A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be out at the beach just as the sun was setting.
It was one of those lazy summer evenings where you are gathered around the table for hours after you’ve finished eating. Settling into the dusk and drinking in the buoyant conversation.
Most days the sunset is blocked by trees, hills and buildings but this particular evening we were out West with nothing but sand stretching before us. Our view was unobstructed and as we chatted away, we noticed the faint whispers of clouds suddenly flecked with sunlight.
We quickly raced up the hill to get a better view. But as we pulled the car into the lookout spot, the sun dipped behind clouds. We grumbled and were about to give up on the sunset but we figured we might as well stay just in case something happened.
The sun remained encased in clouds for a few more minutes and the coolness of the night seeped over us. But then all of a sudden, the sky was illuminated. Pink, orange, gold. Streams of blazing colour flooded the scene before us. Ocean and sky became one.
A painting streaked and blended with the utmost precision.
We got out our pathetic, little phone cameras and tried to capture the perfection. It didn’t seem to matter what angle I stood at or how much I decreased the exposure…the image was a poor representation of the magnificent spectacle we were witnessing.
As the final glow of sunlight faded into the night, I felt incredibly grateful and honored to have seen it with my own eyes.
And the overwhelming emotion I felt was relief. How lucky it was that my camera was unable to capture this perfect moment. It meant I couldn’t share it with anyone else, this experience, this brief reverie was all mine.
Recently, I’ve felt stretched between too many things, people and places. This need to participate in everything has drained me completely.
No matter where I am, I’m missing something else.
If I go to one party, I have to skip another. If I talk to one friend, I don’t get to chat with another. If I say yes to one offer, another one will surely come along.
I want to be everywhere. I want to see everyone. I want to do it all.
But I can’t… and so I’m forced to make a choice. To prioritize what matters most. To be decisive for once in my life. To commit and stick with it. And sometimes I don’t like making the choice.
Because sometimes duty requires me to be somewhere regardless of what my heart compels me to do. That feels especially unfair. It’s that prickling on the back of the neck I remember feeling every time my mum would ask me to help with chores. But I don’t want to…
If I was looking to slap a label on it, I’d say I’m suffering from the fear of missing out.
A fear that tells me that other people are having more fun.
I’m inadequate, my time is scarce, my friendships are insufficient. It’s a fear that breeds discontentment. Snuffing out joy and leaving an echo of emptiness.
It seems to me that the cure for the fear of missing out is being fully present.
Soaking in the sunset, feeling the rain as it batters down on your umbrella, looking the person who you are talking to directly in the eye.
Because our world overlooks these things. It tells us we should always be on the search for something better. We should be selfishly seeking the next adventure and when we find it, we should post all about it.
We are trapped by this terrible pitfall of seeking validation and approval. Of needing to be where the party is, needing to participate in the action. Needing to obtain maximum pleasure for our greedy hearts.
It’s such a hollow way of living. It’s superficial, flaky and unsatisfying.
Fighting the fear of missing out is a daily battle.
That need to share everything with the world. ‘Hey, look at me, look how great my life is.’
Fight that urge.
Be selfish with moments.
Put down your cell phone and watch the sunset with your own eyes.
It’s a beautiful thing that cameras, lenses and smartphones can’t capture some things. Rainbows, beach sunsets, birthday wishes, falling in love…because that’s the way it should be.
Some things are meant to be experienced. To be felt rather than just seen.
Fighting the fear of missing out means we have to immerse ourselves in the moment. Wherever you are, be all there.
Stop scrolling, sharing and feeling like your situation is lacking.
We can’t be everywhere, but we can be right here. Right now, in this moment.
We have to make a choice to be fully present. Because there will always be somewhere flashier you could be. There will always be someone funnier you could be talking to. But chasing those things will only leave you feeling empty.
We find contentment when we recognize how precious, beautiful and fleeting the moment we are in really is.
Take delight in the intricate, seemingly mundane details…because my friend, this is your life. Don’t blink twice or you’ll miss it.
Funnily enough, the fear of missing out is a self fulfilling prophecy. If you’re so afraid of missing out that you try to do it all, see it all and be it all…missing out is exactly what you’ll do.
So instead, let’s live intentionally. Wherever we are, let’s be all there.