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Lauren Taylor Shute Headshot

A Prescription for the Fear of Missing Out

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When I first moved away from home to New York, I received one of the best pieces of advice: Never say no to a social event.

It was advice I took to heart; my first summer here, I went to 12 concerts, three music festivals, millions of happy hours and networking events, four beach trips, two food festivals, and one camping trip. I had plans every single day. I made friends with anyone and everyone, and I dated a lot too. I met incredible people and saw amazing things.

I was exhausted.

The idea behind this advice is a good one; eventually you'll establish a set group of friends that you can say no to, because your friendship isn't based on convenience. I have established fantastic friends, people who know me inside and out, with whom I often spend entire weekends. We all have invested an inexorable amount of time into these relationships. Yet I still can't seem to find a way to say "no" when they invite me to events.

It wasn't until I was stranded in my apartment during Hurricane Sandy that I realized how much I needed time to myself. My roommate and I were lucky enough to make it through the storm unscathed -- we never even lost electricity -- but we were marooned in our neighborhood just outside of Manhattan until the subways were up and running a week later. We were given seven days with which to do whatever we wanted. We had nowhere to be, no one to call, nothing to feel guilty about. Wild, free, untethered to social obligations, we reveled in our pajama'd state. It was absolute heaven.

To give our deserted island some structure, we set up a schedule similar to that of a work day. We made lists of things we had procrastinated in our everyday lives, and we completed those projects from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We backed up our computers, read backlogged magazines, painted with those kits we bought on a whim from Michaels, researched how to get paid to travel through Great Escape Publishing, and made jello shots in the pots that weren't filled with drinking water in case of emergency. We cleaned every inch of our apartment, repotted our plants, updated our blogs. At 5 p.m. on the dot, we popped a bottle of wine and worked our way through the eight Harry Potter movies. We were so good at life, we didn't know what to do with ourselves by the fourth day, so we invited everyone we knew in Astoria over for an impromptu Halloween/jello shot party, and to local bars after. As we made our way outside for the first time in four days, we looked around at the outside world like mole people on a joyride, and it all seemed new and sparkly compared to the familiar walls of our apartment.

The problems started when I had to interact with strangers at the bar on Halloween. I had only hung out with my roommate for four days straight, but I'd been perfectly adept at talking to people before then, so this whole conversation thing shouldn't be an issue. Really, there was something wrong with them. It's not my fault they didn't understand our inside jokes or my need to crawl around on the floor periodically. When I claw at the wall, don't they know it's supposed to be funny? Honestly. Get a sense of humor.

My roommate and I retreated back to our sanctuary after that frightening night, vowing not to venture back into the outside world until we were absolutely forced to. Those other people didn't get our jokes, they were unfamiliar, they were scary.

By the end of that long week, the subway was repaired for the most part, and we were forced to interact with people again. It took a very long time to resocialize; I felt like I had suddenly traveled to a country where people had weird social norms where it wasn't acceptable to wear yoga pants all day. Eventually I did make my way back to normal, but my roommate and I still hold that week as the ideal way to live. Once a month, we insist on hurricane days where we have to stay in and do all the things we don't otherwise have time for. I now understand that, even though it's incredibly dorky, sometimes it's okay to say no to brunch so that you can stay in, close the curtains, and pretend the world doesn't exist while you scrapbook. Because sometimes, those hermit days are the times that keep you sane when the world outside is crazy and filled with uncertainties. Sometimes the world is too overwhelming, and people have too many demands. Every now and then, it's okay to say no to the world, and yes to Harry Potter with your roommate. The world can wait.

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