Surfing and the Fear of Missing Out

Originally published on the blog.

A friend sent me this picture earlier in the week with the caption, "Too bad we're at work...."
A big WNW swell has been hitting Los Angeles all week, but I'm likely going to miss it because the sun comes up as I'm on my way to work, and goes down before I get home. To make matters worse, my car broke down last week, so the bus has doubled my commute time, making an early evening surf session impossible. The swell is weakening as the week goes by, from what I hear, so by the time Saturday hits, I'll have missed the best parts. So what do I do in a crisis such as this? I've narrowed it down to a few options:
  • Quit my job and go surfing
  • Call in "sick" and go surfing
  • Miss the swell
The first option sounds pretty appealing, but not so practical. Number two is against my code of ethics. So that leaves option three -- and with it comes two sub-options: complain or deal with it. And so I sit at my desk, looking out the window as the wind gently pushes the palm trees outside, imagining those palm trees were beachfront and that I was there, catching what could be the best waves of my life. But would they be the best waves of my life? Maybe. But they could also end up being big ugly close-outs that are next-to-impossible to drop in on.

I'll never know, and that's where the anxiety lies -- missing out on unknown potential. Fear of missing out is an epidemic running rampant these days, usually tied to social media. But surfers have been feeling this for decades, as the responsibilities of life often don't line up with nature's gifts. Even when we're on the water, you hear arguments because other surfers snake waves. Or maybe you get mad because you slipped on that last drop in and you swear it was going to be the best wave you've ever ridden.
Take delight, even on a crappy day -- fun is what it's all about, right?
Expectation and imagined potential are the enemies here. I can sit at my desk and picture perfect barrels over my head, when in reality it's probably as dumpy as the aftermath of my last Taco Bell visit. I can look at a wave and imagine myself hitting every corner, spraying beautiful ocean mist over all the applauding onlookers...but we all know that's not happening. I'm not one to preach realistic expectations in life, but avoiding regret in the water (and life) involves a healthy balance between optimism and reality.

The other key to fighting FOMO is being happy where you're at (aka - contentment). After all, if you're stuck dwelling on missed opportunities, you won't be living optimally in the moment. Yeah, I missed the peak part of the swell, but maybe I'll catch some nice waves on Saturday...and it might be huge, or it could be a bust. But as any surfer will tell you, "It's always nice to get out on the water," and that's enough.

 Everyone deals with this -- anybody have more tips for enjoying life when you can't make the swell?