I didn’t have a very traditional high school experience. Medical issues combined with the pandemic meant that I only had one full semester in a high school classroom.
I didn’t go to homecoming, prom or graduation. I never felt like I needed to and I didn’t mind seeing other people have those experiences without me.
I don’t regret missing out on these things, but it means I never got a chance to figure out how I felt about partying, staying out late or making dumb last-minute decisions.
Getting to college was like whiplash. Suddenly I had more work to do than ever before, but also more opportunities to have fun in one weekend than I had throughout my entire high school career. I quickly became someone who was always ready to go – to the next party, the next house, the next event.
It didn’t take long for this to catch up to me. I was eating and sleeping poorly, always stressed about my workload and I ended up in situations that were more dangerous than I realized.
But, I was having fun.
During my second semester, I decided to try a completely opposite lifestyle. I said no to plans, buried myself in my work and spent more time by myself in my dorm than I spent in class. The friendships I made were getting difficult to maintain because I always felt like a bummer.
I quickly became miserable.
I knew that I shouldn’t fall back into old patterns, but didn’t know how to find a middle ground. I swung wildly back and forth between going out three nights in a row and then self-isolating for days.
I finally had an influential conversation with two close friends during which I figured out the root of the problem. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing a fear of missing out (FOMO).
The dreaded FOMO kept making me say “yes” while making me feel awful for saying no. Unfortunately, unlike other writers’ columns, I’m not at the point where I can provide a solution.
All I can offer are the things that I’m trying to keep in mind, and I encourage you to keep them in mind with me.
Your friends won’t get mad when you say “no.” It’s okay to only accept invitations to things you truly want to go to. Your friends won’t forget about you if you’re not there. Saying “no” once doesn’t mean they’ll never invite you again.
My friends love me and want me to be there, but if I need to do homework or take a night to myself, they would never be mad at me. If I say no to an invitation, it doesn’t mean there won’t be another.
And taking a night off of homework to have fun doesn’t mean I’m going to fail a course. We all deserve to order pizza and watch a movie with our friends.
It’s all about finding balance, and it’s something that everyone is working on.