II never intended to hide in the toilet. There was a lot going on outside: intriguing conversations and top-notch networks; free drinks, air kisses and cold canapes which – I had quickly discovered, after glances – were quite, like my fellow assistants, there only for the show. The gallery was filled, I was assured, with fashion figures and media leaders. I was lucky to have been invited to this lounge, one of the hostesses generously informed me. What exactly a “living room” is, I’m still not sure.
Deep down inside, I just didn’t want to be there. Just 90 minutes ago, I was looking at Gogglebox and laughing at Pringles in bed. But I went there out of a sense of duty. Perhaps a desire to broaden my horizons, or a compulsion to get out of my comfort zone, where I had become too secure and cozy. Now I was there, sitting in a locked booth, counting the minutes before I could leave without sounding rude.
Too often I went through this same stupid movement. Concerned about growing old and fearful of wasting my finite time on Earth lying on the couch, I would panic at the thought of seeing death before I knew it, full of regret. Frankly speaking, I would have a serious case of Fomo (fear of missing out). This feeling tends to peak in January when, rather than hibernating, as it would make eminently sense, I convince myself that exposure therapy will somehow improve me. I say yes to park joggers, parties and once, a ceilidh. But this year, I refuse to be sucked in again – I’m determined to accept saying yes to saying no to things I just don’t want to do.
For most of my young adult life, I held onto the idea that – generally speaking – I was pretty boring, pretty lazy, a fair amount of boredom. I would be mortified if someone gave me these labels; after all, I’m good value for money for weddings, funerals, and barmitzvahs (and I attend most of those I’m invited to) – but I still had a growing feeling that I wasn’t enjoying it. enough of life’s precious moments.
When did Fomo start? In school, reports often had the words “must try harder” – and I guess the idea stuck. There had been a relationship, my first in substance, where the circumstances meant that I internalized the idea that I was bleak and uninteresting. Friends would flock to underground parties and dance until mid-morning and I dragged myself to join them, moving miserably in the dark until I was too exhausted to continue, or too drunk to go. worry. It wasn’t that there were rules about what I liked and didn’t like; rather, I force myself to go out and stay outside – whether I want to or not – out of obligation to my future dying self.
In short, a model has developed. Life was punctuated by things I didn’t really want to do, otherwise I would be remiss to do just enough, sometimes too little, and almost never too much. This is precisely how I arrived at this art exhibition.
Arrived alone, I reluctantly started talking to a serious man named Simon. He shared his opinions with me; we looked at art. As soon as it wasn’t mean I apologized and rushed to the bathroom. I just sat there for a while staring at the wall. Maybe 10 minutes later, I got back to the action. Was there a discussion about poetry, or was it pottery? The bar was running out of white wine. I felt like everyone was there for the same reason I was – because they felt like they should be. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one having horrible weather.
Recently I have spent a lot of time thinking about this evening. I’m starting to realize, slowly but surely, that I would like to reinvent the way I spend my time. All kinds of things contributed to this contrition: dead grandparents; new nephews; approaching 30. As I get a little older, I am less inclined to do anything that seems devoid of all fun and joy. Then there are the complications of Covid. I’m lucky to be fit and healthy, but now every event – birthday, breakfast at work, day trip – comes with a new, complex set of calculations related to my life. health and safety: is the risk worth it?
I try to apply the same thinking to see if I will really appreciate something too. It means accepting invitations, but also politely declining – and making those decisions based on what I want to do, not what I think I have to do. I am always open to new experiences, people and places. Only now do I calmly admit my defeat, rather than feel ashamed if I throw in the towel. I may not always know what I will like or what will destroy my soul. But I try to ignore the pressure to be proactive and instead listen to my instincts. It’s harder than it looks.
In his 2012 book Missing Out, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips questions what it means to consider life as unlived. “The myth of our potential,” he writes, “can make our lives a perpetual failure… Now someone asks us not only to survive but to prosper, not just or only to be good but to make the most of it. our lives. “
The premise of Phillips’ position has never been truer. Ours is a consumed society obsessed with the efficient use of time. Social media platforms are often blamed for turning their users into sad, anxious scrollers, and for good reason. But the fact that these sites also require us to be constantly productive is often overlooked. Instagram insists we have something to show; Twitter obliges us forever think Something. We live in the “experience economy” where value is derived from To do. The pandemic has taught us that we don’t know what lies ahead; to make the most of now. I feel like some teens put more effort into their TikToks than I did in my entire career.
It’s kind of an obsession to be efficient not only in our work, but also in our hobbies. Because Yolo, far from being a harmless slogan, – made famous by Drake in The motto of 2011 – is in fact an insidious idiom; another iteration of the toxic nonsense “do something that scares you” and “make every moment count” that has slowly come to plague our daily lives.
I do not advocate total abstinence from ambition. Climb mountains! Learn languages! Tell me your fascinating stories about doing it on wine. It’s just that maybe making the most of every moment can also come from giving up rather than smiling and putting up with it. It’s fine to try new things, but I try to regularly remind myself that MasterChef is pretty awesome (just like watching YouTube compilations in my pants and scrolling through Scottish houses on Rightmove). It’s the beginning, but I have already noticed that I feel calmer, more comfortable.
Of course, all of this is a reflection of the stage of life I find myself in: without children or family responsibilities. No doubt the day will come when I will make a deal with the devil to have the chance to pay £ 8 again for a can of Red Stripe to drink while wading through sticky floors. But for now, at least, I’m free to make that opt-out choice.
One weekend at the end of last year my friends, my boyfriend and I rented a place by the sea. On Friday we happily trotted between quaint country pubs. Our Saturday, it had been mutually agreed by all the participants, was to be devoted to the march. A real hike. Through high winds we walked for six to seven hours through the coastal cliffs of Sussex. Ninety minutes later we had barely breached our proposed path and I was exhausted. I checked my phone and realized that 30 minutes inland we would come to a bus stop that would take us home.
Usually I would have walked, metaphorically sat in that toilet. Instead, I announced that I really wanted to take the bus. A look of relief spread over all faces. Turns out we all wanted to throw in the towel. And that’s what we’ve done.