Thursday, September 10, 2015

#253 / FOMO At A Certain Age

The picture above is from a 1516 map of Thomas More's island of Utopia, discussed in Legendary Lands by Umberto Eco. I am a big fan of all things "utopian," and I retrieved this image from an edition of Brain Pickings devoted to FOMO, the "Fear Of Missing Out."

The Brain Pickings' article is titled, "In Praise of Missing Out: Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on the Paradoxical Value of Our Unlived Lives." I commend that article to you. Phillips' book, Missing Out, may be good, too, but as is often the case in this Two Worlds blog, I find myself commenting on a comment, in lieu of reading the original. 

So many books; so little time! That sentiment is exactly the same as in that famous observation by John Barrymore, who noted that the trouble with life is that there is insufficient time to have sampled more of the beautiful women that life has made (at least potentially) available. 

Talk about FOMO!

In fact, having reached what some might correctly call a "certain age," I find that FOMO (to the degree I ever felt it) is no longer a major preoccupation. FOMO has been replaced by the certainty that I HAVE missed out. There isn't any doubt!

I can remember many speeches counseling and urging my political audiences to "Make Up Their Mind," since making choices (instead of trying to have it both ways) is the essence of a genuine politics. In those speeches, I often said that "you can't be both a ballerina and a brain surgeon." In other words, you might be capable of being either one, but you do have to choose, because there isn't time to do both, either simultaneously or sequentially. 

FOMO might come into play as you consider that ballerina/brain surgeon decision, but when you do reach that "certain age," and the choices you have made have played themselves out, and you are who you are, the lesson that Phillips' book imparts makes a great deal of sense. 

It is a total fallacy to think that one person can do "everything" that he or she might want to do, or can think about doing, or that he or she might even be good at, and having not done something is no failure. 

Not if you have done something, that is! And we all have!!

It is possible to celebrate both possibility and experience. We should be grateful for the experiences we have had, and the lives we have lived.

This is what I think.

That is my lesson learned at a "certain age."

Image Credit:


  1. #haiku

    All accomplishments
    demand difficult choices
    to ignore options

  2. I like your "certain age" wisdom, Gary. I have always dwelled on what I was doing at the moment (and that was plenty!), rather than dwell on what I was not able to be doing. To this day, I celebrate every day as my favorite day (like Piglet said to Pooh). You have lived well. Like you, I celebrate the life I have lived, as well as celebrating today. Reading your column is part of my today! Jean Brocklebank


Thanks for your comment!