No F.O.M.O., or 6 reasons not to be that bummed about missing Burning Man

This post, I thought I’d do something different. I want to share how I’m dealing with my F.O.M.O. (“fear of missing out,” for the uninitiated) over not going to Burning Man this year. I’m learning to apply these lessons to other areas of my life, and I hope this resonates with anyone else who struggles with this.

So a quick background note: I have always had really bad F.O.M.O. I used to be the type of person who felt compelled to make it to every single event and social obligation. In fact, it would give me a strange sort of anxiety not to. I’d construct elaborate fantasies about how much fun my friends were having without me and what amazing things I’d be missing out on. But now in Bangkok (ironically, given its reputation as a party town) I’ve finally learned how to slow down.

As the days have been drawing closer to the Burn, I finally acknowledged that I wouldn’t be making it to the playa. This would have been my 7th year, and this summer feels different because every other year since 2006 has been rhythmically punctuated by this annual ritual. But knowing that I couldn’t go this year forced me to sit down and really look at my values.

So how to get over the F.O.M.O. of missing Burning Man?

  1. See this as an opportunity for growth. It is really good for me to not always get what I want, in the same way that I know going to the dentist is good for me. Tackling unpleasant but necessary tasks is a very adult characteristic – it means acknowledging that you’d rather be doing something else but knowing that the world will still go on as it always has even when you don’t. Chalk it up to maturity.
  2. Go with the flow, not in spite of it. I know that when I’m meant to go to the Burn, it’ll be effortless. This year, there is just too much resistance and friction. Burning Man has always been about the beauty of spontaneity and synchronicity, and those qualities apply to the decision to go as well.
  3. Opportunity cost, opportunity cost, opportunity cost. What else could I be doing with my time? This year, it means going to a regional development conference on the Mekong, which I’m genuinely excited about. And because I’ve opened myself up to not going, a couple of other writing-related opportunities have also emerged that I probably would have overlooked if my mindset was focused on preparing for the playa.
  4. $$$. No matter how worthy of an endeavor, Burning Man is an expensive affair. Tickets are hundreds of dollars, and food and gear and camp dues run the same. That money can be put towards forwarding other important life goals, like traveling or taking classes or buying new equipment.
  5. Live your values. In my heart of hearts, I know that the values of Burning Man hold true for the rest of the year. I wouldn’t have kept going all these years if I didn’t honestly aspire to its principles: radical self-reliance in adversity, inclusivity in diversity, and a healthy blurring between play and life. This is a chance for me to bring the Burn to my default life.

  6. A good friend I consulted about my F.O.M.O. gave me these sage words of advice:
    “Don’t miss out on your present just because you’re scared of missing out on the past. Maybe this is your Burning Man – why do you need a week when it can be in your life? You’re honoring yourself by living your passion.”

  7. It’ll most likely still be there next year.
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