I YOLO'd for a Week, and This is What I Learned
By Thao Nguyen
The tragic shootings in Las Vegas, the multitude of attacks in Europe, the desolation left behind by natural disasters, and the accidental death of a student that attended my high school have all had me thinking about how short and fragile life is. This line of thought had me feeling a bunch of anxiety, and I was certain that I was going to die at any moment, either from illness or from Armageddon.
So I did what any normal, mature, and functional adult does when faced with a scary future. I went crying to my parents. They thought I was joking at first, but once they finished laughing, they helped me calm down and told me two things: 1) living in fear won’t stop bad things from happening, and 2) you’ll be a lot happier and more reassured if you live everyday like it’s your last.
And I guess I was pretty desperate to feel okay again, because for the first time in my life, I listened to my parents the first time they told me something. For the whole week, I started living like every day was my last.* Each day, I went out of my way to do something that I wouldn’t normally, and I learned and grew more in that one week than I have in the many months since graduating. And while I hate to admit this, my parents were right. Once I started living each day as my last, my anxiety about certain death went away almost completely.
Keep reading to see what I did and what I gained from the risks I took.
When Soccer Practice Taught Me that Running Around is More Rewarding than an Aimless Nap
I’ve always loved watching soccer, and every time I attend a game or catch one on TV, I feel an itch to put some cleats on myself. But I always found a way to talk myself out of it. But when an old high school friend reached out to me a few weeks about joining his rec team, I decided to yes. In all honestly, I wasn’t going to follow through, but when the first practice rolled around last Sunday, I decided it was time to get out of my comfort zone. So I showed up, and it was absolutely amazing. Sure, I found out how out of shape I was, but I also felt exhilarated to be playing the game that I loved. More than that, the feeling of belonging to a team, and the positive reinforcement I received from my teammates was amazing for my confidence. I left feeling fulfilled and excited.
When Small Talk Taught Me that Relationships are Built on Communication
I recently started a new job, and while onboarding is a huge chore, one thing that brings me even more pain is all the small talk I have to engage in with my new coworkers. Don’t get me wrong, I really like all of my coworkers, but the whole “getting to know you” process has always been difficult for an awkward introvert like me. I feel a lot of pressure to come off competent, likable, and interesting all at once. So naturally, I come off as dumb, weird, and boring instead. But on Monday, my new team had an informal team lunch, and I decided that instead of sitting silently in the corner like I usually do with new groups, I would actually engage in the conversation. The lunch wasn’t perfect, but I did manage to get to know my new coworkers a little bit better away from the confines of the office. The small talk was tough, but it felt a hell of a lot better than being a silent observer. I walked away from that lunch feeling less of a acquaintance and more of a friend to my new coworkers.
When Confession Taught Me to Face My Faults and Learn to Forgive
If you’ve been following along with me here at Polarity, you’ll know that I’m Catholic. One thing that I do as a Catholic, is go to confession. This time, because I was certain I was facing imminent doom, I was extra reflective. I faced the parts of myself that I was most ashamed of and swallowed my embarrassment and pride so I could admit them to someone else. As always, I was given absolution, and I left the confessional feeling much lighter than I had felt going in. Looking my demons straight in the face and admitting that I wasn’t perfect was extremely scary - there are some dark roads there, but also extremely freeing. Moreso, knowing that an all-seeing God is always ready to forgive me time after time made me think about forgiveness too. I took a hard look at all of the grudges I was holding on to, and slowly started working on letting go of them.
So you see, I wasn’t jumping out of planes or eating scorpions (although I would try one if that was an option). I was just doing small little things I wouldn’t normally and really taking the time to appreciate and reflect on them. Living everyday like it’ll be your last doesn’t have to be outlandish and crazy. It’s just about taking chances on yourself and learning to take chances on yourself.
*Fun fact! My friends and I set up a granny panty pact for death/end of the world situations a few years ago. The granny panty pacts means that if one of us dies in the presence of another one of us, the living member must check to make sure the dead person isn’t wearing granny panties. If she is, the living member has to change her into cute undies before first responders (i.e. attractive firemen!) arrive. Just a tip for anyone else who wants to live each day as their last! #priorities