AFD in NYC Episode 2: Don’t Listen to FOMO

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I’ve been opening the airbnb app a few times a month since I reserved this little apartment for myself in New York City. I think I just keep checking to make sure it is real- to be sure it is still there, still reserved for me. The top left corner of the reservation has a countdown to when it begins. “In 5 months.” “In 3 months.” “In 4 days.”

That’s what it says today. In four days. Wow.

In case you missed the first episode of AFD in NYC, it’s linked in the show notes below, and is worth the listen because I lay out a lot of the foundation of this series and this season. But the summary is I’m moving to New York City for two months. October and November. I’ll leave Nashville on Friday (ACK ON FRIDAY) and then I will come back to Nashville after Thanksgiving.

I was able to answer a bunch of your questions on instagram this week- you can go look up the AFD in NYC highlight. So today isn’t really about those details. Today is about leaving home and how loud FOMO can get.

My hope and plan for these essay episodes is to have journal entries of sorts, an out-loud collection of reflections on these two months. And today, all I’m thinking about is what I’m leaving for two months, not necessarily where I’m going.

What do you do when you don’t want to do the thing you want to do?

I knew when I made these plans in January that I would get HERE… here to the place where the FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) feels like too much. Where special opportunities and special people in Nashville make me question all over again if this is the right time and the right thing to do. Makes me look at that airbnb reservation and see what the cancellation policy is. Makes me wonder if this is just a bad idea at a good time, or a good idea at a bad time, and either way should I just forget the whole thing?

FOMO is historically a powerful force in my life.

I’ve almost backed out of this New York adventure a bunch. Of course I have. We all do that I think, right? I hope we all do. I hope I’m not the only one who faces the voices of fear and wants to give in to them sometimes. I hope I’m not the only one that thinks being brave is hard. I have thought of every single reason that I should stay home. Every single person and friendship and opportunity. Every road block or invitation or complication makes my head spin with “are you SURE this is the right thing?”

Honestly, no. I’m not. Who can be sure of such a thing as that? 

And, this is a bigger and longer conversation, but I just don’t think every door God opens, He needs to also audibly tell me to walk through it. Sometimes the opportunity, the open door, is the yes. So no, I can’t be SURE this is the RIGHT thing, but I know it’s a good thing. And I know it is what I want to do, even when it feels scary and a little sad and a bit like loss.

What do you do when you don’t want to do the thing you want to do?

I had dinner with some of my best friends last night, the family I always walk around with on Halloween. We were sitting on the couch together, me and the middle daughter, and she suddenly realized it. “Wait, you won’t be here for Halloween? You’re ALWAYS here for Halloween, Crazy Annie. You ALWAYS walk with me and my friend.” 

I do. I always do that.

So I will feel FOMO on October 31st. Because I am missing out.

Let me take a second to define FOMO- Fear Of Missing Out. It’s that feeling that wherever you are isn’t the best place to be- that there is somewhere else, possibly with someone else, that would be a better YES than the YES you are saying right now. So it’s hard to make the choice you need to make for fear of, yes, missing out. It can be something currently happening or something you know you are missing or, as is in my case, the imagined fun you may possibly miss out on… but there is no science to prove the FOMO is founded.

As for Halloween though, I know what I’m missing. In fact, I predicted I would feel something on that day. 

The rest of this FOMO I have been experiencing the last few days I didn’t predict so clearly, but I knew it lived in me.

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My junior year of college, spring semester, is when my classmates and I had the opportunity to student teach in Italy. I thought it sounded like the actual most exciting opportunity I could ever have. But as it got closer, when we had to start making deposits and making plans, I withdrew my application. I didn’t want to miss out on hanging with my friends at that University of Georgia that semester. I knew exactly why I decided not to go to Italy. FOMO.

20 years later, do I know how I spent my time, what I did, that spring semester in Athens, Georgia?

No, no I do not. I could not tell you a single unique memory from that particular semester.

Had I lived and taught school in ITALY those months, would I possibly have a few memories of it? 


