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I’ve Got FOMO Too—Musings On An Adult Case Of FOMO

Adult FOMO.  I’ve got it bad.

Fear of Missing Out—we use it all the time to talk about our teens. They see all of their friends getting together (without them), read posts about the concert they couldn’t get tickets to, the list goes on and on.

The acronym seemed ridiculous when I first heard it. Until I realized I had it.

Pictures on Facebook of a beach with an amazing sunset? Zip-lining through the trees in Costa Rica? Coffee with a stream of milk in the shape of a heart? Deal me in.

At first, I was in denial. I thought it was just a “Well, that looks nice” kind of reaction. But as time went on, the desire got stronger and the events loomed larger and more attractive.

It happened a few years ago with the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland. Putting all political party affinities aside, I wanted to be a part of it.

Call it FOMO, call it curiosity—I wanted to be there.

When I told this to my husband, he offered several responses:

“You know there’s a lot of security downtown, right? You can’t just walk in.”

I hadn’t thought about that. Good point.

“You know you hate crowds.” Another good point.

I Know, But…

Why couldn’t anyone understand that I just wanted to feel the energy of the city? It was historic and it was happening here, in our city.

My friend offered a similar response.

“Are you crazy?” she asked. “I don’t think it’s safe—something could happen.”  But I wanted to be there when “it” happens.

“Sounds like a lot of work.” And another good point.

I didn’t go in the end, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

What if my whole life went by and I missed all of these chances?  I pictured sitting in my comfy rocking chair, my grandchildren strewn about, asking me about the time Cleveland hosted the RNC—“What was it like, Grandma?”

“Well, I don’t know, sweetie; I wasn’t there,” seemed like a ridiculous response. I couldn’t stand to see the disappointment in their not-yet-conceived-or-even-conceptualized eyes.

I’d never had this problem before. Where was this coming from?

I pretended this was actually all about me—my needs, my experiences, my worth, my legacy, and not about the cold, hard fact that my kids were getting older. With one in college, one in high school, and one in middle school, I pretended there was no sadness about them growing up, leaving the nest, and building their own lives. And I pretended that my FOMO had nothing to do with two of them being gone for the remainder of the summer, in another country.

With each kid’s burgeoning freedom, I am working harder and harder to fill the empty space.

Emptiness would feel … I can’t even go there.There is a saying about the work expanding to fill the time that is available. To manage my case of adult FOMO, it’s better to just fill that time with new activities to replace soccer carpool, instrument lessons, circling back for pickups, all while having dinner on the stove.

So, FOMO it is—Fear of Moving On.

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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