From YOLO to FOMO in our Nation’s Capital

July 17, 2012Machon Kaplan

YOLO- You Only Live Once- has rapidly grown into a trendy motto that encourages daring and reckless behavior amongst today’s youth. When I flew across the country to Washington, D.C. this summer, I committed the impulsive and spontaneous concept of YOLO to my mind. By the end of my second afternoon in the district, the voice in my head was exploding with that urgent sense of haste: I hadn’t seen any museums, monuments, or Presidents, and I had already been here two whole days!

With this in mind, I took off for an evening run to the monuments with many of my fellow Machon Kaplan participants (and soon-to-be close friends) and so began the whirlwind rush of sightseeing, exploring, and cramming in as much of the city as we possibly could. Knowing how quickly six weeks would fly by, I felt a pressing need to soak up and photograph every historic and political point of interest, to seek out the nightlife, the landmarks, and the sights. ‘Only living once’ proved a highly motivating influence that shaped my decisions during the first several weeks of the summer. However, as time progressed and I became more deeply absorbed in class, more active and vital in my internship, and more acquainted with this city and all it has to offer, I created and established a lifestyle for myself. At some point towards the middle of the program, that sense of touristy novelty began to lose its flavor, and it no longer felt like I had to overload on crazy new adventures in order to appreciate D.C. As I adjusted to living, working, and learning in our nation’s capital, I had also created my own new lifestyle mantra: FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out. While YOLO is the "caution to the winds" approach to tackling a new city (and for me, a new coast), FOMO concerns itself with the nostalgia of missing out on real moments. FOMO reflects the fear of missing opportunities of knowledge - the regret of valuable life and learning experiences that might pass you by. It is the fear of missing out on potential connections for future advancement and for real-world understanding. As my summer in D.C. comes to a close, FOMO sets deeper and deeper into my outlook on life. The original qualifications I had used to consider activities worthy of attending (“will this be fun?" and "will this look cool on Facebook?") were steadily replaced by constructive thoughts like: "How can this be a networking opportunity?" and "How much can I learn from (insert conference, summit, political hearing, or other occasion here)?" The six weeks I have spent as a Machon Kaplan participant have been the catalyst that has allowed me to mature and has taken my summer from YOLO to FOMO. In the beginning, my D.C. experiences were characterized by their external value as bragging points. I judged my moments by the way they would come off to my friends and family at home, by the stories they would allow me to tell, and by their once-in-a-lifetime characteristics. However, now I see that the relationships I was making, the connections I was forming, and the things about myself I was discovering along the way were what made this summer so epic. Washington, D.C. became a stimulus of genuine discussion and deeper conversations about history, politics, and Judaism; what I learned and who I had learned it with became far more important than the resulting story and pictures I hoped to bring home. Now, in the final week of the program, what I really fear is missing these people, these conversations, and most importantly, these thought-provoking moments of self-learning and self-discovering. Lindsay Stein is a participant in the Machon Kaplan Summer Social Action Internship Program. She is interning at the Jews United for Justice.

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