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What the heck, you’re probably asking, is FOMO?

I recently participated in an online experience called Re: United States of America, a weekend long discussion between people from different parts of the world (primarily Iowa and California in this case), of different ethnic, cultural, and political persuasions.  Thanks to organizer, Ben Caron, it was amazing to find support, encouragement and acceptance from the intentional exploring of the things we share in common instead of our differences.

One of my take-aways from the weekend was the word/acronym FOMO. Being an old person from Iowa, I had to ask my California counterpart what it meant, and was told it stands for the Fear Of Missing Out. At the time it was used, I was participating in something called a Human Library, where one person in the room is a “book” who shared a phenomenon called Burning Man. As a “reader”, I listed to his account and asked questions to learn about something new. He said the people who attend the Burning Man event, which covers acres and acres of land in the Nevada desert, are overwhelmed with FOMO because no matter how hard they try, there are not enough waking hours to cover enough ground to see and do all there is to experience.

Common ground found: I immediately thought of our trips to Scotland and France and Czechia and the fact that while we try to plan relaxing and restorative vacations, we routinely fall into the trap of franticly attempting to squeeze a million things into every day we’re in the county. Fully acknowledging that we probably won’t ever walk this way again due to time constraints and a limited travel budget, we don’t want to miss out on anything. It’s our one and only chance – and even if it kills us, we’re going to see and do everything in the area! And that’s the things we know about – by the time we take in the quaint, unexpected wonders we stumble upon along the journey, by the time we return home, we’ve typically walked a good 7-10 miles a day for three solid weeks.

I also thought about my Grandma Victoria, Grandma Hansen, and my Dad in the weeks and months before they died. Yes, they knew they were going to a better place, but it was tremendously hard for each of them, and I’m sure others in the end years of their lives, to know that they were going to miss a grandchild’s visit or a family gathering or an upcoming wedding – to know that everyone would be there except them. I feel quite certain that FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out, keeps a lot of people alive well past their expected time here on earth.

We all have once in a lifetime experiences. It’s completely understandable that we don’t want to miss a single second of what’s going on. For the three years I lived in Germany, and the twelve years I lived in Colorado, it was hard for me to miss out on things back home even though I was able to enjoy dozens of things I never would have gotten to do had I stayed in Minnesota. Because I didn’t have the time or money to fly home every time something fun or significant happened, I had to make choices. I made new memories in those years I couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving when I roasted a turkey and hosted other singles and folks who had no family in Colorado Springs to a Thanksgiving potluck at my house. The next year, when I did go home, I felt bad to miss out on the special time I shared with my friends the year before. I keep waiting for technoloigy to catch up with Star Trek so I can beam wherever I want to go in the world and back again at whim. But until then…

FOMO is both a great motivator and a sticky wicket. We’ve all missed out on a lot of things during the pandemic. Senior proms, year-end concerts, dream weddings, long awaited vacations, county fairs, sports events, Easter Sunday services, family gatherings, precious time with loved ones  While there’s no way to get those special times back, we have a choice – we can dispel FOMO – along with other types of fear – and find hope for the future. We can open up our hearts and dream about what is to come – the places we’ll be blessed to to go, the things we’ll most certainly see and do.

We can begin to dream about the adventures and possibilities that are waiting for us just down the road.

When we finally get to go back to Scotland next year (thinking positively here), I’m sure I’ll be hit with a fresh case of FOMO as I wind my way back and forth across the county, taking in every castle, garden, seaside village, and bagpipe event I possibly can. In the meantime, I’m trying to get my houses in order, my next book finished, and do all that I can do – just in case I die of COVID. Because, well, FOMO, of course.

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