Firstly, I would like to say that FOMO is a very real thing.
For those born in the prehistoric era, that means 'fear of missing out'. It's something that definitely came with the age of technology, and the tendency for everyone to post the best aspects of their social lives in an attempt to prove they have one (don't stress, I'm the biggest culprit). It's also something that's potentially destroying our ability to prioritize our need for time alone.
I feel like we're all in a competition to be the most social person in our social media bubbles. I'm sure you can agree there's that pressure lurking every time you do something fun to whip out your phone and make sure you take a snap of it, to prove you actually did something with your day other than binge watch David Dobrik vlogs.
Even when the aspect of social media is removed, FOMO still hangs around. Sometimes I just don't want to go out. I don't want to get out of bed, to get dressed, brush my hair. Sometimes I simply don't want to socialize — small talk is exhausting! But yet, I get that feeling like I really should go out and see people, like I'm not spending my time wisely unless I'm soaking up every chance I get to hang out with friends. It's almost as if everyone thinks your life isn't of value if it isn't spent being around others, and I do agree with this — to an extent.
Before leaving for Alabama, the number one piece of advice I heard over and over was, "say yes to everything!" I was then usually told to make friends with as many people as I could, maybe even say hi to strangers once in a while! Anyone who had been on exchange previously recommended that I immerse myself in every experience that presented itself to me. After all, their favorite memories involved making new, unexpected friends.
I still strongly stand by this idea — I wouldn't have had half the experiences I've had so far if it weren't for this Yes Man mentality. However, I am now past halfway, and all I can say is I'm absolutely knackered. I'm all socialized-out! After being in the company of at least one other person every… single… minute… (I have a roommate) for the last 11 weeks, I can confidently say I've had enough. If I carry on this way, forcing myself to attend any and all outings, I quite possibly could implode… or at least want to crawl under a rock and never talk to anyone again (nearly at this stage already).
One thing I didn't realize until recently is just how much downtime I have to myself at home. Sure, I work or go to Uni most days, and I see my friends as much as possible. I also have my scheduled 6 p.m. family dinner followed by one-hour gossip session with mum each night. But at the end of each day, I would snuggle up in my big queen bed that I had all to myself (I'm single, thanks for reminding me) and finally feel relaxed. That was my designated time to myself that I could look forward to each day. Some nights I just put music on and lay down for hours doing absolutely nothing. That was the point though, I didn't have to do anything, and I didn't have anyone else to worry about.
Now, I might be lucky to get 10 minutes alone each day while I take a shower. Even then, my roommate occasionally drops in to go to the bathroom, and the thin shower curtain is the only thing standing between myself and a mental breakdown. Sometimes I want to hide behind that curtain all day. My happy place is now the small square corner of my bathroom, how sad is that?
I think the notion of spending time alone is severely underrated. Why have we created an idea that it's not OK to want to be alone every now and then? Why do we have to constantly be pushing ourselves to reach out to others and put ourselves out there? I absolutely love meeting new people and making new friends! But you know what else I love? Sitting on the couch with a hot Milo, binge-watching David Dobrik vlogs. So sue me! I think finding time to think about yourself only is just as essential for mental stability as surrounding yourself with friends and family.
After this experience, I know I will never feel ashamed to admit that I am going to miss out on doing something with my friends in order to be alone. It's literally the only thing that keeps me sane! (Can you tell I'm already going a little insane?)
I can now finally understand why mum used to be so happy when the school holidays were over. It's not that she didn't love us, she just valued her personal space! What a smart little lady!