On The FOMO Phenomenon; How To Be At Peace.
I'm young, and still, I'm always finding out old, new words. The ones that seem to have a sort of faux longevity; they arrive as if they had always been. They haven't always been. It's just that they make so much sense that they should've always been. And then it's easy to assume they have. This whole idea ~ the evolution of language ~ is a bit trippy.
I was sitting criss-crossed, listening to Schubert, reading a Murakami, and trying to focus on the great magical realism that is the tabby-black, tom-cat Mr. Otsuka, Nakata, Kafka Tamura and A Boy named Crow. I was distracted, and it wasn't a bad distraction, really. It's just that there was peanut-butter stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I was trying to remember what it was I kept forgoting about a Monday evening.
I remember taking a break to send a few messages, and that's when I saw the acronym sandwiched between eight group messages. Where had I heard it before? I knew it. These four letters. They were so familiar, but-------google.
FOMO: The Wall Street acronym du jour for fear of missing out. The term is defined twice-over.
1. The pervasive apprehension that one is missing a rewarding experience in which others find contentment.
2. A fear of regret, which may lead one to a compulsive concern that he/she will miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, a profitable investment, etc. And this seems to perpetuate a fear that one might have made the wrong decision on how they've chosen to spend their time.
There are a lot of examples wherein FOMO has become something. And I am sure that we have all experienced it. Once. Twice. Maybe it's a daily thing? I hadn't really thought much about it, because, well, I'll probably explain that a little later.
But haven't we all experienced disappointment? In that roundabout, vice-versa way where we've made a decision we thought would quell our fear of missing out but the result of it really left us feeling a little worse for wear.
When I googled FOMO, I realized it could be considered a business strategy. It's starting to affect relationships, personalities-----time. And here's the thing. I was trying to think of an example where I felt FOMO in my own life, and I struggled a bit.
I know it's affect us all in one way or another, but I'm going to be honest: I don't know about FOMO as much as I know FORO (which isn't a thing, yet, but it is).
The Fear Of Running Out. FORO, I know this. It's visceral to me because my fear in life is people expecting something I can't give. Maybe because I don't have the strength. Or the knowledge. Or the level of foresight needed.
I think my anxiety isn't necessarily FOMO-related. I don't mind "missing" things sometimes. I don't know if it's my personality, or just a way of living I've learned over time, but I tend to be quite content committing to present-moments. If I'm at work, I've learned to validate my time with coworkers and customers. In this quiet or crazy where I leave my phone behind to focus on serving people I don't know. If it's studying, then, I find ways to invest in the research and the reading. To balance it with interest and entertainment. And in social settings, if I'm with one friend, two friends - all of us gathered together to do nothing but improvise and laugh, I never find myself wishing to be elsewhere.
But FORO. I think this is where I struggle. See, I worry I won't have the strength to raise my energy up to a level that meets the needs of the people I care about. To connect with my friends. I don't want to be half-me when I'm with you, but I'm scared of running out of energy.
I fear I'll run-out of creativity. I need it in both the academic and originative side of my degree. In writing, you often say the same things over and over again. Yes, and no. But really, you're finding ways to reveal familiar things in new, unfamiliar ways. There's all this talk about seven basic plots and the structure of a beginning, middle, end, and maybe, as they say, there is a way of constructing sentences that look and sound like nothing else, but then, that's all a bit subjective too?
How many ways can I express this? Is there a point when a certain word loses a little life in an essay? What kind of story do I want to tell? And how? Or, my question: How can I give it to you so it weighs heavy and sweet?
Often I'm scared of running out of stamina. It took me an extra twenty minutes to walk to town the other day because I felt so weak; the bone in my right foot started aching again. I told a friend how worried I was that it would crack again if I kept on walking, and she said, Maybe it isn't about willpower. You aren't running out of resolve, but out of strength. And it just may be that you can't keep walking on willpower and determination. It's not walking-out, or running-away, it's about balancing.
It's hard to relearn. See, while FOMO may compel people to join-in with its phenomenon, FORO is the kind of force you feel the need to fight against. They're both cycles.
I'm scared of running-out of time. I love to give mine away, and I'm scared of not having enough time to give. To my family, to my friends, to my writing-------to moments of rest.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I'm really not as afraid of missing out as I am of coming to a place where I am so exhausted I have nothing left to give. What if I don't have what they need? What if I can't be who they need?
But, my friends, do you want to know something?
It's okay. It's okay to know that I'll tire. Or that I'll feel stuck and dry, or weary-eyed. It's okay because, even in my weakness and struggle and FORO, there is an empowering, overcoming strength that dwells in/with me.
And I start thinking about how we need resources to stay strong. Water and food for a runner. A strong pair of Nikes, perhaps? A map.
Or music? As a musician, I think like so. A violinist? She needs to build-up callouses to be strong enough to perform. To practice a melody; the bridge with its accents and tempo. And she can play one line over and over again, but the melody might take a while, and even so, there comes a point where she'll just have to stop to rest and listen as someone else performs the melody, learning from their skill and strength. And then, then return to it.
But there is a point of weakness. No matter how dearly you love something, or someone, there is this place where time and effort meet exhausted. And this doesn't de-validate the hard-work. It's just reality. A humanness.
I've heard many say that gratitude develops resilience. I agree with this.
But there is more. The divine meeting us in this humanness. Jesus reaches-out to us in our running-out, and says: I am with you.
Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
~ Isaiah 41:10
When most people tell me not to be afraid, I just sorta look over at them with wide, water eyes. And because I'm not a confrontational person, I leave them with their own encouragement. I let them think it comforts.
But, even then, sometimes------sometimes, I am not so calm and collected, and my wide, water eyes turn all grey and bright and I want to tell them to stop telling me not to be afraid.
Don't tell me that fear is a box. Or that it will go away, eventually. Because I know this. Because if I'm afraid, I'm afraid, and telling me not to be doesn't make me any less so.
What we need, in our fear, is for someone to stand beside us and say: I am here. To express empathy, letting us know we are not alone in our fear, even when they don't understand or can't see it themselves.
Because Jesus faced Fear itself, he understands our fear. He doesn't de-validate it because he knows exactly how much it hurts. He gathers us close in his arms (Isaiah 40:11), and says:
You don't need to be afraid because I am with you. Because I will strengthen you. I will not leave you to deal with your fear alone. I know how it fights for you. To win you over, to convince you that you are not enough.
There is a reaching-out in the running-out. Jesus reaching-out to us, me reaching-out to you, you with me.
Knowing that God is with me is a cycle of comfort. It keeps me returning to the beauty of hard, worthwhile things. Like the marathon of commitments, the stories I live and write, the songs I practice to perfect and perform. The people I want to uplift. Despite fear, there is still joy to be found in all of this.
Maybe I will always struggle with FORO. Maybe it's just one of those things that will return to me in moments I don't expect, but I am not afraid of this fear anymore because I know that when it comes, I won't have to be alone.
My friends, I pray this for you.