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You Only Live Once. YOLO.
A classic adage, with a “cool” new spin. Historically, this term has come to mean ‘live in the now’. To not put off tomorrow what one can do today, as one is not promised tomorrow. I will certainly not argue the point that life is only lived once, and I also believe that it is painfully, regrettably short.
I hear this term YOLO more and more lately as my generation has seemed to latch on to it. I have especially become familiar with it, and the historical meaning behind it, due to my desire to live frugally and (hopefully) retire before 40 years old. I think that people generally mean well when they refer back to the ‘you only live once’ argument when trying to remind me how short and limited life is.
“Why would you want to live so extreme? You only live once. Life is short. You have to live it while you have the chance.”
“You’re giving up so much by saving for the future. Delayed gratification and saving money is admirable, but what about today? You could die tomorrow, and all that saving would have been for naught.”
These are valid expressions of concern. I used to ponder on such thoughts and wonder if I was doing the right thing. I most certainly could die tomorrow. I’m as mortal as anyone else. It’s because of this self-doubt, and wondering if I was wrong all along, that I took a break this past summer from frugal living and putting off today for tomorrow. I didn’t know it at the time, but I suppose this was a type of experiment.
During this time I decided to live in the moment. I stopped caring about every expense and started caring about the day. I spent my spare time doing whatever I wanted. I started going out to eat a lot more, went to the mall and updated my wardrobe, bought PPV fights, spent nights out on the town and leaked money left and right on things I can’t even remember.
What I found enlightened me.
I figured out that the ‘YOLO’ argument is indeed valid. But not for the reasons cited above.
It’s precisely because I only live once that I want to maximize my time on Earth and live life to the best of my ability, no longer engaging in voluntary wage-slavery and exchanging my “one life” for goods and services that have an immaterial net effect on my happiness.
Life is short, very much so. Shorter than any of us would probably like it to be. Why spend such an overwhelmingly large amount of that short time at work, exchanging goods in the now for future obligations to work it off?
Don’t get me wrong. We all need shelter, food and basic needs in life. Most of us also crave love, affection and time with people that are close to us. Experiences are important as well and I’m not recommending anyone sit in an empty room in the dark while you watch the pennies add up. That’s not what life is all about.
However, shelter, food, running water, heat, air conditioning and time with loved ones; the things that really have an impact on one’s happiness are shockingly inexpensive. There are countless studies that show more money does not necessarily equal happiness, and that a persons happiness reaches the tipping point at $50k per year. So you won’t really be somehow incredibly more happy in life if you win the lottery after all? I guess they’re right when they say “more money, more problems”.
Once you have the basics in life covered, all the luxuries in life have increasingly diminished returns on happiness. I believe in living for today, and living in the now. But, what is ‘now’ good for if you’re spending most of it working away for things you don’t rally need? The more ‘now’ I can have to myself the better off I’ll be, I believe.
In modern day America we live like kings and queens of old. Luxuries of then are now the basics of today. Things like air conditioning, central heat, cell phones and cars were unheard of just a century ago. Even the internet, as amazing an intervention as it is, was unheard of just 30 years ago. Maybe I’m easily entertained. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I’m perfectly happy living well below my means, and spending much less than an average American, to buy my freedom within the next 10 years. What good is owning a big screen television, a big fancy McMansion or a shiny new sports car if you don’t even own your own time?
Put another way, would you rather have a house bigger than you really need, more cars in your family than family members, the best clothes money can buy, two weeks of vacation per year at a fancy resort and 75,000 hours (50 hours per week x 30 years) to pay for it all OR enough shelter to suit your situation, one small car or bike (or even public transportation like me) and unlimited vacation time? The choice seems pretty easy to me.
With unlimited vacation time (say that out loud) you can choose to work if you please, exchanging small bits of your now-completely-free time for experiences (like a 6 month trip to Europe) or goods (new bike, replacement computer) that aren’t in the usual budget.
You only live once. This is true. But it’s better to live your life how you want.You only get one shot. Make it count!
How do you want to live your life?
Thanks for reading.
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