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  • suzjennifer62

“a worried feeling you may miss exciting events other people are going to, especially things you see on social media.”

Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO, as I have recently learned, is the acronym for what Cambridge Dictionary defines as “a worried feeling you may miss exciting events other people are going to, especially things you see on social media.” I didn’t know it was a thing, though I have suffered from it all my life.

By nature, I am not a social person. I am a naturally born loner. More comfortable on my own, I like to be in charge of me and my well-being. Had it not been for the environmental factors dealt to me early on, I would have been a contented outcast. My exclusion anxiety started when I was only a few years old.

woman and dog hiking in the mountains
With a dog by my side, I can get away when I need a break from social anxiety.

We had a neighbor with a little girl my sister’s age. They were older than me by twenty-five months. Two years is double the age when you are only two or three years old. They were twice my age and there was a generation gap I simply couldn’t span. They left me out all the time. I became conditioned by the anxiety of exclusion.

In my teens, FOMO was at an extreme. A normal developing teenager works through FOMO by navigating the ins and outs of social interactions. Had it not been for the pre-conditioned response to FOMO, I would have probably stayed in the shadows, gone to the library at recess, read a lot more books. I could have stayed within the boundaries of comfort based on my personality. But normal I was not. As an extroverted introvert, I needed to belong, but yearned to be by myself.

two women posing in the forest in the snow
For fifty-plus years, Lisa has been there for me and knows me better than anyone.
two women posing in front of the bar in goofy hats.
Joann who despite the discomfort, dragged me to social events. Looking goofy is my defense mechanism.

The inner conflict intensified. Learning to control FOMO through the support of parents who told me to buck up and deal with it, yes, I made friends, and it was easy. I found dealing with one or two people at a time kept me comfortable. They included me, but not too much. Fortunate am I to be one who doesn’t need energy from others to motivate me. This characteristic attracts people who rely on external motivation rather than being inspired from within. The perfect fit for me, as I seem to have that inner power in spades.

Me on the far left, having a positive experience in a group setting. NoseWork Camp Logistics Team, 2019.

This goes like a bookend with my other personality quirk; I do not need to be in charge of anything. Never a boss or manager, I have never been a club president or group leader. I often take part but am rarely even a member. It doesn’t interest me at all. This puts me in conflict with myself. To satisfy both energies of my dual personality, I must be involved in the action but never want to control it. And there, in between, lives my FOMO.

Nose work is the perfect sport for me. It is an individual activity, but I am never lonesome. I am never without my dog. I work on the details of training, trialing, practicing. It’s up to me to get us there in the best condition, much like a coach prepares his athletes. During the search, I am only there for support. Winnie is leading the charge.

Hanging out in the parking lot at trials gives me the sense of belonging. Being together in groups we are all where we belong, with nobody left out. And since we are not on teams, there is no pressure to perform. I don’t have to worry about letting anyone else down. When I volunteer, I am part of the “staff” but not the leader. I take no responsibility if things go wrong and need no credit when all goes well. Getting together to practice or for classes, seminars, and lessons, I can be the cheerleader for every team I’m with. We are not competitors, but true comrades. Playing into my wheelhouse, all this keeps me in my comfort zone.

horse and human standing with a mountain in the background
Taking Rio for a walk, this equine senior citizen is 34 yrs but doesn't look or act his age.

For a week, I have been in isolation (physically, not ethereally). Ranch sitting in Smith Valley, NV, is a lonely endeavor, but I love it. Thank goodness for the internet, my life preserver, and my solution to FOMO. This past weekend, I had friends from coast to coast trialing and sharing their experiences on digital platforms. They even kept us, all who weren’t actually in attendance, present with them in their moments with texting in real time. They established a connection between the lines. Technology was the outreaching hand that brought me with them. And after the trials were over came the accolades. I enjoyed their wins, commiserated their not wins, and learned. I supported them from afar no less than if I had been there in person. Inspired after watching the debriefs, I even got Winnie out, hid some odor and we searched. I hadn’t missed a thing.

Thanks to nose work, I have bridged the gap between the fear of being excluded and the opposition to being the leader. I have decided FOMO does not differ from any other fear; irrational and fueled only by the energy we each will give it. I am adopting a different acronym we can use when we are in the clutches of the fear of missing out: Belonging Through Ethereal Interaction. We must squash the further development of FOMO as a legitimate condition by using social media, the very thing that started it.

Social media, though some see it as an isolating factor, is, for someone like me, a format that suits my juxtaposed characteristics; the need to be included and the desire to be apart. Through posts shared on Facebook and other forums, I can take part or stay in the shadows depending upon which me is at the keyboard. If I am experiencing what others are seeing and doing, I feel included. When I have something to share, I belong. And if I don’t interact, I can feel like an invisible spoke in the wheel of society.

So, thank you once again, nose work community for teaching me yet another thing about myself. Thanks for sharing your experiences and inviting me to be with you in thought. And thanks for indulging me when I share. When we have the opportunity to join in the activity, we will do so willingly, knowing that we are not being forced to participate.

After a lifetime of struggling when I didn't feel included and anxious about it when I was, through the K9 performance sport, Nose Work, I have fond my place, my passion. I look forward to seeing y’all digitally on the pages and in the groups in the format that allows me to enjoy being me. And physically in the parking lots at trials or at practice where I will also feel comfortable as I balance being together and at the same time apart.

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