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Is it FOMO or JOMO for you? What about FOBLO? Or JOBI?

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

A few years ago, I remember hearing the acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out,” that is, FOMO. When I first heard it, I thought, um no, not me. I have for a long time now, proudly described myself as an introvert. I think the pride I take in that description comes in part from growing up in a culture that seemed to reward extroverts and diminish the attributes of introverts. Having read Susan Cain’s “Quiet” and being aware of the tenets of emotional intelligence as well as lots of study about personality, learning, values and strengths assessments, has cultivated value and gratitude for that part of who I am. Introverts are often the inventors, idea people and observers who help us understand problems and our world with more depth and most certainly make up a large percentage of creatives of all types.

As a child, I was called “shy and sensitive.” I hated hearing that and it only made my lack of comfort with new people and situations worse. It made me feel like I was the “other,” and odd in some way. At one point in grade school, my parents were called to speak with my teacher because I sometimes wanted to play alone during recess. Wasn’t recess supposed to be a break? The reality was that I had friends at school and in my neighborhood. I can remember what they looked like, their names, where they lived, sleepovers, the games we played, etc. So I wasn’t the weird, antisocial kid. Just the kid who sometimes needed a break at recess from schoolwork, talking and people.

When I heard people talk about FOMO I knew that I really didn't have that fear. In fact, at that time in my life, if I had been honest with myself and those around me, I felt like I was taking part in more social and work activities than I needed or wanted. And when someone cancelled a gathering or meeting, I secretly leapt for joy. I was happy when someone came up with the counter acronym for “Joy Of Missing Out,” or JOMO, and see others respond so positively to it. Those are my people. That phrase and acronym fits me perfectly.

Enter full-time job loss along with pandemic.

Starting in 2012, I worked at Memphis College of Art, serving students as the Director of Career Development. In 2017, it was announced that the college planned to close in May 2020. It was devastating for many and indeed, a big loss for me personally as I had been associated with the staff, faculty and students at the college for many years. And the fact that the college’s closure most certainly would leave a gaping hole in the local creative community, in particular, and regionally, was not lost on me. That hurt.

As we were wrapping things up at the college over those last two years, I was formulating my plan and freelancing to start a new venture while continuing to serve students at the college. Also during that time, my husband and I were suffering major losses in our family and friend circle in addition to navigating big transitions in each of our lives. The tension between endings and new beginnings was a lot to hold. As I prepared to end my tenure at the college, something we had not (and could not) have anticipated happened in spring 2020: the pandemic. Suddenly, the world and opportunity market were in an upheaval.

At first, I just tried to maintain my physical and mental health and learn the new rules in order to stay well and do my job. Then I began to tiptoe into the marketplace and reach out to people I knew. I got a couple of gigs to do work that explained and promoted the value of authentic experiential learning and teaching, one with faculty in public health and the other as a coach to a consultant working with a large health organization. Both efforts were to increase learning and behavioral change outcomes. I had done this work before with state court judges and community volunteers and am passionate about its value to not only educational environments but also to the workplace in general. My heart beats faster just writing these words!

As I used the tools available to me to promote my work, I updated my information on LinkedIn. I started to notice announcements by people who had lost their jobs and were asking others for help. Kudos to them! It is important to ask for help.

However, I also began to feel an unpleasant twinge of something… was it jealousy? Was it insecurity? Comparison? Yes, that’s it! I started to have a gnawing anxiety about my age and value to this scary new landscape of the shutdown with its tumbling DOWs, PPPs, and furloughs and so on, not to mention the threat of getting sick, really sick, because of my age. I started to feel that this new marketplace challenge would eventually somehow “right” the market and that people over 50 would just politely (or maybe not) be asked to just go ahead and sit it out. For good. I started to have this aching Fear of Being Left Out or FOBLO.

But I am not ready to be left out!

As the summer months marched on, I, like many, became better able to use the tools in my repertoire to cope with this new world and my new status of coach and consultant. As that progressed I began to look at what others were doing and instead of having FOBLO, ask, “Do I really want to be included?” And more specifically, in all the ways I was included (and including myself) pre-pandemic? I am finding the answer to that question to be no. Not like I used to be.

You see, one of the wonderful things about getting into the third quarter of your life is that you have done a lot of work in two areas: work skills and personal discernment. You have likely built expertise in something, maybe many things. You have built some semblance of a network. You -hopefully- have gained self awareness and discernment, that is, in the ability to know what is right for you and what is wrong for you. Or at the very least, what is wrong for you.

For me, I have worked through so much of the angst about not being included in everything and not having to know everything and everybody. I have learned to look for the opportunities that truly fit who I am and am better able to decline those that don't. I am now focusing on what I am calling the Joy Of Being Included, or JOBI, and only in work that is important to me. The world today offers much to distract and engage me and my interests. But I know I am better served and thereby serving others better by discerning between what is right for me and what would be better advanced or nourished by someone else.

Brene Brown, social researcher and professor at University of Houston defined this inclusion I am talking about as "True Belonging." She stated that "True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are."

But how do you get to this place, the sense of "true belonging" with others and yourself? For me, it's been through experiences, intentional reflection, gaining new insight and knowledge through talking with others, including a therapist, reading, professional development opportunities and then, while being in tune with my strengths and importantly, values, applying all of this to understand where I belong. And honestly, it's an ongoing process because like my mentor Pat Murrell taught me, "we are never finished."

Do you have a sense of true belonging in these turbulent times? Are you trying to discern what is right for you? Where do you want to be included? Who do you envision being there? How do you want to be seen and heard and remembered? If you want to explore these questions, I invite you to contact me to determine if we want to work on this together so you can discover your own JOBI, that is, Joy Of Being Included.

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