Fear of Missing Out on Your Own Life


 

Ever have those moments where you’re overwhelmed with how many directions your life could go? Where fear of what your life could be is paralyzing? For me, I’ve always been someone who is extremely powerless when it comes to the unknown. Pretty ironic considering I run a publication called the Unknown Persists that quite literally preaches to follow the unknown.

But we are all hypocrites when it comes to our fears. We are all hypocrites when we’ve come face to face with choices.

One of my favorite quotes about choice is by Sylvia Plath:

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“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. 

One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was lovers with offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. 

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. Choosing is paralyzing. Especially when you’re choosing between a world of your wildest dreams or a world of success or a world of comfortability or a world of love and companionship.

 

If you’re like me, you allow these choices to eat you alive.

I find myself sitting with these choices for too long and giving them power over me. Letting them take control of my stress and my emotions. Until I am no longer me. If you let your decisions become you, they will eat you alive. They will force you to forget your future and only be stuck in the past.

They fool you into the mindset that once you make a decision, you are stuck with that forever. You are that decision.

And that, my friends, is the biggest lie you can tell yourself.

 

So how do we release ourselves from that fear?

As much I love Sylvia Plath, I’m challenging us to think differently about how we make these decisions that guide our lives. I’m challenging us to change our mindset on the overwhelming amount of figs in front of us. I’m challenging us to love the mystery.

Think about where you were 5 or even 2 years ago. Think about the decisions that led you there. Think about all the laughter and heartache and obstacles you’ve gone through since then.

Yes, you get to choose any life you want and fuck yes – that’s paralyzing. What if you end up living the wrong life? Or wasting 5 years in the wrong direction? Or missing out on another beautiful, interesting life? But that’s the thing - there isn’t a wrong life. There isn’t waste. Because life isn’t choices, it’s what you do in between those choices. It’s how you create the world around you with people, and laughing, and weekend trips, and food you cook, and awkward moments, and the coffee shop you love to go to, and getting pissed off at the stoplight that changes too quickly, and all the experiences you’ve chosen for the fulfillment of yourself.

Love the mystery.

Enjoy this process.

Free yourself of frustration and stress and allow the beauty of having choice to creep in.

It’s a privilege to be able to choose between multiple wonderful, challenging, difficult, and different lives. So why do we beat ourselves up about it? Why do we stress ourselves to the point where we start to resent having choices?

Love the mystery.

Switch your mindset and you’ll be surprised how freeing it can feel. Breathing in all that negativity and stress and worry and breathing out possibility, opportunity, and a world you never expected.


I have not mastered this comfortability with the unknown that I preach. I have not overcome my fears or have gotten to the point where I can make a choice without doubt weighing me down and crushing me whole. I am paralyzed with the beauty in all the lives I could live. I make every big decision with insecurity and fear.

I know myself and I know that I am still going to let that paralyzing fear creep in. I am still going to see dozens of figs and I’m still going to try not to starve at the foot of the tree. But it’s how we let that fear control us. When you start to embrace the fear and the unknown – you’ll see each fig as a freeing possibility and you won’t be as scared to leave a few on the tree for the next person.

 
EssaysCasey Callahan