FOMO, aka fear of missing out, is the anxiety created by the constant influx of information on social media informing you that your friends are doing something way more fun than you are. We now live in a time where we are no longer judged by our careers, our possessions or our income, it is now about the adventures you’ve sought out, the unique locations you’ve traveled to, or the risks you’ve taken along the way. While this is certainly not a bad transition to have, it can leave many of us feeling inadequate or quite dull when it comes to our own “unremarkable” lives.
With social media on the rise and fancy new blogs popping up in every direction, we are constantly exposed to new adventure stories raising the bar a notch, or glorious photos capturing a dream-like scenery you only thought imaginable in a book. Of course, this should only lead to inspiration for most, but what many don’t want to admit, is that it can leave us with the feeling that maybe our own mediocre adventures are not quite enough.
After becoming a travel nurse in 2016, I was granted the opportunity to work in various states across the country, where I can now be exposed to a constant revolving set of new trails every thirteen weeks. Working three 12-hour shifts with four days off to explore, I had a surge of energy to get out on every possible destination within driving distance. Initially filled with overexcitement, every day off was packed full of fun. As time went by, an interesting shift began to happen as that overexcitement started to fade. I began to feel a constant pressure to be taking advantage of every opportunity possible and the planning became stressful, rather than enjoyable. There were days where I couldn’t even find the desire to leave my tiny studio apartment, or change out of my pajamas before noon (such as a dreary day like today in rainy Seattle). This would then lead to a vicious cycle where I would beat myself up for it, scrolling through Instagram, seeing photos of someone tackling a nearby peak or that picture-perfect tent site you thought only existed in a magazine.
There are two things we have to remind ourselves when we feel suffocated by this theory of FOMO. First, living an exuberant life is not always about the next wild adventure on your agenda. Life is about doing the things that make you happy, while still taking the time to relax and reflect. Maybe your next day off, you just want to take a stroll around your neighborhood or local park, leaving time to catch up with friends or family over a warm home-cooked meal. Or maybe you want the day to yourself to finally start that book that’s been stashed on your shelf, or binge-watch the Netflix show you’ve been told about countless times by your coworker. The point is, we don’t need to constantly be doing something “exciting” on a daily basis, and no one should ever make us feel guilty for not doing so. Second, keep in mind the next time you’re surfing through your social media pages, that a single photo doesn’t capture the experience. Posing for a picture in front of the sign of a National Park does not always mean that there was an escapade to go along with it. Adventures are not about making another checkmark on the list, it’s about truly engaging in the act and enjoying every precious second of it. This world is filled with opportunities, but don’t let others discourage you from the ones you already have.
I am not a journalist nor am I a professional athlete. I am just like everyone else out there, trying to live a balanced life between having fun, maintaining a good work ethic, and contributing to society. I only hope that this article strikes home for many others out there trying to do the same.