I am lying in my bed at midnight. The summer breeze is flowing from the window. It’s a warm summer night and i am TIRED. Drained from a long, never-ending week at work, multiple social commitments and that new class at the gym that made me long for my bed as if it were an oasis in the desert. Every bone in my body aches with exhaustion. My eyes are burning and tearing up, reminding me of all those hours spent staring at a screen. My head feels heavy on the pillow and I’m finally breathing, for the first time in weeks. Finally, the week is over and I can relax. Nothing to do, nowhere to be. Complete and total stillness is finally upon me.
But it’s a beautiful summer night. One of those rare ones when the air is warm and promising and stepping outside in nothing but a whisper-light dress and sandals won’t get you frostbite. One of those nights heavy with laughter and wine and the feeling that anything can happen. A night that will be remembered.
And here I am, wasting it away in my bed with my achy muscles and tired eyes. Slowly, the thought etches into my chest and refuses to let go. That soft, warm feeling of calm and relaxation evaporates, making space for a niggling anxiety – what if I’m missing out on the best night of my life? What if a night like tonight will never come again and the rest of the summer will be cold and dreary and boring? What if this is my last chance to dance on beaches, flirt with strangers and wear that new top that’s just a tiny bit too sparkly? What am I doing in bed at midnight like some 90-year-old?
Fear of missing out (or FOMO, as it’s become known) afflicted me on almost a daily basis during my uni years when I spent my summers working in a beachside hotel in Tuscany – the above depiction is taken from those years, when I did nothing but work, sleep, party and tan on the beach, but still felt like I was missing out on a whole lot of fun, even if virtually my entire existence was based around the pursuit of it. Every night that I didn’t go out (at most one night a week) I tossed and turned in bed worried that I was missing the night of the century. And the evenings when I did go out, I was constantly nervous that there might be a better party, a better crowd and more fun somewhere else. As a result, I rarely enjoyed myself and was left with a sense of emptiness even when I had had a truly epic day or night. Looking back now, I see how amazing that time was, and how lucky I was to have not one but five summers in that beautiful place. Too bad I didn’t enjoy it more.
I would love to say that I’ve grown and changed, that I’ve learned to be mindful and present, that I know how to live in the now and appreciate what I have. But the truth is that living in one of the most exciting cities on the planet, combined with having little money and a lot of Instagram access, has simply allowed my Fear of Missing Out to mutate into a new, updated version – FOMO 0.2. I watch travel bloggers whizzing around the world and feel consumed with envy, even if I do have an exciting holiday coming up, in a place I’ve never been before. I see friends going to concerts and I feel left out, even if I am going to a truly awesome vegan festival the same weekend. I see girls with that rare, innate sense of style and it stings, even if I am aware of how far I have come since I paired rainbow-striped crop tops with mid-waisted bleached jeans. The constant comparison forced by socialising and social media is merciless.
But, unlike those who would advise us FOMO-sufferers to step back and go into introspection to learn appreciation, I say go ahead, explore the fear. Dive into the FOMO completely and examine it from every angle. What is it that you’re afraid of missing? And how can you obtain it?
While I think it’s vital to be grateful for what you have (and I practice gratitude every day), I also believe in not trying to silence those thoughts and feelings that try to make you realise that you want more of a certain something in your life. If your FOMO tends to concern primarily one area of your life, maybe there’s something lacking there, something that you could try and obtain? For instance, if you’re having constant job envy, maybe you should work on bettering your career. FOMO can be a catalyst for change – and that’s something that shouldn’t be ignored.
But in the meantime, remember to breathe and appreciate all the beautiful things that you’ve got. Remember that what you think you become.
Top photo: Daniela Cuevas, bottom photo: Daniel Robert, both via Unsplash