At the beginning of adulthood it seems that each revelation creates a lasting change. You say things like, “I used to struggle with that, until I realized this.” Growth requires some effort, and yet there’s hope because it seems linear.
A few months later, you struggle with that thing again. At first it can be confusing. Didn’t I learn from that other experience?
If the struggle comes around yet again it can be deeply discouraging. Am I incapable of learning from my mistakes? Am I ever going to stop struggling with this?
The questions and self-doubt can get really ugly. But if you’re lucky, you have a friend who puts it into perspective.
For me, that was a mentor who explained real growth is layered, like an onion. One part of our heart experiences a revelation, and a while later, that outer layer is peeled off and we deal with the same struggle, but at a deeper level.
This concept brings hope and lots of humility —because I’m not back where I was, and yet there’s always more growth to be had. Its not as exciting as overnight transformation, but it’s good to know growth is non-linear, and to be free from judging myself every time I struggle with something I thought I’d moved past.
But once in a while growth happens quickly for me – like the day that FOMO (fear of missing out) died.
As I drove to Los Angeles to pick up my parents I was weary from a late night of packing and excited about our vacation plans. But I also felt upset about the timing — one of my best friends, Katherine, was flying in from New York that afternoon for work. She’d be staying at my house and I wouldn’t get to see her. Another friend was also visiting from the East Coast for a girls’ trip to Santa Barbara.
I’m not sure why I was upset, other than fear of missing out compounded by the fact that quality time with family and friends is rare. Why was everyone in town at the exact same time? Why couldn’t it all have been spread out over a month or two?
It was hard to understand, and as I drove I argued with God about it. It was childish, but there wasn’t anyone else to yell at, so I told Him everything I felt, along with a bunch of other stuff that seemed unfair.
And when I was done, to my great surprise, He responded.
Not in words, exactly, but the gist of it was that this was none of my concern, and Katherine would have a bed to sleep in (rather than my couch), and I didn’t need to worry about what I wouldn’t be a part of in Santa Barbara. He loved me, my friends and family loved me, and I wasn’t missing out on anything.
That may not sound comforting, but it was. It was just so… true.
I burst into laughter and felt a wave of relief. I still didn’t like it, but it no longer bothered me. I would have fun with my family, I’d see Katherine some other time, my friends would have a wonderful time in Santa Barbara and it was okay that I wouldn’t be there for it.
When I got to the station to pick up my parents I felt like a new woman. But they weren’t there. I tried to call, but it went to voice mail. The staff didn’t have a record of their arrival. And then I realized they were arriving the next day.
I couldn’t believe my mistake. It was frustrating, but as I walked to my car I realized I could now pick up Katherine from the airport!
The timing was perfect. We drove back to Newport Beach, and since I was completely ready to go on vacation — which wouldn’t have happened under any other circumstance — I was free to spend the evening with her and another friend. It was wonderful, and I left the next day feeling rested.
A few days later in Yosemite I reflected on the curious absence of FOMO as I watched the sun begin to drop. When I took this photo the thought that came to me was, “the glass is always full.” It felt like the completion of what God had said to me earlier.
I marveled at the thought.
I’d love to end the story there, but it wouldn’t be right. Because ten minutes later I realized my 70-something parents hadn’t come out of the woods yet, and night was falling, and there are no streetlights in Yosemite.
So I ran, truly ran, through a very dark forest to find them, and by the time I did I was scared for their safety and angry about the miscommunication that led to our separation. My moment of peace and revelation was all but forgotten.
Thankfully it floated back to me that night, and it’s never left.
For the record, I do think we can miss out — but not because we can’t be in two places at once.
We miss out when we won’t commit to someone in case a better option comes along.
We miss out when we refuse to apologize or forgive.
We miss out when we become so fixated on whether we made the wrong decision that we fail to be present to the goodness right before our eyes.
And that’s the real kicker: fear of missing out, in and of itself – is what steals our joy!
The good news is, letting go of FOMO comes down to a choice. When you refuse to entertain fear of missing out, life gets infinitely more enjoyable.
You’re free from the torment of second-guessing your decisions.
You’re less weighed down by jealousy and comparison.
You’re more present to yourself and those around you.
And you’re able to receive the goodness of the moment you’re in.
This post is in collaboration with The Refined Collective Series.