For those of you who haven’t heard YOLO it means you only live once. I wouldn’t normally talk about YOLO since in Australia it has come to mean acting like a complete dickhead. I thought about it today though because through YOLO I found a distinct cultural difference between Japan and Australia, as well as the rest of the countries founded by Great Britain.
To set the scene I was teaching a class of grade nine students. I should note that while grade nine in Australia is the most reviled grade, in Japan it is one of the most hard working grades. To answer why in one sentence is nigh impossible. It has a lot to do with responsibility though. In Japan grade nine is the final grade for middle school. They have a great big, extremely important, will decide the rest of your life, test at the end of it. Actually it just determines which high school you can attend but that then determines the quality of your high school education, and ability to get into university. In short it is a pretty important test. That’s just a tangent though. Perhaps one day I’ll write a blog about it.
Back to what this blog is about and setting the scene. The students had to write answers to various English questions. One of the questions in this list was: What is the most important for you? I didn’t write the questions so don’t get up me for not adding thing or in life. While most of the students wrote things like friends and family a couple of them wrote life because YOLO. Well actually they didn’t quite write that. One wrote; if you die than you can’t do anything and the other wrote; you only have one life.
This got me thinking about what the sentence means to the two cultures. In Australia a person who says you only live once is about to skydive, drive at 160 km/hr in a 50 zone or smash a bottle on table and glass someone in the face with it. Basically be a bogan. Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with skydiving. There is a percentage of YOLOians in Australia that use it to mean something pretty wholesome like YOLO so I’m going to go live my dream instead of YOLO so i’m going to be a dickhead.
In Japan it means something quite different. It’s nothing about living life to the maxtreme. pursuing your dream or being a dickhead to everyone because fuck those guys, Instead it’s YOLO so don’t fuck it up. A grade nine kid in Japan inspired by YOLO will study harder, Aim for higher grades. Try and get into a the better high school so they can get the best University they can. Look for a good partner have kids and inspire them to travel the same path. A Japanese YOLOian is a paragon of Japanese self discipline and inspirational to all. To me, a fifteen year old kid that decides life is the most important thing so I’m going work hard is a pretty amazing thing to witness.
It’s a pretty big difference. It makes me wonder. If YOLO creates a paragon in Japan, does that mean the same for Australia. Are the YOLOians in Australia paragons of what it means to be Australian? Perhaps so. As mentioned there isn’t just one kind of YOLO in Australia. There is the kind that use it to push themselves to fulfill their dreams. In Japan it may mean to work hard but working hard doesn’t necessarily equal fulfilling your dream. For example, I want to be a famous writer. One thing that pushes me to keep on writing everyday is YOLO. I would hate it if at the end of my life I sit there on my death bed and think I should have worked harder on my writing. Even if I never get anywhere with my writing I want to be able to say I tried. Writing isn’t my day job though. I’m also an English teacher. If I only worked hard at being an English teaching then I would never fulfill that dream. In Japan, someone who YOLOed their whole life. Worked hard, got a good job, made a nice family etc, may at the end of their life look back and think yea but I never did that thing I really wanted to do.
Conclusions? Both are right. Well not those that say YOLO so I’m going to be a dickhead. They’re dickheads. A merging of the two would be ideal. YOLO so work hard at everything you do. Make that perfect life but also fulfill your dream. Be fucking awesome because you only live once. I guess the trouble comes down to defining awesome.