I woke up this morning with a Facebook hangover. I kicked an anthill on the topic of divorce last night, and late into the evening (when my brain was foggy and grouchified) I just kept stoking the fire.
Surely, the more words I use the clearer my thoughts will become!
So I woke up, dazed and drooling, with the memory of angry comments creeping into my conscious space. Like the morning after a college party, I found my tummy dancing nervously.
“Oh, no…what did I do?”
It all started with a scroll down my newsfeed. Per the usual, a Huffpost article caught my eye. Click bait at its finest (and I bit). The title?
What It’s Like To Walk Away From Marriage At 44.
I figured there was a story. Maybe her husband was a liar and a cheat. Or maybe this was an inspirational tale of a survivor who left an abusive relationship.
What I didn’t expect, and what made me sick to my stomach, was the author’s actual reason for walking away from her 20-year covenant relationship.
After two sentences lamenting the loss of her carefully-built marriage, she proceeded to gush over how wonderful life was post-divorce.
Finally starting the journey of self-exploration with nobody to hold me back. Take that, ex-husband!
Commenters were sending Internet high-fives and back pats. I mean, good for her! She was doing what made her happy, and that’s all that mattered.
I was furious at that stupid article and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I know divorce happens. Marriages fail. Heck, it happens around me all the time–to people I love and respect. People in my family. Nothing new.
Groundbreaking? Not really.
Still, I found myself furiously ticking away at the keyboard, sending angry thoughts into internet-space. It took me a full night’s rest (and a couple of gracious friends) to find my bearings on this issue–and now I know exactly where the sandpaper met the skin.
Right here: “Divorce frees you to pursue endeavors you may have shied away from during marriage. Never athletic, I’ve recently begun practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.”
She freaking played the YOLO card.
And I am sick to death of the YOLO culture. It started out okay enough. Like some 21st century rip-off of Carpe Diem: Life is short, so make it count.
I can get behind that.
What has completely ruined this movement for me is how absurdly selfish the execution is.
At some point, YOLO may have been Carpe Diem’s hip cousin. But now she is the narcissistic trust-fund baby who had every grand opportunity to change the world, but blew it on a good time.
If you want to get drunk and tattoo your armpits, YOLO away.
If you want to quit your job and vagabond your way across Eastern Buddha, YOLO your heart out.
Local food truck is selling cow-tongue frittatas and you wanna give it a shot? You only live once, pal.
But don’t run that YOLO flag up the pole when you walk away from a promise with your middle finger up.
This is what nobody wants to acknowledge about our culture of self-gratification: It is not possible for everybody to be happy all the time. Anybody who tells you otherwise is a liar. One person chasing self-gratification will leave a wake of broken hearts behind them.
Don’t believe me?
Ask the single mom who’s husband went looking for greener grass and never returned.
Ask the child who lives with grandma so their 35-year-old mother can still pretend she’s 20.
Ask the 90-year-old in a nursing home who hasn’t seen their children in three years.
We only live once, it’s true. And life may be short, but that doesn’t mean it should be spent selfishly. The richest life experiences are found in moments of selflessness. The give and take of loving others. The push and pull of making relationships work. The hard, rewarding work of keeping a promise.
If you set out in life to find the next best thing, you are bound to discover your next big disappointment.
And that is because, in this world, the greatest loves are high risk, high reward. Give much of yourself to others and you will find that joy is the highest return.
You only live once, friends.