on more than one occasion by someone of a much older generation, and at one time I was asked if it was a brand of yogurt. For those who don’t keep up to date with the goings on of MTV starlets and blog posts on Buzzfeed, YOLO is an acronym standing for You Only Live Once. People of my generation use it as a guiding principle for the decisions they make. Should I jump out of this plane? I definitely should… YOLO! If you want to be spontaneous and reckless, just YOLO and don’t worry about it. Live life without regard for the next step, live in the moment and never look back.
This is problematic. Life shouldn’t be lived thinking that we only live once and therefor should act on impulse and deal with the consequences later. Instead, we need to realize that we only live once and should make the most of the time we have. Do we want to one day wake up and realize we are living in a society that we haven’t helped shape, or taken ownership in? Make decisions and make them on purpose. We only get one future and don’t we want a say in how it is going to be? By not doing something as easy and fundamental as voting, the youth are saying that while we only live once, we don’t really care how that one time goes.
That uncomfortably large group of young people who don’t have a desire to take ownership of their future they do have some great role models. Why should they take ownership of their future if their leaders today can’t even take ownership for their actions, how can they lead if they’re not being lead. What is happening in the Senate and with Rob Ford is scandalous, but not an excuse. Just because those people cannot take ownership of their actions does not give everyone else a free pass. Don’t become indolent, but instead inspired. Be inspired by those in your own community making a difference.
It can be overwhelming thinking about all of the different problems that affect so many different parts of society. It is easy to feel small and insignificant. By reusing my shopping bag what difference am I actually making? That feeling of being a small fish in a big pond is a big barrier of entry of sorts. It’s a barrier for taking charge of your future. Too many times I have heard people say, “I’m just one person, there’s nothing I can do” or “whatever happens, happens”. When did it become socially acceptable to have no ownership in what happens in your future? In his book “Constructing Public Opinion” Justin Lewis touches on the idea of the uniformed citizen. To Lewis the uniformed citizen is an almost mythical figure; the uninformed citizen doesn’t really exist. He says that when someone has to make a choice about something they have no opinion about, the choice they make is rarely arbitrary. Even if someone says they have no opinion, at the end of the day if they had to choose something they would. So when it comes to not voting or not helping shape their future why is that the choice so many young people decide?
We’ve all read the news articles and seen the stats. The youth are less engaged and if you ask a twenty something why they didn’t vote in the last federal election (and over 60% of them didn’t vote), many times you hear sound bites like “ I have no opinion and it didn’t matter,” “it doesn’t really effect me directly” but something made them decide that. Why was that their decision? The decisions that are made need to be purposeful and not arbitrary. The youth can no longer be uniformed citizens but instead informed and proactive citizens. Don’t forget… you only live once.
As much as I love a good acronym, I don’t think YOLO is an appropriate guiding principle for youth today. Instead, each person should develop his or her own declarations. Declarations that help guide the decisions you make and how you choose to live your life. Everyone might have different declarations and that is alright. We are all different people with different needs and different futures, but as long as we have a say in what that future will be there is still hope.
Tea I was drinking while writing this post: Lipton-Mandrin Orange Green Tea
Song I was listening to while writing this post: