For most of the year, I’ve had a routine to my days that I’ve come to think of as “pandemic mode.” Exercise in the morning. Work during business hours. Acting as sous chef for my husband’s dinner prep. Evening walks with my dogs. Binge watching some show or another, and then a crossword before getting into bed.
At first, I wasn’t too happy about the sameness of it all. But in the past few months I’ve come to appreciate the predictability. It’s become comforting and surprisingly satisfying. I didn’t stop to analyze exactly why I liked the routine so much until the other day when a woman on Facebook wrote that she was not looking forward to feeling FOMO again once the world starts up again post-vaccine. FOMO! Ah, that’s the key, I realized.
FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out. It’s that prickly sensation in your chest when you see someone’s glorious vacation photos on social media. “OMG! Borneo beaches are the greatest undiscovered gem on the planet,” the post may read. Borneo? you think. Who goes to fucking Borneo? Why aren’t I going to fucking Borneo?
FOMO can strike closer to home as well. A friend is having a party and you’re not sure if you want to drive all the way across town and put on your best, bubbly self. You let your husband, who definitely doesn’t want to go, sway you to stay home. After you call the hostess with your excuses, you still feel churned up inside. I probably should have gone, you think, as you imagine all the fun everyone is having, all the exciting people who are being met. Maybe even people who have been to Borneo.
Not Missing Out
Of course during the pandemic, no one is going to Borneo or even Boise for that matter (and if they are, guilt or fear of travel shaming has kept them from flaunting it) and no one is having parties. There are no big events you coulda, woulda, shoulda attend.
For me that means when I’m curling up on my sofa to watch the finale for Season 3 of Stranger Things or to binge the whole seven seasons of Mad Men, there is no where else I feel I need to be. No vague sense that someone else is having more fun than me.
For me, there’s no vague sense that I need to be some where else.
I remember when I lived in New York City, which is probably FOMO central, I used to stare up at brightly lit apartment windows high above me and imagine the clinking glasses and knowing laughter going on inside. I always knew there was another world of sophisticated glamour that I didn’t have access to. Never was this feeling stronger than at the holidays, when I was sure everyone else had more and better parties to attend.
I was young then–in my 20s–and maybe this acute version of FOMO is most common when you haven’t found your own place, haven’t gathered enough wisdom to be comfortable with what you have. And too young to realize that it’s very likely that many people behind any bright window, at any seemingly sparkling party, are feeling they’re missing out on some bigger, better event.
The Older, Wiser Version
But even with age and self-knowledge, most of us are not entirely immune to the feeling we could be doing more, seeing more. COVID, however, leveled the playing field and put us all in the same spot–on our sofa with a remote and glass of wine, either alone or with a loved one.
COVID leveled the playing field and put us all in the same spot–on our sofa with a remote and glass of wine.
Even during the holidays this year, I appreciate that people are happy to keep it real. Most friends are gathering in small family groups for Christmas, sticking close to home and eliminating the fanfare. I even find it weird that people are still asking the question, “What are you doing for the holidays?”–which is a traditional conversation opener at this time of year. Really, I want to say, do you have to ask? Instead, I just say, “Hanging with the fam.”
I don’t look forward to FOMO creeping back into my nervous system in the future. Will I be able to keep it at bay when the parties and events and trips return? I hope this year of practice has cured me of it, has showed me that I can be happy with what’s right in front of me–just myself, my family and dogs, with some special appearances by the likes of Winona Rider and Jon Hamm.