The Fear of Missing Out, otherwise known as FOMO. My friends and I use this expression when we don’t want to leave a party early or say ‘No’ to an opportunity for fear of missing something important, exciting or transformational. My 20s were dominated by a FOMO – and now, in my 30s, I am working on letting go of this phenomenon and realizing that my intuition speaks louder than any experience I may possibly miss out on.
Today, at Day 2 of Connecting4Community, I saw no better opportunity than to test my theory of ‘letting go’.
Yesterday, as expected, was inspirational and full of positive vibes and energetic stories. People gathered, convened and connected. It was why I came here. And yet today presented something new: disruption. Some people deal in conflict regularly, and are therefore immune or accepting of the effects it can have. I am not one of those people. And so, when a fellow participant challenged one of the presenters first thing this morning, calling him out as ‘yet another old white guy telling us what to do’, I felt the air being sucked out of the room.
Winded. I felt winded. Perhaps it was because the ‘old white guy’ he was referring to happened to be a master storyteller who had riveted us with compelling stories full of ancient wisdom and personal anecdotes. Perhaps it was because it surprised me (I thought we were all on the same page?), or perhaps it was because I got angry. And I don’t do angry well.
Us versus Them. The disruptive comment positioned the participant, also a white male, on one side and the presenter on the other. As another participant told me later, it was the ‘Them-ing’ that got to her. I understand that the participant was fed up with being ‘talked to’, and that yes, almost all of the speakers here were white males. Yet there was something in the act of calling someone out, of drawing a line in the sand and stating that some of us are on one side and others are on another – that was what drew the breathe from my body.
Conflict. Disruption. Unease. You could feel it as soon as it happened, and even still as the day progressed. I needed air. I needed space. I needed to leave.
And yet, I had this uncomfortable fear of missing out – what if the next speaker, or the next small group, was what I came here for? What if something happened that reconnected the now seemingly fractured group? Yet, it no longer mattered; I knew what I needed, and it was to step out into the Cincinnati sunshine and ‘walk it off’.
And so I walked. I walked to the river, I walked over a bridge, and I later learned that I walked all the way to Kentucky, which isn’t as far as one would think! I found a spot by the water, and I collected my thoughts. Why had this disruption bothered me so? What was it about conflict that led me running for the hills? My new friend Quanita told me that as a Water sign my natural inclination is to be a peacekeeper, and to avoid conflict at all costs. That sounds about right 🙂
On my walk, I found the space I needed to realize that the disruption I was facing was inside myself, and my own conflict around power and privilege. It also allowed me to appreciate that this entire scenario ended up creating unexpected, and meaningful, conversations. It also gave me an excuse to visit Kentucky, and to walk, restore and replenish. Disruption often reveals hidden gifts, and today I received the gift of sunshine, fresh air, and a view I had not expected.
It also led me back to the conference a few hours later where I was able to hear Edgar Cahn speak about his Time Banking philosophy and his belief that “you cannot create community through random acts of kindness”. It also gave me a new perspective when we visited Elementz, a community hip hop group for youth in downtown Cincinnati. Watching those kids move, laugh and lip sync to Dr. Martin Luther King erased any trace of my own previous disruption and reminded me that community is like a marriage, we have to work through it, stay committed to our selves and each other, and rejoice in those moments of true connection.