The joy of being alone

When I first moved to Toronto, I couldn’t get enough of the action. Whether it be visiting new restaurants and bars, going to concerts and sports games, or just spending an afternoon picnicking in the park, I wanted to experience it all. I felt like I had been missing out having spent too much time in the midwestern U.S. and now was my chance to finally live. Hustling hard in my first year of work, I found myself on a trip to Punta Cana with enough people to make up for the fact that the trip didn’t include a plus one. But throughout the trip I found myself retreating to my own chair under a palm tree, a spa treatment for one, and an early night in enjoying the hotel room amenities. To my surprise, I had found freedom in being on my own schedule, making decisions without having to consider someone else, and being completely in control of myself; my mood, my energy, etc. It’s as though the FOMO (fear of missing out) fog had lifted.

Whether applying it to your real life (aka the one you are living despite what social media portrays) or your relationship with technology (#worklife), the fear of missing out has become a challenge for many to overcome. We feel constant pressure to attend every event we’re invited to while updating our Instastories to confirm it actually happened. Search the blogosphere and you’ll find amateur to professional advice on how to conduct a digital detox. From deleting time-zapping apps to managing email expectations, we could all benefit from unplugging once in awhile. But is FOMO resulting from our need to be connected and up to date with work as well as the latest celebrity gossip? Or does it result from watching our friends’ curated lives go by on various social media streams leaving us second-guessing our life choices?

The good news is there’s a new kid on the block who promises to promote well-being and a healthier life. FOMO’s more informed and more mature cousin JOMO (joy of missing out) is getting all the attention these days. The idea is that by disconnecting and being okay with where we are and what we are doing in the present moment, we can be more productive in our lives both on and offline. And this isn’t just a term millennials are throwing around; corporations are also assuming the acronym to help promote better work-life balance (though it sounds like a oxymoron to me, but more on that later). But how do you commit to truly being disconnected? There are very few places you can go these days that don’t offer wifi. How do you eliminate that nagging curiosity of what’s in your inbox, how many likes you have on a post or whether or not your favourite sports team came out with a win? To me, there’s one simple solution: embrace the art of not giving a f*. Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing, focus on what’s important to you. After all, it’s your experiences that make up your life’s wealth, not someone else’s.

By focusing on your own priorities, it makes it easier to choose when to say yes and when to say no to events, parties, dinners, etc. Your time is a precious gift; not something to be taken for granted or used thoughtlessly. In order to make the most of time with friends and family, it’s important to take some time for yourself. For a long time I underestimated the value of being alone; it always sounded pathetic and tragic. But I’ve learned that when I’m alone I’m often at my best - I can be my most open and vulnerable self which leads me to be my most creative, mindful and successful self. It’s allowed me to have a deeper understanding of who I am and what I need to refuel and recharge. It keeps me grounded and able to easily dismiss the FOMO and the JOMO. For me, I make time for my own acronym JOBA: joy of being alone.

Do you think I’m on to something? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!