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Ten years later, in 2011, I got a phone call and an invitation to move to Edinburgh, Scotland to help start a college ministry. Before I agreed to move there, I wanted to go for a month, in the winter. Before 2011, I had always been to Scotland in the summer with a ton of my American friends. I wanted to make sure that I actually felt called to move there and be a part of the church plant, not just that I loved going to Scotland with other Americans. 

As I started making plans, booking my flights, telling my people, the FOMO began to whisper. If I leave Nashville, what happens? What happens to my friendships? What happens to my work life? What happens if I leave home for a month?

But I went. Because I remembered what happened when I was at Georgia. I remembered, how I carried for years, and maybe still do a little, a smidge of regret that I turned down such an amazing chance to live in ACTUAL ITALY. I remembered how FOMO had been the loudest voice to drive my decision-making, and this time, I was unwilling to feel that regret of listening to FOMO again. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I knew the feeling of FOMO regret, and I didn’t want to do that again. 

So I went.

And in general, absolutely nothing in my Nashville life changed that month. I still chatted with my friends a lot and I still watched my church online and I still had a life in Nashville. There was one day, I woke up early in Scotland, my friends were still out the night before (time change stuff- morning for me, midnight for them), and they were at a party where Mumford and Sons were just casually doing a house show. MUMFORD AND SONS DOING A HOUSE SHOW IN NASHVILLE. My very favorite band playing in the basement of a house less than a mile from my Nashville house. Okay fair, my FOMO proved true that day. One day out of thirty, I missed something that was once in a lifetime. 

Later that year, I moved to Edinburgh for 6 months. It absolutely changed my life, gave me friends that I treasure, afforded me experiences with God and the world that I would not have had any other way. And now, a decade later, most of my Nashville friends don’t even remember that I was even gone for 6 months. It didn’t define my relationship with Nashville, but it changed my life. 

That math really works in the favor of courage

And that math defeats FOMO.

That math said I should have gone to Italy.
That math moved me to Scotland. An absolute dream come true.

And that math still speaks to me today- go to New York. 

So what do you do when you don’t want to do the thing you want to do?

You do it. 

You go to New York.

Yes, there will be days when I’ll see him post a beautiful picture of the changing leaves and I’ll wish I was there. There will be days when I see them sharing a pizza and I’ll wonder if I’m going to be left out of that particular conversation or if someone will, at some point, catch me up. She will sit through chemo and I’ll wish I was there. Friends will go to concerts. I’ll be sad to not be singing along with them. Nashville SC will, somehow, play on without me. Pastor Kevin will preach a sermon I wish I heard in person. My co-workers will have inside jokes and moments around the office that I won’t be a part of. My best friends will make dinner reservations and not have a seat for me. Relationships will start and end. Babies will be born. 

And miniBFFs will walk the neighborhood streets filling their bags with candy and they’ll miss me for a split second and then forget. But I’ll miss them all evening.

I can, in some ways, measure what I’m losing.

That is the nature of FOMO. There’s a little truth to it.

I cannot, though, measure what I’m gaining.

In my personal experience, that is impossible to measure at the onset.

That is only something I will know in time, in reflection, long after I’m home from this wandering to the big city. 

I cannot measure what God has in store for me, I cannot measure the creativity that will blossom again or the curiosity that will bubble up in me. I cannot measure the healing I will encounter with some space to walk and think and feel. I cannot measure how much fun I’ll have living in the same city as some of my best friends.

I cannot measure the beautiful ways that New York will impact my relationships, my leadership, my pastoring, my health, my walk with God.

But I know it will.

No pressure, New York City, but I think you’re going to heal me.

What do you do when you don’t want to do the thing you want to do?

Do it.

Trust God.

Go to New York.

Don’t listen to FOMO.

Fear is a liar.

Let’s all be brave.

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NYTimes bestselling Christian author, speaker, and host of the That Sounds Fun Podcast, Annie F. Downs shares with you some of her favorite things: new books, faith conversations, entertainers not to miss, and interviews with friends.

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