Sunday, December 1, 2013

An Introvert's Take on YOLO


 'YOLO, you only live once.
The battle cry of a generation.
This life is a precious gift.
So don't get too crazy,
It's not worth the risk.' 


I love the Lonely Island and their hilarious Youtbe music videos. YOLO (You Only  Live Once) is one of my favorite comedic songs of all time. Uploaded January of 2013, the video's hilarious lyrics warn viewers about the over-exaggerated dangers of everyday life (including children's head lice, electricity and tounge-biting). As with most great comedy, I believe the song also offers an interesting, satirical commentary on certain attitudes towards life that seems to characterize a certain segment my millennial peers. 

YOLO, the acronym from which the song takes its name, is a phrase I haven't heard too often in passing. However, You Only Live Once does seem to be an accurate summary of a certain lifestyle that media, popular culture and a large segment of young twenty somethings have popularized.

This type of lifestyle can also be summed up with sayings such as living life to the fullest and carpe diem. To live according to the principles of YOLO means gaining as much enjoyment as you can out of seeing and experiencing the world, even if that means taking serious risks and getting outside of your comfort zone.

As a philosophy on living, this isn't necessarily a flawed perspective. After all, millennial Americans (those born in the late 80s and early nineties) are probably the most fortunate generation in history. We've grown up in an age of unparalleled prosperity and technological convenience. Even with all the strains placed on us by global economic crises, no generation in history has had the access to resources we've had. We are young people living in an age where it's possible to travel across the globe in a matter of hours instead of months, engage in a plethora of leisure activities that would have been unavailable to our parents and grandparents and consume at a rate never available before.

It makes sense that we would want to take advantage of all that our privileged place in the world economy has to offer.

However, as with most worldviews issues arise with the application.

For a large number of millennials, including some I've known, living your life to the fullest, often means indulging in a particular range of activities, many of them very oriented towards extroverts, party people and adrenaline junkies.

Don't get me wrong. Indulging in a night of heavy drinking, late night club hopping, a spontaneous trek through the mountains, and bungee-jumping off a bridge are experiences that are fun and can teach a lot. They create great memories and are experiences that bond people together.

However, is it really accurate to make these type of high adrenaline, highly indulgent and highly social activities the sole or primary gauge of how well a person is living their life to the fullest?  By allowing the definition of 'true living' to be confined to such a narrow spectrum of experience, are we unintentionally limiting ourselves and making our lives inadvertently more depthless and incomplete?  


Furthermore, where does this leave more introverted or quiet people who don't really see the appeal of going to the same bars, parties and nightclubs weekend after weekend?

What appears to have emerged from those four letters, Y.O.L.O., from my point of view anyway, is a very extroverted oriented way of life. The greatest experiences involve being 'out' and enjoying things that extroverts find energy and great meaning in.

I'd like to inject a little introversion into the mix.

I'd like to suggest we broaden our definition of fullest to include, quieter moments, deeper and more meditative times that introverts tend to find so revitalizing and meaningful. I'd like to suggest that picking up a book of poems or spending a day people watching in a park can be just as vitalizing and true as dancing in a club or taking a shot of strong liquor with friends. I'd like to suggest that truly living involve cherishing and hugging times of solitude as well as times of social gathering.

Exploring the introverted side of life has taught me many things. Reading, writing and introspection have made me aware of my self, my weaknesses, my strengths. I've learned from the hardships and triumphs of authors, historians and people around me. These quiet moments allow me to hear and distinguish the loud moments all around me that I want to be immersed in.They've made the journeys I take and the times I step outside more momentous and weighty for me.

YOLO, I believe should be about balance. If we truly only live once, and want to see and feel all of life in the short time we are breathing, thinking and moving, shouldn't we be pursue all that quiet and reflection has to offer as well?