19 May How To Stop Feeling FOMO-A Series of Nice Moments
Your Life Has Already Begun
Back in September and October, I experienced a lot of FOMO (the fear of missing out). At the time, my Instagram feed was filled with pictures of people my age moving to college, living with a group of friends, and traveling the country. Meanwhile, I spent thirty hours a week at nail school, and I spent my free time at home alone, writing or reading. Sometimes, I imagined myself living this fantastical and exhilarating life–filled with house parties in Utah, hiking through the national parks, going on romantic dates with the perfect girlfriend; however, inevitably, the bubble would pop. In its wake, it left an unremarkable life and a deep feeling of inadequacy.
The feeling of FOMO has its roots in two different and equally pervasive ideas. First, I have been trained to constantly focus my eyes on the future. Throughout my twelve years in school, I was constantly reminded to get good grades. Why? So I could get a good job, make money, and raise a family. So many of the things we do are so future-oriented that it becomes natural that we start thinking about the future more than we think about the present. Combine this with the idea that people who live better-looking lives than me, have better lives than me. There is a constant stream of media telling people exactly what a good life looks like. “A good life” requires us to travel the world, have a perfect relationship, and have enough money to buy double chicken and guac at Chipotle. There is a template for what our lives should look like, and when we end up comparing our lives to that template, we can’t help but feel like we’ve come up short. “A good life” becomes this idea that we work towards, and all of the things we’re doing now are just preparation so that we can check those boxes that lead to the illustrious “good life”.
But the thing about this idyllic “good life”, where I am blissfully happy forever, is that it only exists in my mind. It is not real. I have been conditioned to constantly downplay my reality in order to endlessly chase after this carrot dangling in front of my face. This chase is a cruel lie. People spend their entire lives running after this carrot. It does not matter to them how much broccoli they eat or how far they’ve already run. We need that carrot to be happy, but the carrot is not real.
“Do not treat [life] as a line. Think of life as a series of dots. If you look through a magnifying glass at a solid line drawn with chalk, you will discover that what you thought was a line is actually a series of small dots. Seemingly linear existence is actually a series of dots; in other words, life is a series of moments…We can live only in the here and now. Our lives exist only in moments.” -Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
One day in the fall, after I had gotten home from nail school, I was sitting on my lawn in a fold-out chair reading a book (I’m pretty sure it was The Selection series). The early fall weather was the perfect mix of warm air and cool breezes that made reading outside a prized opportunity. I set my book down in my lap to process what had just happened in the story, and I stared out towards my mundane and quiet suburb. All the houses that lined my street looked almost identical, and they blocked the sun completely, making it impossible to see the sunset. A few trees lined the road or filled the space in my neighbor’s yard. Their leaves were bright red, but nothing I hadn’t seen a thousand times. In this small Ohio suburb that I’m sure looked identical to thousands of suburbs around the country, I breathed in the fresh air like it was the most delicious meal I’d ever smelled. I stared out at the trees like they were mountains towering above the horizon. I looked at the fading pale yellow sky like it was a sunset at the beach.
“I do think the idea of living your life to the fullest is a little flawed. Like, why is jumping out of an airplane inherently better than reading a book? Or why is living a life that looks good on instagram inherently more meaningful than a life lived quietly? I just don’t buy it.” – John Green
At that moment, I couldn’t help but realize how ridiculous it was that I ever felt FOMO. I realized that this adventurous life that lived in my head wasn’t real, so it was impossible for me to appreciate. The only thing that I could appreciate was the life that I was currently living–no matter how unassuming. Traveling and partying, while more exciting or Instagram-worthy, is by no means more “living” than sitting on a suburban lawn appreciating an average sunset. In the back of my mind, I still hoped that the days where I could hike up mountains or party with my friends would come–they would–but they weren’t coming now. That’s okay.
We often get stuck in the waiting room of our lives. When we’re at the doctor’s office, there’s always that brief window of time when you’re just sitting and doing nothing, waiting to be called on. It may feel like those minutes are just something you have to get through, but those aren’t just minutes. They’re the endless hours you spend studying for that midterm, they’re the ten hours shifts that you have to work to pay for bills or trips, they’re the long airplane rides where the guy sitting next to you has commandeered the armrest, they’re the quiet moments on road trips where everyone has run out of things to say–they’re your life.
