What is FOMO, some may ask? Is that like YOLO, fleek, Bae, lit or any other slang, used by kids today and embarrassingly misused by parents of said youth? Actually, Oxford dictionary defines FOMO as ‘anxiety that an exciting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts on social media.’ Is it really a thing, and if so, is this a new thing?
Well, as the baby of the family, I’m here to tell you that it is real and it is not new, it just finally has a label. My placement in the family has led to a severe, lifelong case of FOMO. As long as I can remember, my sisters (10, 9 and 7 years older), were doing things that I wanted to be a part of. Any youngest child in a large family can tell you that they always feel that they are missing out on something, because they are. Nap times and early bedtimes, are the most prevalent cause of this, but the fact that you do everything slower than your siblings is another. By the time the baby can do these things, the older ones are doing something else, and although my sisters were old enough, and kind enough to try to make it seem like naps were fun, and that they wished THEY had time to nap, or that they didn’t have so much homework and could go to bed at 8 too, I wasnt fooled. One of my first memories is dragging my “fle fle blanket” (don’t ask) slooowwlllyy up the stairs, while dressed in a snuggly blue sleeper, mesmerized by the jaunty Hawaii Five-O theme song. As always, by the time that enormous wave appeared, some adult, most likely my father, would have thrown out an admonishment to “get a move on.” Now, I never did get to stay up late enough to see an episode of Hawaii Five-O, and strangely I never bothered to watch it when, in recent years, a newer version was launched. The reason is, it really wasn’t the show at all, It was…”The fear of missing out.”
As a little kid, I was always the first one up in the morning, partially because I’m a natural “early bird” but mainly because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Not that anything was happening, Actually quite the opposite, if my parents were up before me, they were doing boring adult things, nothing that I cared to partake in and my older sisters were sleeping in. I don’t believe I would have missed a thing if I had just stayed in bed, but I just couldn’t do it.
Not only did FOMO make me lose sleep, it also occasionally caused me to hurt myself and to watch unfortunate injuries happen to others. There was the time that, for reasons that have escaped me, my parents and two older sisters were gone for the evening and my 12-year-old sister was in charge. We lived in the suburbs of Trenton at the time, on a family friendly circle, where all the neighborhood kids would play outside together, until the street lights went on, and then you knew you’d better high-tail it home for dinner, or if you were one of the little kids like me, to get ready for bed. Anyway, my sister and her friends thought it would be fun to climb on top of my father’s van, which they all did, until six-year old me had a temper-tantrum because I was on the ground by myself and missing all the fun, so they hauled me up there too. It was pure bliss to be included, and it was everything I had feared I was actually missing all along, namely just being like one of the big kids. Until, they tired of that, and one by one they jumped off, including my sister so that she could catch me when I jumped. Nope, no way. I was not going to miss out on that opportunity nor was I going to risk being called a baby, so even though my sister said “Please, don’t jump!!!” I did anyway, and landed on my face. My sister, knowing in an instant, that she would be in big trouble when my parents got home, ushered me to her best friend’s house, apparently so our towels wouldn’t get bloody, but unfortunatley for her, the fat lip and swollen nose probably gave it away. I don’t remember how this drama ended, but I’m sure that my poor sister got the short end of the stick because she “should have known better.”
As I got older, I begged my sisters to let me come with them to whatever teenage tomfoolery was afoot. Many times I was allowed to go, sometimes because they thought I was cute like a mascot, and sometimes because someone had to babysit and did not plan on letting an eight-year old ruin their good time. Also, it helped that I never once told my parents. I saw things that parents today would not want their 10 year old kids to see, even on their phones, let alone in person. Like the time I was at my sister’s college and saw an inebriated fellow, purposefully run headfirst into a double pane glass door, the kind with the wire in the middle. He got halfway through before his skull succombed to the wire and he was hauled out, delightfully bloodied and unconcious, and dropped rather unceremoniously on the grass by his buddies as they drunkenly laughed the whole time. Eventually someone thought to call an ambulance. Then, there was the time that I was at a pit party (I believe this was less of a FOMO situation as it was that my sister was forced to babysit) and saw a guy fall backwards into the fire. He actually climbed out himself, laughing and swearing and beating out the flames, while the girls screamed and the guys laughed. I’m sure you can understand why I didn’t want to miss anything.
“Pffttt, you only had first-world FOMO,” my husband scoffed when I read to him what I had so far. “I had real, legit FOMO. Try moving three times in fifth grade alone and see if you have a fear of missing out.” This is true, I actually missed out on that experience, as well as at least one hundred other calamities that made his childhood so terrible. I’m kind of glad about that. Actually, I think I might be outgrowing FOMO, just as it is becoming a thing. Social media is supposed to play a major part in all this anxiety, and although I love seeing what everyone is up to, there is not one single part of me that is anxious about missing out on exhausting adventures with small children or even night-time adult shenanigans. What do I fear missing out on now? Home. When I’m at work, or even across the world, I’m always wondering what’s happening at my house. Which is usually nothing, just the way I like it. Like right now, the only thing I’m missing out on as I write, is a nap. So, here I go (cue dramatic 70’s theme music).