FOMO vs YOLO

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*This post was originally totally different, but I’ve had something of a turnaround in opinion in the past few weeks or so, for reasons which I won’t bore you with right now. It was originally meant to be a critique of the pressure to go travelling without regards to personal circumstances which may hinder someone’s ability to do so, but having read even more on the subject since publishing, I’d done something of a 180 and would like to present the new post here.*

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has been plaguing me for many years now, for at least half my life, and a lot of the time I feel like I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time, having *just* missed out on a life-changing opportunity by the skin of my teeth, and that if I’d only done this or that thing everything would’ve been different and awesome, and that it’s all my fault for not trying hard enough – “don’t you know it’s SO easy now in this eternally connected world so you have NO EXCUSE!” – and generally not being “savvy” enough to what’s hip and happening.

In recent times I’ve tried to combat this by applying for endless jobs (many of which I know deep down I’ve no chance in hell of getting), going on trips here and there (within the limits of what I can afford) because I do like to every so often, but also often just to prove to/remind myself and everyone that I can, and following/tweeting people constantly and obsessively on social media. But even then it feels like the “party” is always just around the corner – somewhere – and only just out of earshot, and that if I just stay alert and accessible at all times then I won’t be the person I once was, who used to miss out on so much and who didn’t even have the privilege of realising this until it was too late.

Somewhere along the line, I got the message that as long as I showed up, looked interested, and was ready for the action at any time, then the rest would follow, even if my head and my heart were a million miles away, or didn’t even want to be close by. From my earliest days spent actively attempting to socialise and to fit in, what I wanted and what I was interested in, the things which I never even got round to really sharing with anyone else, eventually gave way to an abstract idea of how to do things the right way. After all, if everyone else is managing to do the things you love doing even better than you, then you must be missing a trick somewhere…

After half a lifetime slowly neglecting what truly interested me, in favour of the *chance* to be what mattered to everyone else, it’s a long way back again. A long, vague and lonely trail, barely discernible in the ground below and before me, leading and tapering into the distance. Not even definitely going anywhere.

How to get the mojo back again, however, of what I really want from life – which I only have a vague memory of now – that is something which I may need to embark upon a whole new journey to find out if it’s even possible to recapture. But I am (very) slowly but surely attempting to piece together some semblance of the person I was before FOMO started kicking in and kicking everything about me out of my life.

One thing I do love these days – and don’t have to force – is photography. I love going to a new and interesting place (when I’m in the right mindset to do so), taking a great picture from an unusual angle, and revisiting the scene on my screen later at my leisure. Presenting, arranging, contextualising and – urgh – *promoting* said photography, on the other hand, is the current challenge.

Also, I’ve found that whenever I try my hand at anything new, I find that I fall into a pattern of starting out with a fresh enthusiasm, albeit tempered with an increasing apprehension of learning new things as I advance in life, and before too long becoming so frustrated with my sense of ineptitude and inability to “get into the flow” that it just becomes one more thing to add to my Quit Collection. More recently, as I’ve attempted to stretch my wings and venture further from home, travelling is becoming the latest Thing where I start to feel that old familiar apprehension. Just when I feel like I’m “onto something”, the feeling that I’ve missed something crucial and major starts to creep in – that I could’ve had the “true experience” if you’d only done all the things which make you extremely uncomfortable – until you end up feeling that you might as well not even try.

However recently I’ve started to “chance” upon the odd website where I’ve started to see a more heartening attitude which hints at the possibility that I might not be doing everything completely¬†wrong.¬†The message – if it can be called one – appears to be that, while there is so much to be said for going “off the beaten track”, it becomes problematic when it reaches the stage of condescension of those who don’t do everything the hardest way conceivable just for the “true adventure” – travel snobs, if you like. For example, I love to travel (when it’s a good time for me) but due to my particular circumstances – my need for my own space, for example – would struggle to forgo a private room, even just a tiny one, for an extended period of time. Or indeed, frankly, any length of time. However, on pretty much every travel blog I’ve encountered the praises are duly sung of hostelling and “mingling” effortlessly with others there, likes bees to honey. (I’m pretty sure that’s an acceptable vegan analogy, no honey being stolen by humans here!)

However, not all experiences are going to be the same for every person, and indeed what would even be the point in travelling if you did literally exactly the same thing as everyone else. The whole “beach party in Goa” and “yoga on top of a fjord in Norway” and “being at one with the trees in a place where the writer clearly drove to while denouncing all forms of technology while tweeting and clearly having someone taking their “selfie”, while undeniably a positive experience for whoever enjoyed it enough to shout about it from the rooftops, is becoming just a sufficiently recurrent theme to give momentary pause, in which to reflect as to whether this is really what one wants to do, rather than what they feel like they have to do, in order to have that truly Instagram-friendly lifestyle.

What I find especially encouraging about the article is that it dispels many of the myths which women are faced with all too often, and which I’ve allowed to permeate my perception of the world – that it’s simply not safe out there. That I’m at risk of making a fool of myself at best, and at worst… well, in a pretty bad situation. With or without my life. In the end, it seems to be a case of discerning the difference between inspiration and pressure – between the voice inside and the demands coming from outside. That can be a challenge in itself a lot of the time.

For now, FOMO and YOLO (You Only Live Once, for those not up to date on their annoying lingo) remains an act of delicate balance, one which with my lack of co-ordination, will require significantly more practice.