There really is happiness to be found in this enforced period of having zero plans.
Almost every day, I have these moments of ‘how is this real life?’ – a sinking realisation that this isn’t the plot of a badly reviewed, dystopian movie. Nope, it’s still a pandemic that we’re trying to both patiently and impatiently push through to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. I know I’m not the only one who has these daily sweeping feelings of ‘is this actually happening?!’. Face-masks, portable hand sanitser and heartbreaking stories have all become an eerie norm, and all of our lives have been drastically turned upside down. These days, it can be difficult to even try to look on the brighter side of things, particularly when you can’t spend time with people you love most.
But recently I was talking to a friend (virtually, of course – like basically every other aspect of my life right now) and we realised we’re actually grateful for missing out on some things. Of course, it’s not that we’re grateful for not getting to spend time with our friends and family, or for not getting to enjoy all those exciting plans we all had for this summer.
But there is a little bit of joy to be found in not being pulled in every direction and not feeling guilty for not wanting to participate in certain things.
We’ve all heard of the phrase JOMO, the joy of missing out, mostly thanks to those Domino’s ads (that make me want to forget all about my dinner plans and order my usual beloved pizza, large garlic dip, and their insane cookies for afterwards). It’s the literal opposite of FOMO: the fear of missing out, or fearing that you’re out of the loop, that someone is having a better time than you and you’ve made the wrong decision in what your plans are. There can’t be many people experiencing FOMO right now, because there’s nothing fun going on that we can actually miss out on. But there are plenty of people who may be experiencing JOMO, some without even realising it. I’ve been really enjoying the relief of that dreaded FOMO feeling and having the ability to literally just relax – without the fluttering feeling of guilt that I should be out doing this or that.
And that’s not the only acronym that’s doing the rounds – we have FOGO, the fear out going out (yep, over here!) and even FONDA, the fear of not doing anything, which I have thankfully managed to swerve. But it all just goes to show firstly how adaptable we’ve all been in this cries, and secondly, how many of us just needed a bloody break from the hamster wheel of 2020 life.
Alannah, 31, agrees that she’s grateful for having the time to slow down. “Admittedly, I am one of those slightly annoying people who seem like they don’t even need a coffee each and every morning. I’m always on, going somewhere or doing something. Whether I’m travelling for work (which was constant, pre-coronavirus), meeting up with friends, organising family parties. I was always on the go and I loved it. So I never felt the need to unwind, let alone make a regular occurrence of it. Now, I feel like I had the chance to recharge my batteries. I thought I’d go stark crazy at first, and didn’t think that my everlasting batteries would need to be recharged at all. But now, as I feel more relaxed that I’m not jumping from A to B, I never thought I’d say it, but I’m grateful for some downtime, just to spend with myself. There has even been a handful of times where I’ve turned down catch-ups over Zoom because I’ve realised that I actually don’t need to feel surrounded by people at all times.”
Fear of missing out can leave us with feelings of anxiety, regret, and literal fear, while on the other hand, the joy of missing out can show that we can all enjoy our own company, not dwelling on the need to accept every social invitation, but accepting those that you know you’ll enjoy, and you’ll be thankful for. It took a pandemic to literally slow down every single thing around us to realise that just because life can move faster, doesn’t mean that it necessarily should.
While we’ve all (mostly) come to terms with major events and plans being cancelled, from concerts and holidays to weddings and big birthday celebrations, there are many, many social expectations that are wedded to these celebrations too. Feeling as if you must look a certain way (cue those hair, brow, nail and makeup appointments, as well as the gym classes that we feel the need to put ourselves through), behave a certain way, and be able to do all of this with a giant smile on your face, being thankful for being as busy as possible, while simultaneously dealing with work, everyday life and everything that goes with it. Thinking of all of this, paired with the disappointment of not being able to go through with all of the initial plans, can lead to pretty confusing feelings.
While you may be heartbroken over not missing out on certain things, there’s a small part of all of us who are revelling in missing out. Whether that be trying to juggle every aspect of your life, or reaching to meet expectations that you’ve set for yourself.
Rosie*, 26, is another that’s feeling appreciative of the world around us slowing down. “Ever since I was a teen, I’ve suffered from social anxiety. I can’t pinpoint the reason, but any time where I’d be going to an event, or a place where I knew that there’d be more than a handful of people, I’d get a tight, almost pulsing sensation in my chest. Even if I was looking forward to what I was doing, or where I was going, this feeling would not subside.” Continuing, Rosie explains that not having the option to go to social events, has since felt like a weight lifted off her shoulders, “some days, it still feels a bit silly to me that I’m enjoying not having to go to social events, while nearly everyone I know is looking forward to them so much that they’re literally counting down the days until they can be surrounded by people, basking in happiness. But for me, when it comes to social events, I’m feeling so relieved for a break from it all. I’ve come to realise that I’m happiest in my own company and that of those who are closest to me. I’m enjoying spending time with my family members since I moved home to my parents before the lockdown restrictions began. Everything has slowed down, and I’m enjoying feeling like I can breathe and enjoy it.”
Of course, currently, we all just can’t sit back and enjoy not having to rush here and there, because this is not a quiet time for plenty of us, particularly those who are working on the frontline. But we can still bask in little moments of pressure-free relaxation, without needling guilt of having to be here, there and everywhere.
There can be joy in missing out. It may be worth remembering that although we’re all looking forward to life returning to normal. It will always be necessary to enjoy some time to yourself, and simply saying no to events or situations that we just don’t fancy being in. Relax and enjoy that big, cuddly JOMO feeling.