I opened LinkedIn to check my messages and notifications. The first post on my feed was a man describing his story of loss. He had a son who used to ask him if he wanted to spend the rest of his life in front of a computer screen. He could not comprehend the weight of the statement until his son’s passing. So he set out on his own YOLO. He left his computer screen behind and spent two years traveling and living out his dreams. The man left me tearing up with words that no matter how much he sought out to live life in ways he only imagined before, they did not replace the loss of his son. This was a paradigm shift for me.
There is a fact in this phrase: you only live once. We only get this one lifetime, and people are waking up to the inevitable that if there is life, there is death. It has been a difficult couple of years for the world. It seems as if the Grim Reaper is ringing the bell at the front gate. We must let him in, and it is only a matter of time until he reaches the front door of our home.
It takes a lot for someone to experience an actual movement towards risk. It takes a lot to get to the point of risking safety and security when leaving a job, a specific city, or a relationship. Many watch their savings account go up little by little and wonder when the best time to get that dog they’ve always wanted or backpack through Europe alone, maybe even jump out of a plane in Patagonia. It’s easy to push these things off until you feel that you have enough money or that the timing is right.
However, we have been forced to look death in the eye over the past two years and seemingly watch the state of the world collapse right in front of our eyes. Most of us are home in our pajamas, burnt out and tired from constantly forcing ourselves to continue to exceed our previous performance year as the inevitable is shoved down our throats: chaos is ensuing around us, we cannot escape our own death, and not to mention there are higher probabilities that it will be here sooner than we think.
YOLO is an escape from life to feel more content with our deaths. We finally took that road trip. We saw the northern lights. We became a foster fail and adopted the angel we took in. We quit our miserable job, and we used our savings to live slowly and with ease and threw in times of adventure and pure bliss every couple of weeks. But what happens when you want to feel at home but don’t have one? What would it be like to sleep in a van for a year and suddenly want four walls and an immobile bed to sleep in? When we finally realize we are running out of money. We might find ourselves constantly in odd jobs that make us money and make us feel stagnant. What do we do when we come face-to-face with the realization that maybe life is longer than we expected, and we will have to be prepared to live into the future? Hopefully we realize that we can design a lifestyle that invites us to not think of YOLO because we have taken into account we only get this life into our daily actions. I personally hope that I can learn how to lift others up into life as a result.
My own story with loss and death goes as follows. I was always a sucker for stories like Tuesdays with Morrie. I always knew there was something special about life but intuitively knew death would come. Then I experienced this in my own life before I could even comprehend the world and how it works. At 18 years old, I sat in the ICU and held my mother’s cooling hand as I said goodbye. At 21 years old, I returned to a similar goodbye with my father. And in memorial to them, I tried to live my life within the constraints of safety and security for a little bit. It felt even more important since I would not have my parents to fall back on in life. But as many others during the past couple of years, I concluded that I was miserable and did not want to live the kind of life I was living until I died. Entering adult life with the sale of my family home, the budding of my career, and the inability to work through my own grief, I was then reawakened to death.
At rock bottom, I quit my job without any plan for afterward. And I sat in my room, wondering where I would go after the lease on my way-too-expensive apartment would be up. I thought about happier times and moments where I felt peace. The answer was on the top of a cliff on the coast of Ireland. I reintroduced the idea of moving to Denver near the mountains and all the imaginable scenes of nature (besides the ocean, of course). I believe that if I didn’t move in that moment, I would never change my life. I luckily secured an internship and a temp job to support myself, but when that was over, I still wasn’t happy. I took my savings and decided to see the west coast. I drove from Denver to Utah and Arizona, then headed to California. I drove all the way up the PCH to Oregon and Washington before turning around and heading down Eastern California before returning back to Denver. I visited 8 national parks, hung out with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while, wrote a lot, and enjoyed many sunrises and karaoke sessions in the car. I had a few stories to tell, and I was at peace that whole trip. But I didn’t have the money to stay out on this adventure, and it was genuinely lovely to sleep in my own bed without any destination to drive to when I woke up.
I returned to the state of being I was when I left for my trip. I still had to figure out what I wanted my life to be. Many times I wanted to escape with the YOLO mantra in mind. When I was mindlessly on LinkedIn and discovered this YOLO post, I began to realize that no matter how much I try to live my life as an act of rebellion against the loss of my parents, it will never replace the fact that my new reality has been and is to find a way to live a long, happy life without them. YOLOing every time life gets hard, or when the future seems doomed, is not a way to live. The answer is to start designing and creating a lifestyle that honors your values and life principles and builds a career around them.
I’ll let you know when I figure out the concrete and universal steps to achieve this.