How COVID Has Changed My FOMO

friends having fun

I woke up at noon today and ate a healthy brunch (yes, I toasted myself two unfrosted Pop Tarts). Then I spent the next forty-five minutes explaining the intricate dynamics of brothels in 18th century London to my father as he folded laundry (Hulu’s original series Harlots is my greatest passion and takes up 98% of my time and attention). 

This is pretty much a normal day for me in quarantine.

Five months ago, I was at college. I never woke up later than 8:00am (I had classes at 9:00, but I tended to wake up even earlier on weekends with excitement for the day). I ate breakfast in a dining hall, and unfrosted Pop Tarts were never on the menu. When I watched TV shows, I did it with friends, so there was no need to call my father and explain all the excruciating details.

Alright, maybe “excitement” wasn’t the right word for why I woke up so early at college– FOMO was probably the biggest motivating factor. FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, vastly determines how I live my life. If you wake up at noon in college, you miss all the various morning antics of the AM crowd. Similarly, my regular quarantine 5:30 nap would never fly back then.

These days, my friends are scattered across the states rather than isolated on one campus. Our “antics” don’t really go further than iMessage games and Netflix parties. That familiar feeling of FOMO isn’t there because there’s not much to miss out on day-to-day.

But that doesn’t mean the FOMO is gone.

Instead of an individual fear, all young people are feeling a greater, collective FOMO. Instead of missing out on days, we are scared of missing out of months of our youth. More than just missing out on fun events of college, we are scared of missing out the experiences that come with independence. Lots of college kids are now back at home with their parents.

Yesterday, my mom lectured me about not telling her my work schedule so she’d know when I’d be home. And all I could think was, “In February, I went to taco shops at midnight and you’re seriously  asking me to tell you if I’ll be home at 4:30 or 5:00?” The opportunity to make mistakes without your parents disappointingly watching your every move is a powerful thing.

Yes, this certainly isn’t the way I imagined spending my last summer as a teenager; and, yes, its giving me (and every other person) some serious FOMO. But according to basically every expert, this pandemic isn’t going away very soon, so we are all forced with the challenge of finding creative ways to make this time meaningful. That will rely on redefining our expectations so we aren’t feeling like we’re missing out as much.

Young people, this may not be how we imagined spending our youth, but you have to play the cards you’re dealt. If we are missing out, we’re missing out together. And we have to take advantage of the situation we’re in rather than mourn what could have been.