New Year Blues or One Nasty Case of FOBO

Confession: I love new beginnings. I love cracking open the cover of a new book, running my fingers over the pristine pages of blank notebooks, and lining up a new pack of pens in a neat row. I love the first day of school and the first day of spring and the first day in a new place. I love making neat To Do lists, crossing things off of them, and planning for the future. I like having goals. Sure, when things get tough (or boring) and I get tired (or lazy) I can half-ass it with the best of them, but I always start strong.

Not so this year. We reached New Year’s Day and instead of that bright, crisp my-lungs-are-full-to-bursting feeling of possibility I normally feel in January, I felt nothing. No anticipation, no excitement, and no motivation.

“It’s just that there’s nothing I’m looking forward to this year,” I whined to my husband. “I’m looking at 12 months of being in the exact same place and doing the exact same thing as I am now. What’s exciting about that?” And admittedly, the past few years when we were living in Korea spoiled us with frequent international travel and near-constant opportunities to experience new things. It’s not really surprising that life now seems bland in comparison. What’s surprising is how quickly I’ve become unhappy with our (admittedly) comfortable life.

I’m an introspective person (shocker, I know!) and I spend a lot of time evaluating the whys behind what I do, think, and feel. I think the reasons why we make the choices that we do are important and that our motivations, both positive and negative, matter. After some reflection I think I’ve found the source of my pessimism. I have a nasty case of FOBO.

What’s FOBO? Like its trendy cousins, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and YOLO (You Only Live Once), FOBO is a motivation for doing things that is rooted in fear. In this case, Fear Of Being Ordinary.

Sometimes I feel like I’m at war with myself. There’s a part of me that genuinely likes the trappings of domesticity. I LIKE cooking and hosting dinner parties and burning candles and wearing perfume and going to bed at 9:30 PM. I really do. But there’s another part of me that thinks about living that kind of life – settling down somewhere, buying a house, having a couple of kids, waving to my neighbors through the window of my minivan on my way to the church potluck with my famous casserole – and feels utterly stifled by the idea. It is this part of me (as juvenile and prideful as it is) that wants “ordinary” people to be able to look at me and know that I am not like them. The same part of me that wants to wear Marc Jacobs lipstick but still put purple streaks in my hair.

Over the summer my college roommates and I had a reunion. We puttered around the lake in the speed boat and talked about our lives and where we saw them going. The other girls talked about feeling settled – one felt happy to stay near her family, another had recently bought her first house with her husband, one talked about her and her husband’s dream of maybe building a house with a lot of land, and the other talked about visiting her cousin who lived in a beautiful golf-course community and how she could imagine a life like that someday. And I looked around the boat at these women I love, who have such sweet hearts and pure desires, and realized that I don’t want the same things that they do. That even when I feel tired of moving and tired of temporary homes, I can’t imagine settling down in one place. I’m struggling now to think about staying in the same place and doing the same thing for the next year. I can’t imagine living for years and years in the same place, doing the same things. And yet, I can’t deny that there’s a sweetness in that desire too, even if it’s one I don’t share.

I wonder when the word “ordinary” started to burn my tongue like acid. When did living a good, honest, regular life become something to fear or worse, disdain? Was it wrapped up somewhere in the words of the parents and teachers who urged us all to be exceptional? Did I absorb it from the shiny plastic worlds we see on TV? Or is it just a product of my own brokenness and rebellion?

I’m realizing that my attitude towards the ordinary is not OK. I don’t have to resign myself to living a cookie cutter life, but I might just have to make peace with living through a season where my life looks undeniably normal. I might have to lay down my pride and accept that I am living an ordinary life right now and that I don’t have to convince everyone around me that I am a special millennial snowflake. So I pray for the eyes to see the simple value of the ordinary and to sense the sacred motions of the mundane.