The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

Being 20 is too old for YOLO

This video of Meg Jay’s TED Talk popped up on my Facebook feed a while ago, but it really is crucial to our understanding of young adults today.

We hear, more often than not nowadays, the complaints of today’s youth and their laziness, lethargy, lack of motivation, and just apathy towards generally everything. These complaints used to stem mostly from previous generations, but now, more and more young adults, especially females, are echoing the same thoughts as they realize that they are running out of potential life partners.

It has been a growing trend that was catapulted into popular media through Drake’s song and the popular acronym YOLO (You Only Live Once). This motto basically tells you to live your own life because you only live once, so do what you want.

Unfortunately, people have been using it as an excuse to do things that don’t necessarily boast of the individual’s intelligence.


High school has been dubbed not-so-recently as the period to try things out, or as Ms. Frizzle says from the Magic School Bus show, to make mistakes and get messy. High school is seen as an empty canvas for which the adolescent is the artist and can paint anything he or she wants.

But Grade 12 whips around the corner, and these adolescent-children are expected to smarten up to adulthood immediately. They are told to make decisions that will affect their lives forever, and that university or college will be their prophet of the future.

So then they finally arrive into university or college, and the extended adolescence period begins again with Frosh. Frosh is essentially a fun week of events planned by the university/colleges’ student councils to help first years feel more comfortable transitioning into university life.

And then after that, the reputation of university students being alcoholics persists throughout most Western universities, claiming that you haven’t had a “complete” university experience without some alcohol and weed thrown into the mix.

Then graduation.

Suddenly, you realize you are unemployed. But that’s alright, now you can explore for your true career destinations.

And this is how the 20s become the blank canvas again, or was it really blank?

The 20s become this already painted canvas from the previous 7-8 years. Adolescence is becoming a longer and longer time period in which individuals can experiment and occasionally use YOLO to verify their actions when they don’t think of the consequences.

This prolonged adolescence is leading to fewer and fewer individuals who have enough cultural capital by the time they are 30, and are then stuck in life: how do they get a job and live an independent life?

The 20s should be a time of exploration, but with meaning and a direction. It is completely fine to experiment, but if there is no goal, then why are you experimenting? What are you looking for? How will you know that what you have seen today is what you want in life?

Some critics claim that determining your life in your 20s is too young. But is it really? Deciding on a career may take much shorter time, or longer, depending on the person, but what about love? How long does it actually take for us to find ourselves a meaningful life partner with whom we can cultivate a relationship that is mutual and equal? How long does it take to really know a person? And for most of us, how many failed relationships and heartbreaks do we need to go through before finding the person we love?

I am not proposing the idea that we should be on the lookout for potential mates, but at least have some direction. Prolonged adolescence is starting to look like prolonged childhood. People need time to learn what responsibility and accountability are, time to realize what their life goal is, time to realize who they want to spend the rest of their lives with. Running with your head down with no direction is not going to get you further in life. If anything, it could destroy the progress you have already made because YOLO.

Prolonged childhood needs to stop. We need to stop babying our children. Expecting them to grow up instantly on the stage graduating from high school is naïve and impractical.

Accountability, responsibility, and respect need to be taught starting from a young age. It does not need to be about teaching a toddler to seek a career, but holding them accountable for their actions is critical to their success. Luckily, respect is heavily emphasized in schools starting in kindergarten, and so is responsibility (i.e. “If it’s your mess, you clean it up”).

Unfortunately, accountability is still a murky concept to some teachers, and as a result, most children don’t realize what it means to “take action for your actions”. We see this in “But I didn’t start it” statements. The point is not who started it, the point is that they participated in it, so they still have a fault.

This is not solely the teachers’ fault. Parents are the head culprits in babying children and prolonging their childhood. Parents can help by assigning small, but meaningful roles, to their children from when they are little, such as setting the napkins on the table, or arranging the sofa cushions in a certain way. The community can offer programs and workshops that teach children to be leaders instead of followers.

Teaching children how to express autonomy in healthy ways (i.e. not beating up other children) leads to them having accountability for their actions.


4 comments on “Being 20 is too old for YOLO

  1. Pingback: #Yolo40ish: The New Midlife | #Yolo40ish

  2. Pingback: 10 Social Media Words That Need to DIE! | All Things Marvilous

  3. Reese
    February 14, 2014

    …..I’m most bothered a teacher spelling it “sandwhich”. Is that picture a joke?

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This entry was posted on June 20, 2013 by in education, school, society and tagged , , , , , , , , .


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