I have this 14 year old 8th grade student who has a chronic issue of being late to my class. In the past month, he has been late over nine times and today he got his third demerit from me for being late. When I told him that he had an amonestación (demerit), he said, “bueno, YOLO” with five layers of “whatever” and ten layers of “I couldn’t give a rat’s ass.”
I don’t know how it is with youth in the U.S., but here in Mexico, some of my 8th graders have adopted YOLO like it was their own child to the point where now it’s almost like a birthmark, or a birthright, or better yet, the slogan that defines their very existence. And instead of taking YOLO for its deepest meaning that, yes, we really only do once so we might as well live to the fullest and appreciate life and jump at every opportunity it has to offer us, many of them take it to be an excuse to be apathetic about anything other than going out and getting wasted. Or to actually not give a damn about anything but spending time with their friends. The students I see using YOLO as an apathy motto transform it into an excuse to physically trash their still-developing livers and do whatever the hell they want to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about going out and having a good time. And I am sure I made my liver cry and shrivel in college when I hit the bottle a little too hard. But these kids, they are 14, 15 years old and they are drinking their weekends away like that was the school that they go to: YOLO – the school of hard alcohol, no limits, and poor decision-making. Someday, if they ever actually start living their lives as adults and their livers start to give out on them, they’re going to wish they hadn’t gone at the bottle so hard before their bodies could handle it.
I really do wish my students the absolute best in life and that they truly live by the phrase YOLO. We only live once and this one wild, precious life we have been given is to be seen and cherished as a gift. It is to be valued and appreciated, which is a perspective that I still strive for yet often struggle with. But I didn’t start off on this beautiful journey at a young age with a hefty dousing of apathy accompanied by a bottle of tequila mixed with lack of responsibility and topped off with a big ole dose of laziness. Yikes… that recipe is no good.
In middle school, your world is your friends. I get that, and as a middle school teacher, I am reminded of that everyday. And in middle school friends translates to the community of people at school around you. For most kids, there isn’t much outside of that. But I hope that as they turn 16, 17, 18 years old, they grow out of it, at least out of the heavily apathetic part of it. The drinking? Well, I don’t approve because I know from first hand & personal experience that drinking too much can be a cause of emotional shame as well as irreversible physical damages. And I want my students to be healthy and thriving both emotionally and physically. But if they are to keep one piece of this disastrous YOLO puzzle, which I believe they will, let it be the drinking by all means. But the apathy? That has got to go. Apathy equates to a lack of passion, a void where purpose is absent. It seems like it may be easier to be apathetic than to care about anything and fail at it or have our feelings hurt by it, but apathy is one of the worst defense mechanisms that exists and it is, in and of itself, a recipe for disaster.