It would be a complete lie to say that living your life more mindfully and present would solve all of your problems. Sometimes, you’re just tired and you have to go to work anyways, and sometimes, studying for that exam just sucks, the teacher is clueless, and you don’t know how you’re gonna manage to pass. Being present is not a panacea for your life, but in my experience, it betters every part of your life. Accepting your life for what it is brings with it a certain amount of peace. You stop agonizing over what your life could be and begin to accept it for what it is. The moments are not perfect, but you realize that they, like all other moments, will be lost in the endless flow of time. Then, when you’ve begun to live a more mindful and aware life, small moments that used to pass right by you become refreshing oases in an otherwise exhausting journey.
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” -Kurt Vonnegut
One morning, as I was walking through the parking lot of my nail school, I remember looking around at the trees and at the concrete building and smiling. My time in nail school was a quick two months, and I didn’t love nail school. It was boring a lot of the time, and I would have loved to be playing video games at home or hiking in the mountains. The thing that helped me get through nail school was the understanding that I would only be in it for two months. I realized that I would probably, thankfully, never find myself back in a cosmetology school. The very fact that I was there in the first place had never been a part of my life plan, but I realized that at one point in my life I might look back at that time and laugh because of how different and unexpected it was. In the mornings, on that brief walk from my car into the school, I couldn’t help but look around and think that my days there were numbered and that I might come to miss these moments–the same way I feel oddly nostalgic for those lunches in high school where I endlessly complained about AP Physics.
Below is a list of moments from this past year that I have truly enjoyed. I don’t write about these moments to brag about how amazing my life is. I’m writing to showcase how beautiful my unexciting life is. These moments all mean something to me, not because of how great it would look on my Instagram feed but because I took the time to appreciate them. Try to find these moments in your life. Take a breath, look at where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing, and notice the beauty of these moments. I bet that you will find more of them than you think, and I think you’d be surprised by how many moments are made beautiful by the smallest things–nice weather, a friendly smile, an upbeat song. If you want, comment your nice moments down below. I’d love to read about them.
A Series of Nice Moments
My fingers aren’t nearly as tired as my mind. The fog in my head continues to grow thicker and thicker. It feels impossible to excavate a coherent sentence from the fog, let alone make it sound pretty, but for the last thirty minutes, I’ve powered through. My eyes constantly check the time at the bottom right side of the screen, counting down the minutes until I can stop. When I finish writing for the day, I stand up from my chair and take a deep breath. The fresh air blows out some of my mental fog. I stretch my arms out and turn around to face my window. The sun outside is shining bright and the birds are chirping. The two tabs on my computer screen are closed out in a single click, and I down the last of the lukewarm tea from my custom-made coffee mug. Another deep breath fills my lungs, and I close my eyes. It feels like I am standing at the top of a mountain.
Driving to and from nail school takes thirty minutes every morning and evening. Wind whips against my left arm as it is perched on my car window. The cool air feels electric after an entire day spent inside. Music blares through the speakers. In my memories, it’s always either Come Hang Out by AJR or Talk Too Much by Coin. The music flows through me making me dance in my seat and sing at the top of my lungs. I drive down a long straight highway for nearly twenty minutes, and every couple of minutes, I take a deep breath. With each exhale, all the boredom and tediousness of the day slowly dissolve. Nothing feels as good as breathing in fresh air after an entire day of wearing a mask.
The car is completely dark, just like the outside world. The dying light of the Arizona sun has long come and gone. Either Taylor Swift or QuinnXCII is playing in the background, we rarely play anything else. No one is talking, so the music fills the silence. Maybe there’s just nothing to talk about or maybe we’re all just tired from our flights, either way, the silence wraps around me like a warm blanket. I’m sitting in the middle row, looking out towards the dark winding road, and I can’t help but focus on the dark edges of my friend’s faces that are illuminated by the dashboard lights. It’s only been three months since I’ve known them and I only see them for a week out of every month, but their presence in my life has become familiar and comforting, especially the sight of these two sitting in the driver seat and shotgun. For no real reason, these two have become the de facto chauffeurs of the group. I don’t remember how long I sat soaking in the presence of my friends, but I do remember thinking that I was glad they were there.
