“YOLO,” the young man yelled, waking his fellow-students sleeping in the hostel, before plunging the syringe into the fleshy folds of his upper arm. He didn’t know that the word was his last.
“YOLO,” the dean stretched the word around his tongue the way his students chewed gum. But he couldn’t abide the taste and spat it out in disgust.
“It means You Only Live Once,” the young professor of psychology volunteered. The most popular faculty member, he felt duty-bound to express the students’ view.
“I know what it means,” the dean snarled. “It means living life fully, using every ounce of talent God has given you, making a difference, striving for your dreams, so that death arrives to find you without regret. These fools have let it degenerate into an excuse for trying anything that their idle minds come up with. For them, it's You're Only Loony Once, and then it's the end. No more chances.”
“That’s true,” said the professor of mathematics. “This is the third YOLO death in four months. The students are quick to declare their dead classmate a martyr, inspiring others to do equally foolish things. Drinking, doing drugs, sleeping around, fast driving in the name of YOLO.”
The dean nodded. “I’ve always hated acronyms for this reason. Where is the beauty embedded in that truth, You only live once? Where is the call to action? The very phrase has been twisted into candy drops that can be swallowed without thinking.”
“That’s how these kids are,” said the professor of sociology, who prided himself on understanding student behaviour. “They are always in a hurry, and they like to save time by making an acronym out of everything.”
“Don’t call them kids,” snorted the professor of philosophy. “They are old enough to vote, marry and drive. Why aren’t they old enough to think responsibly for themselves?”
“That’s right,” said the dean. “We need to take the grotesque YOLO out of their vocabulary, and remind them that they only live once, and that youth is transient. They must do something worthwhile with their lives, use their college years fruitfully so that decades hence, they can look back on this time with satisfaction.”
“Shall we ban the use of YOLO?” The popular professor was keen to redeem himself in the eyes of the dean. The idea was met with silence. Snubbed, the professor shut up.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” said the professor of English Literature. “Make YOLO and others of its kind part of our own vocabularies. The lure of these phrases lies in the fact that they are frowned upon by the faculty and administration, fuelling the students’ illusions that they are anti-Establishment rebels. If we appear to adopt these mantras, they will need no more inducement to abandon them.”
Soon the faculty adopted YOLO as if it gave meaning to their life. Before the month was up, the students lost interest in YOLO. It wasn’t cool anymore. How could it be if the fuddy-duddies raved about it?
And that is how YOLO lost its hold over the students.