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Monday, April 15, 2024

Column: That’s the motto

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking around campus, enjoying the sun and blue skies between classes. My new Canon had arrived a few days prior, so I thought I’d take it out for a spin, playing with the features and capturing moments. I shot a couple of random video clips of different campus scenes and decided to turn them into a project.

So later that night, I sat before my laptop, reviewing and editing the the content, trying to produce some kind of cohesive storyline. I was watching a clip I had taken of students spilling out of Chem 194 when I heard something that made me pause. In response to her classmate, a student had enthusiastically uttered the phrase, “YOLO.”

YOLO. It stands for “You only live once” and is a term that was coined by recording artist Drake and soon thereafter adopted by young people all over the English-speaking world to justify a care-free life. Drake isn’t the first and won’t be the last to celebrate the live-in-the-moment lifestyle. Timon and Pumba from The Lion King already had that down with “Hakuna Matata.”

Emerging young adults are part of the age group that tends to push boundaries and take risks, enjoying today rather than worrying about tomorrow. Risks bring rewards, but in what context? As college students, what should we keep in mind before taking chances?

I was reminded this week of risky behavior as I followed the story of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s recent $2 billion trading loss. JPMorgan is the largest bank in the United States, and its operations have a huge influence domestically and globally. It’s one of those too-big-to-fail kind of banks. It got a little too confident and made some sketchy hedge fund trades that resulted in major losses.

The event brought debate about government regulation of financial institutions and the greed of Wall Street back to the surface. The world of Wall Street and the essence of capitalism are comparable to the angsty teenager who just wants to live his or her life and doesn’t want to be told what to do. Regulations are like those “totally unfair” rules that parents impose on their children in an attempt to keep them safe, usually safe from their own bad decisions.

As college students, most of us are no longer living with our parents, so we have to make the rules for ourselves and be our own regulators. We have autonomy, we have freedom and we have choices at our disposal. It’s an awesome, powerful feeling. But with power comes responsibility. We have to be aware of our choices.

There’s a misconception out there that the “real college experience” is defined by risky behavior. From the images we see in the media, we are told to indulge freely. And in a case of life imitating art imitating life, we see our peers exhibiting the same types of behavior that can be found on our television screens and in the music we listen to (TGIF by Katy Perry, anyone?).

While it’s easy to attribute our choices to our youth and the transitory nature of life on earth, we must also remember that at the end of the day we’re mortal creatures and that every action has a consequence. I didn’t witness anything firsthand, but I heard stories my freshman year of students who got caught up, throwing their education and potential away in exchange for excessive unsavory behavior.

This is not to say that all risk-taking is bad. You only live once, so why not step out of your comfort zone and try something new? Whether it’s studying abroad or engaging with people outside of your usual crowd, or going against the grain in how you express yourself, there are many positive risks that you can take as a college student. These are the types of risks that help you grow and push you to your full potential. Like the other kind, they make for great stories, but in this case aren’t detrimental to your health, reputation and future.

Go ahead and live life to the fullest. You only live once, that’s the motto!

Contact PAMELA NONGA NGUE at pamnonga@ucdavis.edu.

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