Fear of missing out
Growing up as an only child wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Although people think being an only child means you get whatever you want, there is a dark side too — … dun dun dun — the feeling that you are always being left out.
As a kid, the only things that mattered to me were my Pokémon cards, my friend’s movie birthday parties and group playdates after school. I made an extra effort to be as social as possible to make up for the fact that my parents were kind of boring and that I lived in northern Virginia, whereas most of my friends lived in Washington, D.C. Every night when I came home from school, I always thought to myself, “Why am I in here doing homework, while all the other kids are out in the neighborhood playing?” I never really got to make friends with the kids in my community because I guess I never made time for it. I felt like I was missing out.
Every year that went by, I got more focused on school, and less focused on what made me happy — which, thinking back on it now, freaking sucked. I became busy making a path that led to the perfect college, and my collection of perfectly-laminated, color-coordinated Pokémon cards got stored away in the attic.
When I first got to college, I knew it was supposed to be awesome. I envisioned beer bongs, hot girls and parties that lasted until 4 a.m. That wasn’t really the case.
My first year, I was a recluse. I didn’t really join any CIOs because, like many other students, I was just overwhelmed by the massive number of groups on Grounds. I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I started trying to get actively involved in First Year Council, but I knew it just wasn’t enough.
At the beginning of second year, I knew that something needed to change. So I made an effort to try out for something new, University Guides. I wasn’t expecting to get it, but somehow I did, and I met some of my best friends. It really brought me out of my shell and got me to open up to classmates and even prospective students. But again, I knew I wanted even more.
Last year, one of the older members in my probationary class told me that I just needed to enjoy my time here at Mr. Jefferson’s university, because my time here would soon be coming to a screeching halt. He was living his fourth year, he said, according to FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out.
Obviously, I had no idea what that meant, and I couldn’t exactly look it up in the dictionary. One of my friends explained it to me as being similar to Murphy’s Law: if something could go wrong, it would. I interpreted that as if you didn’t go out, most likely it would end up being the best night ever. The image of the “Hangover” came to mind.
Now that I am a fourth year, and a quarter of my last year has come and gone, it has really hit me that I will start experiencing a lot of my lasts.
During the summer, I followed the coverage of the “recent unpleasantness” and I saw that The Cavalier Daily was doing such an incredible job. It really made me feel like I could be doing something awesome with my time, and I decided to tryout to be a columnist. If you’re reading this, I think you know what came out of that. It made me less fearful of trying out for things and confident enough to just do things on a whim sometimes. I realized the only thing stopping me from having an amazing last year was myself. So, I won’t let that happen. In the words of one of the most amazing actors of all time, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” So open the damn box!
Al’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.