It’s a funny thing how acronyms come to life. In the world that twitter created with its 140 character count, acronyms bloom into meadows of meaning. LOL. BRB. YOLO. FOMO. I drove through Yolo County recently and snickered wondering if the people who inhabit those towns happen to be more feckless about doing whatever challenging! Exciting! Need to do it! event– you only live once. When my good buddy Irvin taught me about the fear of missing out, it is as if my tongue had been loosed from its desperate searching for a term to embody that feeling that sometimes arises from reading too many social media updates. Recently, I stumbled upon a new-to-me acronym that I want to breathe hot fire into that it may fan into a full-on five alarm movement of possibility. JOMO.
An article printed in Ad Weekly asserts that busyness equals success—at least in other people’s perceptions. Think about it. The person who stays later than everyone else at the office- the person who never can accept an invitation because their calendar is crammed with commitments—do they seem like their lives are more full? I have been both of these people at different times of my life. That same article suggested that we actually are not as busy as we purport to be on social media. And yet, I’m here to tell you that we prioritize what we value. As a resident’s assistant in college, I gathered in a meet-and-greet with my residents in the lounge. Among different orders of business, I told them that I would try to be there for them when I could—if they came to me and the timing didn’t work, we would find another time. I would prioritize making sure their needs were heard and they felt cared for. I’ve tried to pull that idea with me into adulthood.
While working on Steeped, I was persona non grata for months. I had no idea how the book would eat my breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea times too. In the beginning, I attempted to make dates with friends, only to find that I flaked out later. That is not my personality type and I felt wretched about letting friends down. So, I took a break from making any appointments, dates or anything that looked like a plan. Eventually, I worked my way out of my hermitage of culinary solitude. That time period truly was the busiest I’ve ever been for good reason. One great take-away: while I couldn’t give friends in-person time, what they really wanted to know is that they mattered and that I still cared. So, I would call and talk with them for a few minutes, trying to steer the conversation so they could open up and share their lives with me. I didn’t have much to give, but found a way to make much of what I could offer. As a child, my mom once told me she never wanted to hear me use the word bored, so I instead supplanted it with busy. I never would have thought of myself as someone who glorifies being busy, but if I look at my track record, it’s not pretty. I worked three jobs in graduate school so I could earn two degrees at the same time. While working the next job, I took on another master’s degree. Instead of thinking that I am reveling in the idea of being busy, I consider this tact to be engrafted into me from a workaholic father. We share that gene of getting it done and thriving on the energy.
This past weekend, I was pulled in three directions: a food blogging conference – a natural food tradeshow – a poetry festival. All three of them had merit. I have attended on numerous occasions two of the events and I guess you could say I opted to take the Robert Frost approach to decision-making and chose the road less traveled. As I spied tweets and instagram posts from the other two events over the course of the weekend, I began embracing JOMO—the joy of missing out. Whether I had elected to attend one event over the other two, I would inevitably miss out…on being present in what circumstance I had chosen. Isn’t that the kicker? There wasn’t a bad answer to the choose your own adventure question. But somehow, even after we have made our decisions about how to spend our time, we can pine after the other options, the what-could-have-been’s instead of being grateful for where we are and firmly rooted in the present. And I would posit that kind of behavior is to our detriment. Scaling the backroads of New Hampshire and Vermont meant spotty wifi signals and sparse social media engagement. This freed me up to be present for whatever might present itself: the roadside farmstand serving apple cider slushies, the ice creamery dive on the side of the road in Brattleboro with 25 flavors that included Vermont maple walnut and Mayan chocolate.
We can’t be everywhere at once. In fact, sometimes life does not permit us to participate in something fun or desired, but instead forces our hand to play difficult cards we have been dealt. Can there be joy in that circumstance too? I would venture to say yes. The small moments make life magical—not just the over-the-top experiences. In an age where we are encouraged to stay plugged in, posting onto five or more social platforms throughout the day, and soaking up other people’s social activities, there is indeed great joy to be had in missing out. As a facebook friend commented earlier today, I took over 5 months off from Facebook. Guess what… life goes on, pretty well, I might add without it. And her reason for coming back to proceed with her social media presence is telling too, but I’m back for the convenience of organizing climbing trips and connecting with folks. So as we rethink the glorification of busyness, perhaps we might find joy in stillness and intention, of seeing where the road we’ve chosen might lead us.