Monday, August 2, 2010


-noun.  (family slang)
abbr. Fear of Missing Out

The condition or syndrome in which the sufferer is seized by dread at the prospect that something exciting, enjoyable, important, or simply unrepeatable (read; anything of interest at all) might happen in her or his absence.  This can lead to paralysis during a decision making process, decreased enjoyment of whatever the patient is actually doing (due to chronic worry or attention to distant events), or choosing to do things against one's own inclination to ensure nothing happens without the sufferer's knowledge (i.e. staying awake far past feeling wakeful and cheerful simply because others are still awake and talking).

I think of FOMO sort of like the common cold.  Sometimes it lingers like a cough that just won't leave: it saps the enjoyment of a choice long after the action is taken and it's too late to go back, leaving the sufferer with regrets or at least pangs of what might have been.  Sometimes a quick bout is all there is, like a sore throat that never really turns into anything worth staying home from school or work over.  In those cases, I find a momentary pause before a decision, but never look back once launching.  In many cases, I find myself caught in paralysis by analysis, gripped by FOMO, unwilling to make any choice for fear the other would have been better.  I manage to make the choice eventually (perhaps painfully slowly to many outside observers), and generally have no long lasting ill effects.

I used to think FOMO was a common disease that struck all people.  I supposed some people came down with FOMO more often than others, but pretty much everyone got hit with it on occasion.  While this may still be true, I definitely have a predisposition to it; whether of genetic or environmental origin I do not know.  In recent years I have encountered several friends who look at me blankly when I try to describe my symptoms. They say, "just do what you want to do," or, "whatever choice you make is the right one, because that's the one you live," or, "follow your heart."  Turns out, some people have immunity to FOMO.  Because for me, it's a matter of wanting to have both choices.  It's also a matter of wanting to make the right choice.  My heart becomes hard to follow because it is so eager to experience it all that it is stretching in all directions attempting to not miss a thing.

During the (long, long) process of applying for the Peace Corps and deciding whether it was a good mutual fit, I was seized by FOMO on and off.  Once I accepted my invitation to Guatemala, I definitely had a spell where I was so concerned with all that would happen in the US while I am gone that I had a hard time seeing the exciting things that I will get to experience while I'm gone.  Things that my friends in family in the US will miss out on (childish inner voice says, "so there!").  Now I am set to get on the plane to start my adventure a week from today.  I am still feeling a little torn; I will miss at least five weddings of close friends this fall.  But mainly, I am feeling like it's time to set sail.  

Once I get through all my packing and errands, that is.  *gulp*

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