FOMO, no mo’

Words by Paul Waxman
Art by Georgia Townley

This year, I spent my semester holidays sitting behind a desk for two months, wishing I was anywhere but there.

It sounds dramatic and I guess to an extent it is, but for every second I was typing away at my keyboard was a second, a minute or maybe two minutes someone else was spending exploring the streets of Florence, relaxing on a sun-dried Mediterranean beach or investigating an art gallery in Berlin.

On every lunch break I’d have during my nine to five internship hours (yes, I was to work 16 hours a week, no compensation) I’d check my Instagram feed and stuff my face with the no money I was making. It was almost like a hex had been cursed upon me. I wanted to stay in Melbourne and hone my skills, but to do so I would have to stand daily online torture by watching as, and at this point I’d actually bet money on saying this, literally everyone I knew was overseas. Stories were filled with goodbye snaps at the iconic Tullamarine departure gates, or filled with people’s feet up in the Qantas club. Most people couldn’t even contain themselves and just uploaded shots from inside the plane’s cabin. All of this made me furious. I wasn’t enraged at the globetrotting friends I saw on social media, I was angry at myself.

You see, I haven’t left this gigantic continent since 2014 and even then it wasn’t necessarily a ‘holiday’. I exchanged to Germany for two whole months, which was a big step for 16-year-old me. It was cold, the people had weird accents and it was just really cold. But, despite all this I garnered a really intense love for discovery, exploration and interest in other cultures. I can look back at 16-year-old me almost melodramatically sighing with wonder thinking, ‘this is going to be it from now on, nothing but exploring from here on out.’ Oh boy, I was so wrong. Like the famous sing-song goes: first came VCE, then came uni, then comes 4 years of yearning to go overseas.

So, as I was staring out of my office window imaging myself swapping lives with anyone, I felt a severe case of FOMO setting in. I should explain. Urban Dictionary says that ‘FOMO’ stands for the ‘fear of missing out’, and is a social anxiety we fear in lots of different contexts exacerbated by the prevalence of social media. You might get FOMO for missing a rapper you’ve been meaning to see, for simply missing eating the last chip in the bowl that your mate snagged before you. FOMO is everywhere and can sometimes dictate those knee-jerk reactions we have so often; to buy that expensive dress or to go to a party despite feeling like shit. FOMO’s kind of like peer pressure in high school, but there’s no asshole bully to egg you into giving yourself a wet willy (my high school years weren’t great, OK?).

With us all being young adults, FOMO is present in everything we do. We all want to work full-time to save enough money to go and take on the world, but you might need a degree to do that, or a long list of credentials and experience. So, we try to compact everything into tiny cuboid collections of stress, anxiety and just whatever we can stuff in there. This makes FOMO so much worse because literally, what aren’t we missing out on as uni students? We’re missing out on travelling to study and people are travelling to miss out on study. It’s a double-edged sword and we’re all kind of getting stabbed by it.

With that said, travel FOMO isn’t necessarily inevitable or unavoidable. I used to suffer from travel FOMO, but now I feel enlightened. Getting over the FOMO may be difficult, but it’s doable, and it’s possible for anyone to get over it. Honestly, the one large source of my FOMO was knowledge of people going overseas. Where was that source of wisdom and information? Social media. Instagram has got to go. You know the term ignorance is bliss? If you delete the very source of your awareness of people going away, you will live in blissful ignorance.

Another great method of shedding that negativity for well-earned optimism is to plan a trip yourself. Show those friends who’s boss and design your own, obviously feasible, holiday trip. See what’s in your price range and research spots you can travel to on holidays, or after your graduate. Fear comes from the negative part of your brain so if you block all that crud out with glass half full promises, the fear is sure to wear off.

In psychology there are five stages to grief: denial that anything is wrong, anger that you are slaving away and that everyone else is holidaying, bargaining where you literally do anything you can to feel like you are holidaying, depression…that’s pretty obvious, but at the end of the monochrome and drab rainbow that is FOMO there’s that lucrative pot of gold that is acceptance. This acceptance is accepting you are in this situation and there’s no changing that. Accepting that now just isn’t your time, this is what will let you ascend to FOMO-freedom.

Since I’m finishing two majors in an undergraduate degree at the end of this year, my barriers or excuses for holidaying are gone. These three years of study have been an incredible experience, but also extremely restrictive. I’ve watched too many Instagram stories and grinned through gritted teeth hearing about European adventures and trips to the US. Now, hopefully I have my own adventures to partake in. FOMO’s in the past. There’s no more missing out for me.

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