It’s 9am on Saturday and a text arrives. Up pops a photo of a friend striding across a finish line. “Just did 5km fun run – not much fun at all!” she wrote and I digested the text with a familiar pang.
Do you ever get the feeling that everyone else is living their lives better than you? It’s that. The feeling that I should be doing more. Being more. But I’m not. I’m in bed with a large cup of tea and a small child snuggled under each arm. Finish line? My day hasn’t even started and already I have this nagging feeling of inadequacy. A quick glance at my Facebook feed often leaves me feeling the same way as the images whizz across my screen – overseas trips, music festivals, exhibitions, picnics, adventures, celebrations, restaurants, beaches, sunsets, parties…everyone’s lives loom so large.
Meanwhile, I go to work and I come home. Wait, sometimes I go to Westfield or the chicken shop.
An important thing to add: I’m not unhappy about this. I love my routine and my quiet life. And yet there’s this pressure I feel. A combination of FOMO (fear of missing out) and YOLO (you only live once). It’s FOMOYOLO. And it’s most acute when I have unstructured time.
For example, my holidays were a bit of a struggle this year. Lovely but a struggle. Despite the luxury of three work-free weeks by the beach with family and close friends, I created dumb things to be anxious about.
Chief among them was that I wasn’t doing my holiday properly; that I wasn’t doing enough. Not swimming enough. Not relaxing enough. Not being active enough. Not having enough fun. This is how I discovered worrying about not having fun is a great way to guarantee it. Trust me.
Anyway, on this holiday and most others, I was torn between what I wanted to do and what I wanted to want to do.
Read that last sentence back again slowly and you’ll get it. In short, whenever I have the chance to choose what I’m doing (ie: not working), I end up feeling like I should seize the day. But not really wanting to.
You see for most people, holidays are about discovering new things and shrugging off routine. But that’s my nightmare. Even on holidays I like reverting to a well worn goat track. I like going to the same places, doing the same things and eating the same meals at the same cafes. I don’t want to meet anyone new. I can’t be bothered.
I used to feel secretly ashamed about this – I still do a little bit – until I read author Caitlin Moran’s description of her annual holiday to a little seaside town called Aberystwyth. She describes her family’s return to the same apartment each year to have “the same days” as being like “migratory creatures that can be followed on a map.”
So maybe it’s not so strange? Not just me? There’s comfort in predictability and also a freedom that comes with falling into a familiar groove. Babies and children crave routine and repetition because it makes them feel safe and secure. It also allows your brain to turn off in a way it can’t when it’s processing fresh new stimulus. I’ve realised I have enough new stimulus at work. On weekends and holidays, my brain would appreciate a rest thank you very much.
Last year I read a book called The Happiness Project, a first-person account of one woman’s year-long mission to be happier, a task she takes to with the precision of a surgeon, the commitment of an Olympian and the joy of a pap smear. It was an exhausting read, frankly. But there were some wisdom nuggets. Through all her painstaking self-discovery, one thing author Gretchen Rubin learned was this: you can change what you do, but you can’t change what you LIKE to do.
Ka-ching. That right there is the core of my FOMOYOLO struggle. Sure I can start going to music festivals and learn how to sail but that doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy it.
One day over summer, my family decided to go tandem hang-gliding. I had no burning desire to do it but I wanted to have DONE it. So I did. Because YOLO, right? And also FOMO. I wanted to be able to file the experience away in Exciting Things I Have Done, even though I’d have been happier taking a nap. Taking A Nap doesn’t make an interesting story when someone asks “What did you do on your holiday?” So I jumped off the mountain. For the story.
That’s when I realised that weekends and holidays really hold a mirror up to who you are and what you like to do. Apparently, I’m quite a lazy, self-contained person who enjoys hanging out with my family and messing around online. Back in bed that Saturday morning, to underscore this, I took a quick selfie with the kids and the tea to text my fun running friend. Immediately she replied “I wish I was you right now”. And perhaps she did.
Have you ever felt torn between what you thought you ‘should’ enjoy doing and what you ‘actually’ enjoy doing?