One of my all-time favorites tweets was shared by a user named Diego in the summer of 2018. It said
“I used to sneak out of my house to go to parties. Now I sneak out of parties to go to my house.”
This simple tweet captures what I’ve been feeling over the last five years. Home seems to have more of a gravitational pull than ever before. It’s like turning 40 reduced my interest in taking advantage of events around me, or likewise, increased my interest in being at home.
This change stands in stark contrast to my approach to being social for most of my life. As Sachi will tell you, I have always been subject to F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) when it comes to being out and about. In fact, this fear used to cause me real anxiety. As a weekend approached, stress would start to build. I worried that we didn’t have plans, or our plans were not enough. From my perspective, there was an entire city on offer and to spend a weekend not taking advantage seemed like a waste.
I imagined somewhere in Seattle, people were doing it “right”. They had figured out how to make the most of every moment and I wanted to feel confident that I was one of those people; that I cracked the code. Through attention and planning, I could squash the FOMO once and for all.
Of course, social media didn’t help. Facebook and Instagram only made my FOMO worse. The people who I suspected were doing it “right” were taking pictures and telling stories. They were showing me what I was missing. In fact, it felt like they were rubbing my face in it. “Don’t you wish you were here?” The messages said. “Your weekend is lame.”, I imagined them saying as they cruised by on a boat while simultaneously drinking a beer and catching a salmon in the sun.
Like most of the anxieties I feel, this was not rational and I knew it. But that realization didn’t help. The only thing that helped was learning to recognize and be grateful for the experiences I have.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And like any good quote, his words packed a punch. It helped me see that my FOMO came from thinking about my activities in the context of other peoples’ experiences, experiences carefully curated for my viewing pleasure. By paying attention to them, I was preventing myself from seeing the joy in my own life. Sachi, seeing me frustrated by FOMO, reminded me to look around and appreciate the life we lead and all the things for which we should feel fortunate.
Eventually, both Sachi and Teddy’s words began to sink in. I started to filter my social media consumption. I became aware of my own participation in social media and how my experiences may be perceived. I put real effort into taking a step back and feeling grateful for my reality, as unexciting as it may be to the outside world.
Perhaps it’s a combination of my age and these realizations that have contributed to my connection to home. Today, I know Seattle is full of things to do, but I don’t really care. There was a time when I did those things. I saw the sights and went to the festivals and ate at the restaurants. And I loved them all. But now, it’s different.
Today, Sachi and I usually have a couple of events a week. A dinner with friends, a movie, a soccer match. And I never regret them. I’m genuinely happy when we’re engaged. But home is always pulling me back. The prospect of a night at home, making dinner and watching a movie is a source of real happiness now and something that doesn’t feel like a consolation.
In fact, when our social calendar starts to fill, we become a bit protective. We both want to be sure that we have some evenings at home, just to ourselves. Perhaps this is the opposite of FOMO, where you fear that events will prevent you from enjoying home. Maybe, what I now feel is F.O.M.I. (Fear of Missing In). If we become too busy, I’ll miss quiet nights of listening to music and having a cocktail at home with Sachi and the dogs.
Now that changes may be coming in our lives, it helps to feel like home is the right place. I don’t have to rely on a city, event or an activity to be happy. I’ve learned to make my own contentment at home, wherever that is.