The Fear of Missing Out

What should have been a 4 hour drive up to the cabin ended up being a 9 hour detour. Upon arriving in Cache Creek, which is about 45 minutes from my cabin, I realized that a mudslide had closed the road completely, forcing travellers to either detour through Kamloops, or stay the night in a motel. Eager to get to the cabin I stopped at a gas station, grabbed some peanut M&M’s for sustenance, and started the detour. It was long, it was dark, I listened to the same CD 6 times, but finally at 2 am, past the point of exhaustion, I arrived at the cabin. 

Rest, I’m ready for you.

I wish it was that easy. After such an unexpectedly long drive, and a bit too much sugar during the trip, I couldn’t settle and barely slept the first night. The weekend passed in a blur of swimming, games, and laughter with family and friends. Monday afternoon rolled around, everyone left, and I was finally alone with space to press into rest.

I swam, cleaned a bit, finished my book, photographed a deer, went on a walk, played basketball, pressed some flowers, read some more, swam some more, shot some more hoops, played guitar. I checked the time- exactly 4 hours had gone by. For those who have seen the movie Tangled, the beginning scene where Rapunzel sings about all the things she is able to do in a day because she is by herself, and isolated in a tower, in this moment connected with me on an entirely new level. I panicked just a bit as I realized what I had gotten myself into, 2 weeks in the middle of nowhere with only myself (and 15 books…) for distraction. I checked my phone to see if I had any texts or e-mails to respond to, I saw I had none, and anxiety crept in. Did I have reception? Was I missing out on something? Had my friends moved on without me in the short time I had been away? 

When I initially decided to spend 2 weeks at the cabin resting I thought it would be so easy to just turn off my phone, there isn’t any wifi, and my data had already run out for the billing cycle. As I went to turn my phone on airplane mode for the week, I was amazed at how quickly the irrational fear of missing out on something important set in. Maybe I should just check it a couple of set times a day. What if one of my friends needs me? What if something bad or exciting happens and I don’t hear about it? What if I miss an event and never get invited again? What if I slack on a commitment because I didn’t respond to an e-mail right away? 

When did the fear of missing out become such a controlling force in my life? I know I would like to disconnect, I know I will not miss out on anything if I turn off my phone for a couple of days. Those who are important to me know how to connect with me if needed, and they know I’m away. For all the ways our world is fast paced the important things still move slowly, and not much changes in two weeks. 

I know all these truths but fear still sits in a corner and says “what if, what if?”. 

I considered how controlling the fear of missing out is when it comes to turning off my phone and disconnecting from social media. I started to wonder where else in my life this fear has directed me. The more I thought about it I could pick out a number of times when I had said yes to activities, events, commitments, volunteering, jobs, staying that extra couple of hours at a party, that date, that relationship, friendship, the list goes on and on, and all because I thought if I didn’t I would miss out. I let fear tell me that I would be left behind, forgotten, I would lose my worth and value, I would never be invited again if I said no and did what my heart actually wanted to do, which was miss out. 

When did missing out become such a bad thing? Our souls cry out for rest but we push them to do more because fear has such a grip on our lives. We neglect to see that in submitting ourselves to the fear of missing out we are actually losing out on so much more than we can imagine. I don’t know about you but when I think about some of the best moments in my life I think of the days where I was disconnected and enjoyed being present and spontaneous with those around me. The moments where I stepped away to be by myself because I needed that time, and I would see or hear something I would’ve never experienced if I hadn’t taken time to sit and breathe.

We intuitively know what we need, but we ignore ourselves. Never taking that moment to rest, to sit in silence, to say no to our friends because we need a quiet night with our family; we’re scared to turn in early, to say no to volunteering in one setting even if we know we’ve already volunteered every day that week in another. We miss the beautiful moments of rest our souls press us to take, and we give a lesser, more exhausted, more stressed, more stretched version of ourselves to all our activities so that we never miss anything. 

What if we listened to our souls instead of to fear? What if we reserved our yes’ for things that are truly important and life giving? What if instead of trying to do more that is founded in fear, we did less, but ensured those things were founded in life giving joy? We don’t need to wait until we are at wits end. Our souls don’t need to be exhausted and so broken down we don’t have any choice but to step away and rest. It’s important to be intentional with where and what we choose to give our time to. 

The fear of missing out is still a very real fear that often hovers over my life and my decisions. I’m challenging myself to listen to what my soul needs and to take time away to rest if I need it- before rest becomes a demand and not a choice. I’m challenging myself to trust that what I gain in moments of rest will be more valuable than whatever I’m “missing out” on.

Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end...That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.
— Isaiah 43: 1b; 4-5a