Deciding to do what Makes Me Happy
While I always try to be my authentic self, there have been many times when this has become difficult. Whether my desire for a balanced life, decision to be sober, or even my preference for a night in versus a night out, I find myself questioning at times if I am “doing life right,” especially as a college student.
College has been amazing- My school has a gorgeous campus, my classes challenge me and inspire me, and I have made many incredible friends. I cannot imagine myself anywhere else. But there have been many times when I have felt like an outsider, even amongst my friends, mainly regarding the stereotypical college social life. My friends have never judged me for choosing not to drink, which is why they are my friends and why I love them dearly…But I will admit that I do occasionally feel a barrier between us because of my decision.
As expected, many of our gatherings are pre-games or casual wine nights. While I always have fun at dances or larger parties where there is a lot going on, these more intimate events that center around drinking have proven harder for me to enjoy. This isn’t because I have an issue with them drinking- I find it nice to see my friends relax and have fun knowing how hard they all work- but rather because I don’t find these events as a way for me to relax and unwind. For me, that sometimes comes with the dancing and high energy of crowded rooms and tons of smiling, energetic faces. Or other times it comes with a night in, going to bed early and reading a good book. And it always comes with a good workout followed by a delicious meal.
But even though I never end up enjoying these pre-games, I force myself to go because I don’t want to miss out! FOMO is so real for me in these moments! I feel like I will be less of the “group” if I am not with everyone when they hang out. So I’ll go, and I will usually end up feeling awkward and a bit unhappy, because I know I would rather be in bed sleeping than up late. And since my friends are all having a blast, my unhappy mindset usually sets me a part from them, which while I don’t know if they notice, I definitely do. I never feel fully like myself- I feel more insecure, like I don’t know what to do with myself or how to socialize. And then I end up feeling alone, like the only one not enjoying herself, even though my reason for going was to avoid this feeling in the first place.
For a while, I tried to feel the opposite- I willed myself to not be insecure, to enjoy and have fun no matter what the event was. I thought maybe I was just being stubborn and that I could change my mindset if I approached the situation with a different perspective. But, this didn’t work- I felt even less content during these nights, completely like I wasn’t myself anymore. I came to realize that my discontent stemmed from my own interests, and nothing to do with my friends’. All friends have differences, and sometimes these clash. No relationship is perfect. However, I don’t believe these clashes always equate to conflict. I think they only become problems if there are values or priorities being challenged. My values and priorities were in no way being challenged by my friends. They were inviting me to these events because they loved me and wanted me there. And even though I knew I wasn’t a fan of these events, I would go anyway. I started to think about the many amazing memories I had with my friends and where these memories were made: hikes, dinners, nights out in L.A., trips taken together… those were what made me happy. And realizing this, something clicked so suddenly in my brain and I realized I didn’t care about FOMO anymore. Why force myself to go to these parties that I never enjoyed if they would encroach on all these beautiful memories I had with my friends?
Since adopting this mindset, I have had no problem this semester saying no to nights out. Instead, I snuggle under my covers with a good book or TV show, falling asleep by 10:00 PM on a Saturday night- crazy, right? Or, I will go to the party for a while, and then leave when I find my energy dipping- I no longer force myself to sit through the entire night, waiting for more. I enjoy myself and leave still happy. In turn, my re-prioritization of social events has actually given me more time to spend with my friends in the way I love. Since I get a good night’s sleep and am less tired the following day, I am able to get more work done and then have more time during the week to socialize over dinners and what-not with my friends! Even more, my friends have noticed a profound change in me- they have told me I seem so much more natural and comfortable at parties now due to this mindset of being able to come and go whenever I want. I feel so much less pressure to be (and to enjoy being) the stereotypical image of a college student.
I may not live the conventional college life, but I am finally becoming okay with that. There is something satisfying in knowing that I am still growing into myself and learning how to establish my happiness. This continuous growth makes me believe that in the hardest times I will be able to cultivate my happiness, even if it takes time.
Do you ever find yourself doing something because of FOMO? How do you feel afterwards?