When a cliche turns backward

About a week ago I came across the story of an aspiring rapper who died in a fatal car crash. The driver was drunk. What made his story all the worse was that right before he died, the guy had posted to Twitter that he and his pals were driving drunk, but you only live once.

YOLO. That’s the acronym: you only live once.

I’ve been seeing that a lot lately, usually useful for excusing stupid decisions. “I could either go to that concert or sleep the night before my SATs, but hey, YOLO.” ¬†Or ridiculously stupid decisions, like “We’re driving drunk because YOLO.”

And here’s my question: the more aware you are that you only live once, shouldn’t you be more careful with your life, rather than less?

How on earth did “this is precious because it’s the only one” come to mean “so ruin it”?

I understand not living your life encased in styrofoam. You only live once, so go take that art class. Fall in love, get your heart broken, but you only live once, so trust enough to love again. That kind of thing. You don’t want yourself cut off from the life you can have, the pure feelings, the excitement, the struggle and the feeling of triumph when you master something that was just too difficult for you to do before.

YOLO, so learn to play the violin, take driving lessons, visit Japan, adopt a couple of dogs, learn French.

But at the same time, since YOLO, protect the gift and treat it as something there’s only one of. And don’t drunk-text to Twitter that the car is taking curves at 120 miles per hour and your drunken friend can’t keep his tires on the ground, but that’s great because you only live once.

Five people died in that crash. Five people who only lived once and won’t again.



  1. Sara Ann Denson

    Very poignant! Well said!!

  2. Loriendil

    Excellent! May I link to this from FB?

    1. philangelus

      Yes, of course. Thank you!