This Post was originally published on October 18th, 2014
For most of my life I have been afraid, not just afraid, but terrified. I know that may seem incongruous, but it is true. I am afraid of falling, and dying alone, and the things that lurk in the darkest corners of my imagination, and failure, and bears. I have nightmares almost every night about one of those things, but the thing that I am most afraid of is missing out on the fun or interesting things going on around me. Yes folks, I the Reverend Doctor Owen E. Foley, duly sworn Notary Public in the great state of Vermont suffer from the terminal disease known as Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
Man has always been fascinated by what he cannot have, and plagued by regrets of things that he could have had if only the circumstances had been handled differently. It is no big shock that Moses and god discussed coveting on Mount Sinai millennia ago.. Our generation is no different, in fact we are probably worse than people before us. We live in an interconnected world where we are constantly being bombarded with all the GREAT or AMAZING things that everybody around us is doing. This creates a major inferiority complex where we look at our “mundane” or “boring” life and fail to see the adventure, just the drudgery that we have become used to. There is always excitement or adventure in new things or experiences, but that shine quickly fades as you become used to it. Through working out standup routines I have found that what is new and terrifying the first time you perform it becomes old hat by the 3rd time, and you need to strive to keep the excitement level up since you are probably dealing with a new audience each time.
Ah the old third paragraph, the time where I write about an interesting story where something related to the post topic occurred to me, fear not faithful fans I will not disappoint. A few years ago my friends rented a house with brothers from all the eastern regional chapters in Atlantic City for founders day weekend and I was invited to join. I knew it would be a good weekend, but it would cost me about $150 for fees, and gas, and probably a lot of extra cash for gambling. On top of that I did not have an active passport so I am not sure if I would be able to leave the states and get into New Jersey. I instead decided to take pass and work a my normal Saturday shift at Eckerd. Almost a decade later I still regret missing out on that trip. There were stories about toilet paper football, and hookups, and coffee made with Jack Daniels instead of water, and a giant pole that was stolen from the roadside, and even a pile of “human excrement” on the basement floor that cost them the deposit. All I got was $88 pre tax and a boring weekend alone at my apartment.
I would like to clarify that FOMO is not always a bad thing. There are few motivating factors as effective as missing out on something and trying to redeem yourself. I can personally tie several road trips and fun adventures to trying to “redeem” myself over the skipped AC trip. Sometimes missing out can be the kick in the ass that you need to get yourself moving on something even better. The problem lies when your sole motivating factor is that you don’t want to miss out on anything, because lets face it there is only so much that you can do, trying to go beyond that will just lead to disaster.
I have found that the biggest key is identifying what really matters. In the pharmacy world we are trained to be omnipotent and multitask to no end. This is not field specific because we live in a world where everyone is on multiple screens and our lives are filled with digital clutter of all kinds. Every productivity “expert” lobbies for doing one thing to increase your productivity or focus, but it is so easy to get caught up in the search for productivity that you never actually take action. You become so focused on the overwhelming amount of ways to get yourself out on whatever situation that you are stuck in, that you are so afraid to choose one and make the commitment, thereby missing out on the options provided via other options. The basics never change, you want to make enough money to live a good life, you want to surround yourself with good people, and you want to feel fulfilled. No amount of productivity advice or life hacks will get you there, you need to know what you want and reach for it.
I have recently begun reevaluating my priorities. I found that my work too much, sleep too little, try to miss nothing schedule had lead me to the point of burnout. Although I have basically been walking the burnout line for the past 10 years I still recognize when I was getting too close to the edge. This summer I took some time for myself, and I am so glad that I did. I started working out more, and traveling for things that really mattered instead of just trying to fill the time. I found myself splitting time between multiple things but not being obligated to try everything and be everywhere at once. This was most likely the best summer of my life, and I was able to do it while working 50 hours a week and being on the go every weekend.
A few weeks ago I had a major victory. I left a bottle share where I would have had some new and interesting beers that I probably will never have again in exchange for watching American Dad reruns and falling asleep early, and it was totally worth it. I woke up clear eyed and sober and ran a 5k, and what is more important I didn’t regret my decision for a second. While this represents a big win, it isn’t the end. We are hardwired to want what we do not have, and that hunger is a great motivational tool, but we have to pick and choose what is really worth it.
You can’t pick your fears, or else every white girl would be afraid of gluten. The best that you can do is embrace the ones that you have and try to overcome them. I will probably always be afraid of missing experiences, but the key is being content with the experiences that you choose. Life is full of decisions, and sometimes you have to choose the responsible decision over the fun one or the boring decision over the flashy one, and I am okay with that. The night is dark and full of terrors, but at least I feel comfortable facing my fear of missing out because there will always be plenty of other things to keep me up at night.