Freshmen fears have generally been the same throughout history- getting lost, communal bathrooms, making friends, the infamous “freshman 15;” however, a new underrated fear has been slowly spreading among our generation: FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.
There are always things happening on campus, especially if you go to a big college. Clubs are always handing out flyers and freebies in the main plaza, your friends are always inviting you to the gym or to go grab dinner; activities are constantly occurring around you.
During my first semester at the University of Florida, all of these things sounded amazing to me. I was independent for the first time in my life and I wanted to get out there, make new friends and start the networking that could come in handy for my career years down the road. I didn’t want to miss a second of the college experience that everyone claimed would pass by so quickly. As a result, the most commonly used word in my vocabulary became “yes.” “Yes, let’s go hang out at the lake this weekend.” “Yes, I’ll go to that party with you tonight.” “Yes, I’ll join that club, apply for that internship and that job.”
I just didn’t want to miss out on any of these occasions because what if something momentous occurred while I wasn’t there? What if all the interns at a business got job offers, but I passed up the chance to apply to be an intern in the first place? What if I declined an invitation to go get smoothies with my classmates and they all became best friends without me?
As I got caught up basking in this newfound land of opportunity where I always needed to be somewhere at a certain time so that I wouldn’t miss anything, I started to slightly fall behind in my classwork. I no longer read the required readings ahead of time; instead, I would quickly skim over the passages during breakfast the morning of my discussion class. Funny enough, I had no FOMO when it came to what I would miss in not reading thoroughly through Thoreau’s journey into the wilderness.
My point of self-enlightenment, though, occurred when I received an essay back from the TA of my Humanities class. The grade I got was not what I had expected, and not in a good way either. Thinking back, I realize that I had rushed through writing that essay because I was in a hurry to attend some event, which I can’t even remember now (So was it really that important?).
The revelation that my fear of missing out had gotten in the way of my true purpose of attending college: education, was an awakening for me. Although I sometimes still think about participating in everything to explore all my options and gain access to all the opportunities, I acknowledge that it is so much more effective to stick to one small category that I’m especially passionate about and continue to hone my skills there.
It’s okay to say no to things when I know I have other responsibilities; no one will judge me for it, and if they do, they’re probably not the type of people I want to be friends with anyway. We all have thoughts of “what if,” but the important thing to remember is to not let the things I have in the present pass by as my mind is preoccupied elsewhere. There will always be something to do, someone to see, but I am my first priority and I know that wherever I am, the party will follow.