Despite being only 21, I would consider myself to be pretty good at giving advice. However, I certainly do not think I am some fountain of wisdom. My friends may come to me for help, and most times I can think of how to best help them, but sometimes I do not have the answers. And that is because life is very confusing. Every individual approaches their lives with their own outlooks, offering various opinions on situations and different ways of tackling life.
Let me give some familiar examples. We all know the phrase YOLO — you only live once. This adage was most popular circa 2010, printed in neon letters on unflattering black muscle tank tops in trashy beach clothing stores. And the message is clear — live your life. Don’t wait to watch it pass by — live it.
But this outlook on life was popularized way before you could sell it on a t-shirt. “Carpe diem” translates to nearly the same thing. It sounds a bit more sophisticated — especially when it is being whispered by Robin Williams at a fancy New England boarding school — but both lines convey the same line of reasoning. Live your life to the fullest. At the end of the day, both profess a very moving thought — get out of your house, go see the world and seize the day!
However, there are people who hate that kind of perspective because these phrases can be abused in justifying bad decisions. I’m sure we’ve all seen those viral videos of kids yelling “YOLO” before jumping off of a house and falling straight through a trampoline instead of landing on top of it. And no, this example is not from personal experience, but you get the idea.
To my mom, for example, “seize the day” seems like horrible advice. If I were to contemplate going skydiving, many people would tell me “YOLO” in their attempt to convince me to go. Instead, my mom would caution that “life is precious,” or she would tell me that I shouldn’t tempt God.
If you take a moment to think about it, reassurance that I only live once and warning that I should not tempt God are both reasonable advice in their own ways. Though these phrases conflict, they would not be such common sayings if they didn’t resonate with people. They just show how differently people view the world.
For example, my mom and I are similar in a lot of ways. I would say I am a bit more cautious to try new things, and I love to keep my things neat and orderly, all because my mom instilled these particular traits in me from when I was a kid. Like my mom, I typically err on the side of caution. There are some adventurous things, however, that my mom would never do and which I do almost exclusively because I know she would never — that’s just the rebel-without-a-cause in me. As similar as my mom and I might be, our mindsets are entirely different. She would never say YOLO, whereas I might — “might” being the key word.
There are so many more phrases that conflict like these do, demonstrating how differently people approach situations, and life more generally. Another good pair is “ignorance is bliss” as opposed to “knowing is better than not knowing.” In some instances, no matter how anxious I might be to send a risky text, I do it because I would rather have the facts than be left in the dark. But some people would never send the text. If I was asking my friends if I should send it or not and one of them responded with “ignorance is bliss,” I would probably ignore their response — it just doesn’t jive with my personality. But, that’s just who I am. My younger sister would never send the text. She is way more of an “ignorance is bliss” person. But, that’s just who she is.
Another good one — “money talks” and “money isn’t everything.” This one is personally something I struggle with all the time. Do I really want the paycheck and the freedom that comes with money or do I tell myself that money doesn't equal happiness? This is especially relevant as a fourth year, knowing that my departure to the “real world” is right around the corner.
These small phrases that people have touted over the years when giving advice have come to really make me contemplate which perspective I align more with. Am I a “carpe diem” kind of person, or am I a “life is precious” kind of person? Do I care about money, or do I just want to be happy? Would I rather know or not know?
Obviously there are instances where I might be a more life-is-precious kind of a person rather than a YOLO girl. You don’t have to align yourself with one phrase and stick to it for the rest of your life — especially because YOLO, “money isn’t everything” and other idiomatic expressions are not always applicable in situations.
As much as people think they are helping you when they offer these deep, proverbial phrases, they just make me more confused. And now, here I am, really having to get deep with myself and try to think which phrase fits my personality and demeanor better. These adages are supposed to alleviate confusion, but I’m becoming more perplexed and self-analyzing.
Through this introspection, I believe that these phrases can reveal more about who you are as a person and what kind of advice you might want to give someone else based on which expressions they use frequently. And if their “money talks” beliefs don’t fit with who you are as a person, then just ignore it. It is so fascinating how different human beings are, and those intricacies can even be seen through deciding to say YOLO versus cautioning someone that life is precious. And those differences are good and interesting and beautiful.
Seeing how these common phrases conflict makes me more conscious of how I go through my life and how I want to change my perspective. Sometimes I think I am too cautious to try new things. I have a little too much of the “life is precious” attitude in some instances and not enough of a “seize the day” mindset. These common phrases conflict, showing how confusing life is and how that can make me unsure of myself. On the flip side, making the distinction between which phrases I vibe with also helps me recognize how I want to approach life. And I think that’s pretty cool.
Lucie Drahozal is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.