The genuine, life-altering fear of missing the eff out.
I’m scared of a lot of things. Snakes. Weirdly large fish. That horrible, edge-of-your-seat train scene in Breaking Bad that haunts me to this day. But the idea of missing out on some sort of event or life adventure with people I like is almost as high up on this fear list as everything else.
I mean, I genuinely love being alone. I also love being with people. I’m not sure which I prefer or if I even have a preference. I know I love being social and I love being a part of it and I love making conversation with the kind waitress who has the nicest hair I’ve ever seen. But I equally love my alone time, where you don’t need to think or try or say anything or feel anything other than how you feel. You can just sit with your beer and your book and chill the fuck out. It’s relaxing, and it’s freeing, and it makes you feel good about yourself.
So you know, sometimes you do that. You’re feeling more introverted than usual, so you peace out from work on a Friday and head straight home with a vision of couchside takeout. And you’re stoked about it. And when you finally get your sweats on and settle into it, it’s just as good as you imagined.
But then you finish a chapter or episode or find a break in whatever you happen to be doing, so you check Instagram and see that your friends just posted a group photo of them at the bar, and like fuck. You didn’t realize they were all going out when XX texted asking if you were going out later. You didn’t realize it was a thing. You thought she was just asking your plans while she sat on her own couch with her sweats and the remote and a bottle of vino.
So now, despite the fact you were not only content but rather enjoying your night alone, you feel a tad antsy. Restless. You half consider throwing on some lipstick and going to join the party – because what if this turns into the best night ever and you missed out for no good reason other than you were lazy and tired and stuck in a mood? So after pacing your hallway a couple of times, torn between being a confident, independent individual and suddenly feeling this overwhelming need to go have fun, you pull on your jeans and call an uber despite the fact you don’t actually want to go. And yeah, you’ll probably end up having fun because the people are cool and the vibe is good and you are pretty capable of falling into whatever situation you happen to be in. But literally the only reason you decided to go is because you didn’t want to be left out.
Because you had FOMO.
It started early for me. Grade 7, I’ll say, as it was the first year of my life that I so vividly remember feeling left out and recognizing how overwhelmingly anxious this made me. Literally all I wanted in life was a) for Stephen Wettlaufer to like me back and b) to get an invitation to your party.
And your party.
And yours, too.
Enter the FOMO years.
I wish I could say this lasted only a few – 5? 10? Maybe until I graduated Uni and took off for the big city full of confidence and independence and not giving a shit what anyone else was doing.
However, that wasn’t meant to be. Yes I was independent and yes I was confident and no, I didn’t really give a shit what anyone else was doing in the sense that I didn’t get a Martini just cuz they did (it was always beer, obv). But my FOMO years prevailed. I still crammed my schedule full and felt borderline anxious when I knew there was a function that night I couldn’t be at because WHAT IF it ended up being the best and funnest function EVARRR??? But whatever. I was okay with having fomo because I assumed it was a phase I would eventually grow out of. And because I assumed it would just end on it’s own, I didn’t think about it. I simply FOMO’d on.
Long story short, by the time I was turning 27 and technically classified as a human being in my late 20’s (whelp), I thought I would be over this. I thought I would have beaten fomo, and I thought it would no longer impact what I did and who I was and how I approached my life. But this is absolutely not the case – especially now that I’m halfway across the world and “missing out” on literally everything. I mean, fuck, when Facebook showed me that big group photo of everyone back home partying on the beach? I had a 3-day meltdown and endlessly kicked myself for ever giving up my former life and leaving these people I loved so much. LOOK AT EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE I WAS MISSING.
My fomo is as strong as ever despite the fact I am a human being in my late twenties; despite the fact I am confident and strong and proud of who I’ve become. And although my fomo occurs less often and with less force, it is still something that lives inside of me when someone is telling a story or recounting a night out that I wasn’t at. I am half listening and half wondering why the eff I wasn’t there.
But here’s the thing I have come to realize: no one really gives a shit if you’re there or not. My missing out on a night probably went largely unnoticed. And this isn’t sad. This doesn’t mean you don’t matter. It simply means people love you whether you’re there or not. Your friendships and value within these friendships is in no way dependent on how many functions you make it to. And you are, quite likely, the only one losing sleep over the fact that you might be missing out. Because the night will go on, and the world will go on, and believe it or not, this is probably one of the more insignificant problems you could have in your life. I mean, the fact that you have that many meaningful people and places and things in your life that events can overlap is pretty fucking great.
I think that fomo, on the surface, feels like a very sad thing. Having it makes me think that maybe I’m not as confident or okay with myself as I thought; that maybe I’m letting my insecurities win. But I actually think it’s quite the opposite; maybe fomo simply means you have a lot of people and a lot of things happening that get you excited about life. And that is never a bad thing.
So embrace that sentiment and know you’re all good, baby. Let’s not be scared of missing out on anything and instead, get scared of missing out on OURSELVES. Because we are all, quite likely, the fucking best. And yes, it sucks to miss people and miss things and wish you could be there. It sucks to miss out on moments that you know you would have loved. But wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, odds are you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Perhaps you can’t go because you’re too busy becoming something better. So let yourself enjoy your wonderful self, be it overseas or tucked away at home in your sweats. You didn’t miss out on anything.