Sometimes I like to jump in my car and travel somewhere I have never been, for the mere sake of doing something I have never done, in a place I have never seen before. Many years ago, for instance, I went to the coast of South Carolina with a friend who had lived there many years. He brought us to a cliff where he and his friends had been cliff jumping into the ocean since they were boys.
I had never been cliff jumping before, and as I neared the edge, a whirlwind of cautions and dangerous unknowns filled my mind.
“What if I do not jump far enough and hit the side of the cliff on the way down?”
“What if there are rocks under the water I cannot see?”
“What if I hit the water wrong and cause severe pain or even injury?”
“If that does happen will I be able to swim or will I drown?”
The thing is we are taught all our lives to at least be mindful of dangers or consequences, but at this stage of my life I was determined to “Live!”
I dedicated myself to the concept that “You Only Live Once,” swallowed my fear and ran as fast as I could towards the cliff. My heart skipped a beat as I hurled myself off the edge of a cliff the height of what seemed like a small skyscraper. The fear and anxiety of the fall were an incredible rush. Next, I focused on the water I was approaching at what seemed like terminal velocity. I crossed my ankles and arms, as had been instructed, with the mental clarity of a world-class chess player on his best day.
The water was an instant, overwhelming sensation of a cold and wet. A sanctuary which caught and saved me from the free fall. First, I was grateful to be free from the clutches of gravity, but now I was in a new peril. My life would end unless I could reach the surface and take that big breath of life giving air.
With my eyes shut, I swam in the direction I believed to be up. A part of me thought for a moment that the swim was taking too long. I feared that my clumsy stupor from the fall had hindered my sense of direction and I may actually be diving down deeper. I committed my resolve to keep going, knowing that I’d either hit the floor of the ocean or the surface of the water eventually. I was going to make it to one of them no matter what. Finally, I reached the water’s surface and took in my deep breath of fresh air. I had done it! I had cheated fate and death itself. I was ALIVE! I was alive in more ways than I had been before I took the plunge.
Now granted the whole ordeal lasted maybe ten seconds, but when you are overcoming fear with excitement, mere seconds will last a lifetime. I was living a “YOLO” lifestyle!
I was debating on sharing this experience for this post, or the ordeal of my first jump from an airplane. In truth, cliff jumping turned out far better than my first jump so I’ll save that one for another time.
The original concepts and ideas associated with “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) were meant as a way of reminding us that sometimes we need to take a risk else we will lose out on some of the most impactful and memorable moments of our life. However, I believe a great many of us are now using this concept in a manner counter to its design. This will misuse instead lead to hardship and turmoil. Here is an example.
Some years later, I was standing in a shop where I was building a new gaming computer tower for myself (yes I am a nerd at heart). I wanted to have the very best in graphics, sound, and performance so I could envelop myself in the hobby I had become so attached too. A second monitor, no wait, three monitors! Yes! A second graphics card just as powerful as the first to truly get that “over the top” experience. Of course, I was informed by the shop clerk I would now need more RAM, a better cooling system, and faster processor to make all of it work correctly.
If you do not have a clue what I am talking about as it pertains to computers, just know everything I’m listing has a higher and higher price tag affiliated with it. So, whether it is a better car, the upgraded premium package for cable, or even just the larger meal size at the fast food drive-thru, you’ll understand we always seem to be adding just a little bit more.
Back to my new computer. Once I had everything I “wanted” laid out I saw the price tag. It was more than I had expected, but wow did I want the computer I had just designed. At that moment my phone rang. It was the woman I was with at the time. She was just checking on me and wanted to discuss something about that evening. When I told her about the computer I was getting, she mentioned how her computer was “all but worthless” and “wouldn’t even turn on anymore.”
I thought for a moment and saw my dream machine slipping through my fingers. Then it hit me! YOLO! I only live once, I deserve to be happy, I work hard, and I should get what I want! In fact, I already knew the perfect solution. So I hung up the phone, looked at the store clerk and told him I would take the order, and then I wanted him to build the same thing over again in a different color,so she would have one too. Not only would I get what I wanted, but I would be a hero for solving her problem.
I could have just got her something simple or been willing to share my new franken-computer. Anticipating her asking why I was getting a computer as awesome as mine, and only got her a cheap little laptop I ordered the same thing over again to ensure she would feel like I considered her as well. Oh, and share my new toy? Are you serious, do you know how expensive this thing is?
I charged the money to my credit card and thought, no problem. I know I will be able to pay it off with some extra work and effort in just a few weeks. Ok, maybe a few months.
The truth is I did not get to play video games very much because I was working so often. Now, I would have to work even more to pay for the thing I did not have time to use because I was forced to work more to afford it. Worse, if “I” did not need it, and I was the gamer of the relationship, then why on earth did she need one too?
“You Only Live Once” was never meant to be used as an excuse to allow me to make poor decisions which will bring stress and hardship to my life. It was supposed to be a freeing element, not an enslaving one. All too often today I see it getting applied in the wrong context, as I did in the computer shop.
So, the next time a situation like this arises, I plan to consider this acronym instead. “YOHOL”! Which means You Only Have One Life! I have learned my time on this earth and with my loved ones is limited. When the desire to “Live” comes along I now ask myself am I making this decision based on something which will boost confidence, bring newfound courage, strengthen my faith, help another, or provide a memory to last a lifetime? Alternatively, is it something which will cost me the only thing I will never get more of, time. Are the precious moments I have worth trading for something I want but do not need?
I have resolved to try and guard against allowing a moment’s desire to cloud my better judgment and cost me dearly later…. YOHOL!