So there’s this twenty-first century affliction called “FOMO,” and I’m quite sick of its reoccurring rash on my life.
FOMO is simply the “fear of missing out.” But missing out on what? That’s the problem – the “what” is everything. The truth of the matter is you’re always going to miss out on something, whether it’s burrito night at the dining hall or a family wedding.
I write this in hopes of reminding myself that in every moment I feel that pesky FOMO creeping in on my emotions, I am not missing out on at least one thing – what I am doing at that particular moment.
I’m both privileged and cursed to live in an age of social media and to have so many opportunities as a student at an amazing American university. I say this because I realize I have too many options of how to spend my time. Club meetings, dance rehearsals, intriguing lectures, dance performances at DPAC, concerts, meals with friends, and office hours with professors – you name it and I can do it in college. It’s come to the point in which I feel constantly overwhelmed by all the things I can do and having to decide what I should do. (Ahh the tyranny of choice) Even worse, I hate having to decide which people to spend my time with, not because I want to avoid certain people but because I feel that if I don’t see certain people regularly or I miss out on big events, then our relationships will suffer.
I had a bad case of FOMO during the beginning of this last month’s fall break. Cue a scroll through my Instagram news feed. A group of some of the people I consider my best of friends headed off to a giant fall break trip with mutual friends. I was never officially invited but the trip was mentioned to me in passing. I knew if I pushed further I could have easily joined them, but I let insecurities prevent me from joining. I used my already booked flight home for break as an excuse – it would be too much trouble to change my plans. I said I had to see my Nana and spend time with her. Granted, I really wanted to see her but I felt the need to provide an excuse that confirmed, “I already have plans so I’m not hurt that I wasn’t included originally.”
So I missed out on that trip – on the stories, the bonding, the photographs, the adventures. I’ll never be a part of those memories and it stinks, but I can’t let my aggravation keep me down.
What did I not miss out on? A lot.
I spent time with my Nana, and I’m so thrilled that I now live just five minutes away from her and can visit with her as often as I like when I’m home. We went out to lunch at my favorite restaurant (The Twisted Fork) with my mom, got ice cream at Ted & Wally’s, we drank wine at her kitchen table, and talked about our new favorite TV show, Castle.
My cousin’s baby son Carl was my best bud this summer when my Mom and I babysat him each week. He turned 10 months old yesterday, and he finally started crawling when I was home for break – and let me tell you, he is fast! If I had gone anywhere else but home for fall break I would have missed watching him learn how to maneuver his baby legs across the carpet in search for something to pull himself up to stand up. In this case, I did not miss out on a wonderful event in Carl’s life. It’s amazing to watch a baby grow and mature, and Carl is truly showing his own fantastic personality now.
My cousin Michelle, someone I pretended was my cool big sister when I was younger (okay I still do) got married on Saturday and I was lucky enough to spend some time with her before she got hitched. Since I finally turned 21 this summer Michelle and I got to go to get a “grown-up” drink together for the first time. Toni, my cousin-in-law and baby Carl’s mom, Michelle, and I took a girls’ night to The Brazen Head pub in Omaha. It was wonderful to feel like one of the big kid cousins and get to catch up with my cousins who also lead busy lives. If I hadn’t come home for fall break I wouldn’t have seen Michelle until the day before her wedding and I wouldn’t have enjoyed the quality time we had. I’m thankful I didn’t “miss out” on girls’ night.
Hey! Look what happened, I chose to miss out on the cool fall break trip but I did not miss out on some great moments with family members I don’t get to see that often.
I think when FOMO starts to overwhelm you it’s important to consider how trivial that even you’re “missing out” on actually is. In the grand scheme of things I have seven more months as a student at Notre Dame with my friends – one week is just a tiny part of that.
I even got to visit with my friend Meredith, a fantastic Missourian attending Creighton that I worked with at my internship this summer. If I hadn’t gone home for fall break I might not have been able to see her until winter break, thanks to our college schedules. Visiting with Meredith reminded me that just because you don’t get to spend time with a friend as often as you’d like it doesn’t mean your friendship is dying throughout that loss of contact. It’s true – you can go two months without really keeping in touch and when you do get together it’s like you’re picking up right where you left off.
It had been two months since I’d been in Omaha and upon my return I fully realized how nice it is to live there. When we sold our house in New Jersey in June 2011 I was terrified to move across the country. Sure, I had tons of relatives in Omaha and knew it well, but it wasn’t home yet. It was just a place I visited a few times each year. I didn’t want to leave behind New Jersey and the East Coast – the life to which I had grown accustomed. I didn’t want to miss out on Jersey life.
However, looking back I realize how much I missed out on with family in Omaha when I was living in New Jersey. But now I’m glad I don’t have to. I’m just a Nebraskan with a Jersey girl upbringing now. I have my Nebraska license plate and driver’s license and I can’t believe I’m saying this but I definitely secretly rooted for the Huskers this season. I’m no longer missing out on Saturday nights at Uncle Carl’s house, or family birthday parties, or family dinners with Nana and my parents, or even baby Carl’s latest shenanigans. For all of these privileges, I am thankful.
Thinking about life in Omaha helped me to see that you’re never really missing out when you make a decision about how to spend your time. What you choose to do is an experience in which you get to participate. You only “miss out” when you’re not present in the moment because you’re too caught up with what you could be doing when you should be enjoying what you are doing instead.
Yes, it may be brutal to have to sit quietly at the dinner table when your friends rehash their memories from the trip they went on and you didn’t, but I experienced things they didn’t when I wasn’t with them. I’m sure there will be another vacation with friends I can take in the future but baby Carl will never crawl for the first time again.
I just can’t get stuck on what I could have or should have done. All that matters is what I have done, what I can do, and the happiness my experiences bring me.
I love the saying “Do more of what makes you happy.” When in doubt and stuck between choices I now believe acknowledging your mental state is of utmost importance. Don’t go to the party everyone’s going to just because they’re going, but go to that free concert on campus in which your favorite band is performing. Of course there are times to take the road less traveled by (Don’t worry, Robert Frost, I was listening), but don’t let what’s popular for others define what you should do.
You might not think so, but you do know yourself pretty well– you’re the only one who has to listen to your own thoughts and in particular you’re the only one who has to listen to the regrets swirl in your head. Be kind to yourself. Choose what feels right, because even though happiness isn’t guaranteed it’s completely possible.