We personify jealousy as the green eyed monster. What beast is gnarly enough to personify an even darker emotion? I am haunted, plagued, tortured, by the beast that is: the fear of missing out. Fomo for short. The acronym slips off the tongue far too easily to portray just how devilish this emotion can be.
I used to be a non-surfer, so I know that anyone can suffer from fomo. Back in my pre-surf days, it reared it’s ugly head when I couldn’t attend a social event. Now, I won’t even commit to a social event 3 months in the future. The fomo manifests around potential swells, not yet conceived by the universe; chances are there won’t even be one. I don’t see how I could ever get married. Aside from the absence of potential suiters, were one to materialise, I could not confirm. What if a 6ft northerly marches towards our coast, groomed by a light offshore, detonating on the special day? I would have to cancel the wedding. Any man foolish enough to wish for my hand would have to accept this. To be honest, if it’s pushing 3ft and offshore, I’m out.
Perhaps our fomo is worse because of the fleeting nature of waves. Perhaps the complete emersion in the moment achieved when surfing, means we can’t simply be in the moment, when we’re missing out on that moment. Or, perhaps, we simply suffer from some surf induced crazy. Mad surfer disease.
Whatever the cause, I must find a way to keep this ugly monster at bay. The winter months at work were unbearable. As a result, I will soon be jobless, in a van, whatever glint of domestication did prevail will be forlorn. But how can I placate my raging fomo, when appeasing it is not an option?
I recently broke my nose. In the immediate aftermath, I continued to surf, taking special care to avoid facial bashing. Now, after an operation to fix it, I’m under strict instruction not to get my face wet. From that, I gathered it would be futile to ask the doctor his opinion on surfing. My stomach dropped. A swell was due to arrive the next day; I had planned on being well enough to surf it. But, given that my nose is perhaps even more fleeting than a swell (I don’t think they grow back?), I prepared myself for a torrent of violent fomo.
I threw myself into work on the van. Still there. I tried not to look at the forecasts. Still there. I looked at the forecasts. Still there. I tried to avoid messaging friends for updates. Still there. Friends replied to my messages, spinning yarns of how ‘it wasn’t all-time’. Still there. I started writing this story. Still there.
My insides crumbled as the swell hurtled towards its crescendo. I took a different tact. Having previously attempted and failed to ignore the oceans existence, I put myself in the eye of the storm. Risky business, exposing myself to third-degree fomo. I traipsed the coast, searching area’s I overlook when I can surf. On the hunt for new waves; trying to turn my fomo into something positive. The search is not overly fruitful, and a gravitational pull drags me closer and closer to the spot I know I should be surfing.
And here I find myself, watching clean, overhead sets unload onto the reef. 10 guys out, pulling into barrels. The rain subsides and the sun reveals itself for the first time in days, just in time to give the evening glass off an etherial feel. As each wave bowls up to the takeoff, the fomo ravages me. The abuse is physical and mental, with each stroke I become more tense. An energy builds inside me, brimming out, yet I have no way to relieve it. I just stand and watch. As I would in the water, I continually grant myself ‘one more wave’. Except this time, the process is altogether more torturous.
Finally, the sets begin to slow. The swell is dropping and I am over the worst. I have ridden this turbulent wave and emerged on the other side, the same person. The state is not eternal, though it is a worry. I cannot control it, but I also cannot control the factors which ignite it. Where does that leave me? I fear it’s return. I know it won’t be long.
Editors note: If you want to check out Emily's Instagram page for more, here is the way.