YOLO: A Recipe for Disaster

Hit the bottle hard.

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.

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“It’s not you, it’s me”

When relationships end, dating back as early as middle school, a common, overly-used and under-expressive phrase when one person ends a relationship (and they are typically the only one who wants to end it) is, “it’s not you, it’s me.” We roll our eyes when we hear this phrase used as we age in life and enter (ideally) into mature relationships in which both parties know how to express their emotions, needs, and desires. But as the real world  and time will have it, we do not all mature at exactly the same rate as we age (I know this from first hand experience, we all do quite frankly).

As we grow up, we enter into relationships only to find our buttons pushed by things the other person does and we often let those buttons drive us crazy until we explode. When those buttons explode like a long-dormant volcano, it means that person has hit some emotion or memory from your childhood that is more than likely buried under the years and years of layers of defense mechanisms you have established to protect yourself and these weaker parts of your being from getting hurt, from feeling pain. Once we are sick of having these weak-pain buttons reappear and be pushed time and time again both in a romantic relationship and in any other relationship we have, we realize that these pains need to be confronted in order for us to try and have the most peaceful human existence we can have. That’s what the quote, “the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” is all about (thank you, Anais Nin). So when we need to blossom, even though the blossoming itself can be painful, we go to a therapist or enroll in group therapy or do something that will help us work through our hurts of the past that we unconsciously live in the present. Take this as coming from a girl who got so fed up with other people pushing her pain buttons (and herself pushing her own pain button) that she mustered up the courage to find a bilingual therapist in Mexico.

Through my own process of emotional maturing and working through the pains of my past (a.k.a. therapy and reading tons of, yes, self help books), one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that nothing is personal. Absolutely nothing. Anything and everything that someone does to you or says to you is merely a reflection of where they are on their own personal journey in life, or it is a pain or hurt button that somehow in some way you unwillingly and unwantingly push. People react to us based on what we bring out of themselves.

I think the phrase “it’s  not you, it’s me” has an absolute truth to it. It really isn’t you that’s doing anything wrong; it’s the other person whose soul doesn’t mesh with something about you. That sounds almost worse, but it’s really nothing personal. And when we distance ourselves from people by either audibly or silently saying “it’s not you, it’s me,” it’s actually a gift we are giving ourselves. We’re saying, “I know myself well enough that this person or situation causes discord within me, and for my well-being and harmony, I choose to distance myself partially or completely from this person or situation.” It’s an act of self-love. Can the distancing be done or stated hurtfully? Absolutely. Does leaving someone or being left by someone leave scars? You betcha it does. But if the other person is saying, “it’s not you, it’s me,” it’s really a blessing from God saying, “this person no longer serves a purpose in your life at this moment in time, and it is time for them to go so you can grow. I’m closing this window, but honey child there are many many more that are opening.” Hear God out. And be open to the miraculous possibilities that can come from the heartbreak. Because wherever there are cracks, there is light that shines through them.

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“There came a point when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” Anais Nin

Voldemort Part I: When You’re the Friend that Leaves

Hot Air Balloon

In a blog post I read awhile back, it talked about the time of change and growth that is the decade of the twenties, and it talked about how sometimes, as people move to and from different cities, our friends are going to be the ones that move away from us, and sometimes, we are going to be the ones that move away from them. We are going to be the ones that leave. And, well, the time has (almost) come when I am the one that is going to leave.

In less than two months, I am moving back to Portland for __________________ (undetermined – who the hell knows how long or how short) amount of time. One of my friends has dubbed this event “Voldemort,” such as “the event which shall not be named” just as Voldemort was “he who shall not be named” in H.P. We don’t bring it up much in conversation but when it does arise, “Voldemort” suffices and gives us a laugh and helps us to get it out of our minds a little bit quicker.

Just like with any big change, be it positive or not, in some ways I am ready to leave the home I have created for myself here in Mexico, and in others I am not. When it comes to being a teacher, I have one foot and most of my body out the door. Teaching is not what I want to be doing and it feels unnaturally confining and restricting in so many ways. Most weekdays, I feel a sense of stress and tension related to my classes. When I have exams to grade, even if they take me five minutes a piece, I feel a looming sense of pressure to get those puppies graded ASAP and I feel guilty if I even think about reading a book for pleasure if I have things to grade. When it’s Sunday, I don’t even for a minute feel like I can just chill the fuck out because I have prep work to do for class. When I have to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, I go over it several times to make sure I am prepared enough to give it, and still I know that my armpits will sweat buckets when I am giving it in class. Are they going to ask me questions about the material that I don’t know the answer to? If I don’t know the answer, they will probably think that I’m not a good teacher and that I’m not credible because I don’t know the material back and front. These are thoughts that play through my mind throughout the year over and over again. They plague me, restrict me, leave me tense and stressed and stunted in my personal creativity and productivity. Ya, I am so ready to be done teaching. In that way, I am ready to get the heck out of Dodge now. 

But in another way, a very very big way, I can’t stand the thought of saying goodbye to the community of warm-hearted, caring, loving friends I have made in the past two years. When I bought my plane ticket yesterday, it felt as though my insides were simultaneously weeping/shriveling up/collapsing. Something in the very center of my chest was going wild as I confirmed my departure from my Mexican home back to the Pacific Northwest city where I grew up. It is a moment that seems so far from now, like there is still so much time between now and then. But I know that July 22nd will come by faster than a heartbeat for time is a funny thing; it goes by in the blink of an eye when we think it will take ages and light years to pass. I do not look forward to this event. I do not want to leave my friends, I want to take them with me. Miniaturize them so I can put them in the pockets of my dresses and take them with me wherever I go. You know, like those plastic Shrinkables we would color on and then put in the oven to shrink them and then wear them around as necklaces or bracelets (note to self: look into shrinking my friends…). I want to not say good bye, or hasta luego. I just don’t. So I won’t futurize about my feelings when I leave, prematurely write about how sad I am going to be while feeling those emotions before they have arrived. Instead, I am going to live up my last 8 weeks here and cherish every moment I spend with my girlfriends. I’ll let myself be sad about Voldemort if I need to be sad about Voldemort, because the contrary, denying and internalizing feelings, is an unhealthy recipe for a desmadre de Margarita (damn mess of Maggie). And trust me, we do not want any of those.

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“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come. The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” – Audrey Hepburn