YOLO is an acronym for ‘you only live once’.

It first emerged in the mid-noughties.

According to the Know Your Meme website the earliest known use of the acronym is attributed to Adam Mesh from the third season of the NBC reality show The Average Joe.

It was popularized in 2011 after being featured in the hip hop single “The Motto” by Canadian singer and rapper Drake.

Then, in November 2012, the Oxford American Dictionaries included the slang term “YOLO” in its shortlist for the 2012 English Word of the Year.

The acronym YOLO set in a heart with lights
YOLO: You only live once. Photo by Ann Lund

In an article looking at the consequences of teenage slang Newport Academy says: “‘You only live once’ is a modern version of the Latin phrase Carpe diem, meaning ‘Seize the day'”.

But it goes on to say it also became an excuse for people to justify their bad decisions: “Since you only live once, you need to live life to the fullest, even when that means embracing adverse behavioral choices that carry an inherent risk.”

Now you see the phrase cropping up on memes all over the place.

“You only live once, so live a good life.”

“You only live once, so enjoy the ride.”

“You only live once, for a very short time. So make every second divine.”

“You only live once. You don’t want your tombstone to read: ‘Played it Safe.’”

The other day I came across a different one, which actually made me stop and think for a moment.

“You only live once.
You live every day.
You only die once.”

I’m not sure where or who this quote is from, but it comes back to the whole idea of living life in the moment.

Being aware that you are alive NOW.

Not in the past – that’s a memory.

Not in the future – that’s still to come.

But now, in this present moment.

On a meditation retreat a year or so ago, we were asked to think about what gave us joy.

We were put into break out groups and I was paired with a lovely man in his late 70s who’s been meditating for some 40 years.

I outlined my insiprations for joy: my husband, walking in nature, feeling the sun on my skin, thee sound of laughter…

Ed then outlined his: waking up each day and being alive…


He also went on to mention family and nature, but it was that whole idea of feeling joy every morning you wake up that really stayed with me.

It might sound a bit simplistic, maybe even idealistic, but how beautiful to wake each morning and… before thinking or worrying about what the day has in store… taking a few breaths to actually acknowledge and feel that sense of ‘I am alive’.

Maybe we should all try that tomorrow morning?

Y’know, YOLO!

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