It is the perennial difficulty of surfing; it is the reason we will drop whatever plans we have with friends, family, loved ones, employers, whoever; this is the fear that keeps us hunting, researching, and perpetually in a state of indecision.
What is “it”?
It is FOMO, AKA Fear of Missing Out, and it can make or break a day. At least, it can for me.
FOMO and Surfing
Unlike some other sports, surfing depends heavily on the variable intersections of swell, wind, and tide. Add in all the other commitments, and most of the time, you’ve got to take what you can get.
We must take what we can get, when we can get it, but there never ceases to be opportunities for missing out. On any given day in the water I begrudgingly listen to how amazing the swell was last week, yesterday, 2 hours ago, will be, has been, was at another spot or was in Tahiti, South Africa, Australia… you get the picture.
FOMO, potentially, never stops, because there is never not somewhere better you could be, surfing better waves in better conditions. So, while I was sleeping, or working, or even having a Netflix day (because I desperately needed or wanted one of those, and think we all need them, but more on that later). I was missing out on something, right?
I live on the island of O‘ahu, so I already have most people beat in many ways. Unlike most, I get to surf almost year-round, and I can almost always find a rideable wave somewhere on the island. The water is never bitterly cold, nor terribly shark-infested—a lot of people would kill to live on Oahu and surf the waves I get to surf, and might even be a little irritated at the audacity of my saying that I miss out, but I still feel like I do.
When I have to work, or when I’m tired, or when I miscalculate and go to a spot on the East side, only to find out Town had perfect peeling barrels and a miraculously nonexistent crowd at the exact same time (or vice versa)—what’s a surf-addicted chick to do?
What is “Missing Out”?
“Missing out” possesses two core components. The first is the mental construction of loss we create for ourselves. The second is it’s signal of our connectedness to others around us. When we are connected, however closely or distantly, to others, we can’t help but hear about missing out.
No one can be in multiple places at once, and no one is alone. So, is the solution to check out and stop being connected? Being disconnected is no good, and practically unavoidable in most societies, so that’s not the solution. I repeat, disconnection is not the solution to FOMO.
The solution is in the first of the aforementioned components, with the operative word being “construction”. I construct a loss when I chose to feel that I’ve missed out on something. That seems weird to say, right? How can you not have missed out, when you objectively did miss out?
To my mind, we honestly don’t miss out when we miss out experiences, we miss out when we decide those experiences are superior to our own, and when we let what we’ve missed dictate what we are doing. One of the worst feelings is getting out in the water, or getting out of the water after having a blast, only to hear about an experience I missed out on. A better time, somewhere else, somewhere I wasn’t. I would sit there in the water, or in my car, stewing, absolutely fuming about missing out.
I felt that the frustration overtook my whole experience, changing the colors of my vision like a bad Instagram filter. My perception changed with the knowledge, and rather than being where I was, I obsessed over where I wasn’t, or where I should have been instead.
FOMO from the Get-Go
I’ve struggled with FOMO from a very young age. When friends got to go to parties, seeing professional athletes or musicians—I would automatically think of everything I’d missed out on. I’d wish I’d started a sport sooner, wish that I’d been more popular or had less strict parents, that I was prettier, or smarter, or this or that.
I didn’t have an Instagram for the last 4 years, because the endless inundation of information on what I was missing out on became a kind of obsession. It was unbearable not being that girl or guy or businessperson or athlete or model or world-traveler. This obsession clouded my life so much so that I deleted my Instagram altogether.
Social Media Madness
It took me quite a long time to get back on social media (I rarely looked at Facebook during this time, either, and have never had a Twitter or SnapChat) because it exhausted me to be so bummed out about what I didn’t have or experience so often.
And the craziest realization I had, that pushed me to go cold turkey for a while, was that I was spending so much time being upset about what I wasn’t doing, that I wasn’t doing anything else.
By letting my envy take up so much emotional space in my mind and life, I didn’t have any free space to think about what I wanted, what would bring me joy, or, most importantly, how to get there.
Going Cold Turkey
So, I stopped, and tried just living a life unmediated by likes or hearts or comments or followers for a while. I took a break from the perception of missing out, and I got to feel better about myself, to free up space in my emotional and mental spaces for enjoying my own experiences.
Surfing is often a game of finding the best spot at the best time. Life is about exposing ourselves to amazing sights, sounds, and people, catching the best waves of life and making the most of them, whether that be travel, athletics, school, image, business, or anything else. I’ve decided to stop letting myself construct this sense of loss, to stop believing I have missed out.
Now, when I see someone else’s killer surf trip or international adventure, I think about what it will take to get me there, instead of wishing I was there.
Changing My Perspective
Instead of letting my own session be dimmed by someone else’s, I’m focusing on the positives of my own hour or three out in the ocean, focusing on what made my day special, rather than what was lacking.
When I stop being envious, I start being encouraging; when I stop being resentful, I start being enthusiastic; when I stop being disappointed, I start being constructive.
I declare an end to FOMO, because I chose to encourage others, rather than measure myself against them, and to follow in their footsteps rather than enviously watch them.
I’ll never not miss out on something, but at least I’ll know that whatever I do get to do in my life will be what I truly enjoyed, fully and completely, because it is mine, and no FOMO can take that away from me.