“You can’t dance at every wedding,” my dad will often remind me.
This simple cliché is usually enough for me to step back from my fear of missing out, but recently it hasn’t done the trick.
The ability to fly to any city of my choosing, to not have my age restrict me from any nighttime event or even to sleep in every day and eat frozen pizza, is a blessing and a burden.
As I said goodbye to my parents after move-in day freshman year, I realized I finally had some semblance of freedom. I could decide right then and there to go visit my friend in another dorm, go out to dinner or even go to the supermarket and I didn’t need to text my mom.
However, despite this overwhelming feeling of independence, I still had to go to class, was still subordinate to my professors and residence directors and had a responsibility to my extracurriculars and my peers.
The college to-do lists are long and the options are limited, so often the days plan themselves out as I run from class to meeting to pre-planned evening social events.
Studying abroad in London is a welcome break from my often jam-packed days and stressful classes, but it is overwhelming.
Classes are less stressful with little to no consequences for skipping or not turning in assignments, I have no responsibility to any organizations and I am not concerned about finances because I spent the past year saving.
Do I jump on a plane to Amsterdam for the week? Do I go clubbing every night? Do I try to network and work on my pre-professional ambitions? Do I still go to the gym?
The options are enough to leave someone running around in circles as they attempt to do it all.
I am social guy that had a strong preconceived notion of what it means to study abroad. I saw pictures on Facebook of friends going to Germany for Oktoberfest, of blurry selfies at clubs, corny pictures in front of the Mona Lisa and assumed that I would leave this experience with the same pictures and be completely satisfied with that experience.
Yet, I do not like crowds or have the diligence to plan in advance to attend Oktoberfest, do not enjoy large and sweaty buildings or have a desire to see every landmark in a city.
People often joke that when you go abroad you start to “find yourself.” I always made fun of this phrase, but it makes more sense to me now.
These freedom-filled months constantly force me to figure out what I really want to do. It forces me to be honest with myself and then brings me face-to-face with the benefits and consequences of my decisions.
As a remedy, my dad suggested figuring out exactly what I want to accomplish and then pursuing it with full speed ahead. He made the point that if I am doing what makes me the happiest in that moment with the options at my disposal, it doesn’t matter what options I gave up because I am at peak happiness.
But, it doesn’t seem that simple.
If I want to go to Amsterdam for the week, but no one is free, I can’t reach my peak happiness.
Working with my options, I figured out whether going to Amsterdam or spending the weekend with my friends was the priority.
It’s scenarios like this that make me realize how difficult it is to be so honest with myself. I’m forced to accept that I am not the kind of person to take initiative and plan a whole weekend for myself in a foreign city and would rather attach myself to a group.
Furthermore, I shouldn’t have any FOMO after seeing pictures of people exploring Amsterdam with their friends because I know that that was not an option given my circumstances.
The logic is there.
It makes sense that taking the time to think through goals, priorities and sorting through options is the best cure for FOMO and the way to combat indecisiveness.
But, as I take the next couple of months to try this tactic to myself, I can already say that it is easier said than done.