Please YOLO responsibly

March 29th, 2012

During an important scene in the 1989 movie “Dead Poets Society,” English professor John Keating leads his students out of the classroom on the first day to a trophy room at the boarding school they attend. Keating instructs one of the students to turn to a poem in the textbook called “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” and read the first stanza.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles to-day, To-morrow will be dying.”

For all of us, college is supposed to be an enlightening experience. We should try new things, go to different places, formulate deep questions and make new connections. A lot of us have done that, while some are just scratching the surface of college life.

Recently, the trending topic on Twitter and in regular conversation has been YOLO – you only live once. The simple philosophy: since we only have one life to live, we might as well make the most of it that we can. Have fun, be adventurous and don’t be afraid to screw up.

Associated with this is the thinking that you never remember the nights you got plenty of sleep. While sleep is a rare commodity that I value these days, I only have a little more than a year left of college. So it’s time to take advantage of its academic and social opportunities while I’m here.

But that doesn’t mean adhering to the philosophy of YOLO means I can do whatever I want just because life is short. As one of my Facebook friends recently asked, “Why do people think YOLO is an excuse to do stupid things?”

Great question. In my mind, it isn’t an excuse.

For instance, someone might tweet, “Texting while driving #YOLO.” This is what I like to call a bad decision – not only do you endanger your life, but the lives of other drivers as well. Plus, it’s illegal in some states (like in neighboring Pennsylvania).

Another YOLO moment might be wearing a LeBron jersey while walking into a Cavs game at Quicken Loans Arena. An equally brilliant move is wearing an “I love Art Modell” T-shirt at a Browns game (#YOLO). I wish you the best.

The way I look at YOLO is that it’s important I take advantage of the opportunities I’ve been afforded so far. Now is also the time for me to not only keep doing what I love, but also to try new things.

The Latin equivalent of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” is the phrase “carpe diem” (“seize the day”), Keating tells his students. He invites them to step forward to a trophy case filled with photos to “hear” the message from past students.

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you,” Keating says. “Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you … carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” YOLO, carpe diem … however you choose to follow this philosophy, make sure you take advantage of all that John Carroll University has to offer.

Because while that flower of opportunity may be smiling today, tomorrow it may be drooping.