As the sun sets, it illuminates the sky in a beautiful gradient of yellow and orange and paints the clouds pink. Sand sticks to my sweaty skin, but the kiss of wind against my bare torso cools me down. It’s gorgeous, but I almost miss it because of the pounding in my chest telling me to slow down when I need to be quicker. Music filtered through the air from the speaker that I brought, and I could hear my friends making conversation in the background. The moment of contact between the volleyball and my forearms feels like greeting an old friend and brings back countless memories of the last few summers. A small voice in my head whispers that the clock is ticking down. As we all grow older, our summers will be filled with internships, jobs, vacations, and then, eventually, we will move away from these sand courts that have shaped so many of my summers. I let those thoughts come and leave my mind with my breath and look out at the scene in front of me. We play out another point of sand volleyball. I don’t remember if I won or lost, but I do remember gazing up at the sky, looking around at my friends, listening to the sound of an upbeat pop-music mix with their voices, and thinking “I’m so happy to be here.”
In the depths of quarantine, I sit back down in my chair, the same one I’ve been sitting in all day. With a pint of Graeter’s Cotton Candy ice cream in one hand and my mouse in the other, I open Discord. I can’t help but smile as I see two familiar names already in a call on our server. I join with my signature greeting, “Salutations comrades.” I’m met with happy greetings. Hours pass until it’s two or three in the morning. We’re still grinding out more games–sometimes, we don’t even play together. We’re playing separate games in the same call, complaining about our brain-dead teammates or our horrible luck. I take a moment to stare at Discord, letting my game run in the background. Three names are stacked vertically underneath the League of Legends voice channel. Our icons light up with the familiar green ring whenever one of us speaks. A smile spreads across my face before I know it. I know these days aren’t going to last forever, but they’ve already lasted a couple months, and they’ll last another couple months. Every night whenever I open my laptop, the familiar names and voices are always there. We rarely talk about anything deep or serious, and I’ve never even met these two people in person, but I care about them and the time we’ve shared. I take a deep breath. The night doesn’t have to be over for me to know that I’m going to miss these long nights.
Around me, the world is dark. I embark on my nightly walk without a shirt, letting the fresh spring air blow against my bare skin. Air fills my nostrils, cycles through my body, and leaves through a soft exhale. There’s the constant scratch of my Crocs against the sidewalk and the soft chirp of crickets, but otherwise, the nighttime air is silent–not a single soul except myself roams the streets. In the street behind my house, I find myself walking through a row of trees. I have lived in the same place for eighteen years, and I have grown up with these same trees, yet it has taken me eighteen years to notice that during the spring, their flowers bloom white. Illuminated by the house lights of my neighbors, I stand beneath them breathing in their strong scent. I watch the way the yellow street lamps illuminate the white petals of the flowers. From a distance, it looks like the trees are covered in snow during the middle of Spring. With each step, a deep breath fills my lungs, and I try to burn the experience of these trees in my mind. Within two weeks, the flowers will disappear making way for green leaves, but right now, it is just me and the soft white petals dancing in the lamplight.
A light hanging above the wobbly wooden table that colors everything a pale yellow. I’m holding a giant bowl that I threw my Chipotle burrito bowl into. My legs, and I’m sure everyone else’s, still feel the pain of the twelve miles that we hiked into and out of the Grand Canyon. I’m sitting at one head of the table, forcing myself to finish the last couple bites of Chipotle (yes, I paid extra for the guac and double meat). Five of my friends surrounded the table, freshly showered. Nothing crazy happened. We weren’t partying or doing anything insane. The six of us just sat around the table talking and cracking jokes. I remember talking about our parents and plans for the rest of our gap years, but I forgot much more than I remembered. When I look back on that road trip with those friends, I think about all the hikes we went on and our fun adventures, but I also think about that small wooden table that we all sat at, sharing meals and stories and moments.
As the balls of the massage chair dig into my back, I close my eyes from the slight discomfort. The message moves from my back to my arms to my feet. As the machine contorts and presses my body, my eyes fixate on the screen in front of me. It’s Sunday, the day I get off work early and the day a new episode of Horimiya, a romance anime, comes out. The show is the perfect mix of romantic, funny, and soothing. There are no insane plot twists or gory fight scenes. It depicts the normal and almost boring life of a group of teenagers going through high school. Across the room, my phone vibrates on the couch, but I don’t hear it. I’ve thrown it across the room for a reason. For the next twenty-four minutes, there’s nothing stopping me from focusing on these characters. Every Sunday for the last couple weeks, I have found myself in this same message chair in my living room, eager to watch the newest episode. It has become a sacred ritual in my life and is one of the moments I look forward to the most every week. I take a deep breath. I can hear the soft whirring and turning of the massage chair and feel it pushing and pressing my body. I hear the theme song of Horimiya start playing and let out a smile. What a nice moment.
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