Summer Update; The Fear of Missing Out

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Everyone knows that moving to a new city, state, region or country is challenging. You wonder how you will fit in, what sort of friends you will have and how you will find out where the coolest restaurants are. You’re far from family, friends and pretty much everything else familiar. Little things like knowing where to find the best pho, or where to get your haircut are no longer a given and often, it can feel overwhelming. 

But you prepare yourself. You do research, you ask friends for introductions and you make an effort to be open and approachable. In other words, you adopt the same patience, friendliness and willingness to explore as a college freshman. 

As a former outdoors guide with month to 3-month long stints in places all over the world, this behavior is familiar to me. No matter where I went or what I was doing, I got used to opening myself up to possibilities. I sought out local knowledge, did my research and found kindred spirits also looking to explore. 

This summer however, opened me up to a new sort of challenge: the challenge of being at home. 

When I began my internship at General Mills, I prepared myself to be the perfect hostess. I wanted to repay all the kindness and generosity individuals had showed me across the world when I was the newcomer. I prepared a list of fun ideas, I cleared my calendar for the first weekend and I made myself open and ready for questions. I knew I would be the only intern at General Mills from Minnesota and one of the few who were not living in corporate housing and I was determined to be in the fold regardless of any geographical hiccups. 

The first weekend was a runaway success. I invited a few interns out to dinner and we had a fantastic time. We made plans to visit breweries, outlined restaurants to try and identified concerts that we would all want to see.  Everything was going as planned.

But as the summer pressed on and plans got made, I found myself constantly stressed. Because while I had built a life as an intern at General Mills, my real life hadn’t stopped. If I was with interns, I wondered what my friends from school were doing. I found myself skipping family dinners that I so cherished just to fit it all in and my planner began to look like a work of modern art. 

I was trying to fit everything and make everyone happy. Things weren’t all that fun because I was constantly worrying about how to make it in time to the next event. And it wasn’t the first time that I felt this way.
Beginning b-school had elicited many of the same feelings in me. I wanted so badly to hang out with my classmates and enjoy all the fun things they were doing that I constantly fretted about all making it work. 

After some extensive research (none), doctor’s visits (nope), and exploration (not), a friend (myself) diagnosed me with FOMO [Fear of Missing Out]. 

All jokes aside however, once I recognized that I was suffering from FOMO, I realized what a mess of my free time I was making. Rather than spending time with people for the sake of being with them, I was obsessing about missing out on something better. Both at the start of business school and once again as I began my internship, I lost sight of what and who was important to me and found myself valuing quantity over quality. 

Recognizing this quandary was really only the first step. I wasn’t sure exactly how to make my personal life more satisfying because I didn’t know what I wanted. It was only after sitting down with a Carlson alum and current General Mills employee, that I came to any sort of clarity.

This wise woman told me to focus on what was important to me and to pay no attention to who was doing what when I wasn’t around. And while this seems like relatively simple advice, it was critical to my success as an intern, family member, friend and person. 

Once I started letting actual desire, not a sense of obligation or score keeping dictate my free time, I began to connect with people more authentically. I made new friends and learned how to be a better friend to my old friends.

This isn’t to say its okay not to try to make connections in your internship or school. But rather it’s about understanding your needs as a person and ensuring that connection is genuine, not transactional. 

We can get really caught up in the idea of networking or event attending. But as this first year of school and interning has taught me, it is sometimes more important to know your limits. By all means, sign up for plenty of opportunities but show up and make your attendance mean something. Be present rather than overcommitting and under-delivering. But most importantly, find balance. Nourish all types of relationships, but most importantly the one you have with yourself. Because I am certain that if you are realistic and prioritize, your relationships will be all the more meaningful.