Thursday, July 28, 2016

Time and Chance, and FOMO

Can you believe this? Gina Trapani wrote this post when she was on the verge of hitting 40. I hit a milestone birthday a month ago, and wrote a post where I shared almost the exact sentiments as Gina, only she’s leading by a full decade. I can’t believe this now-or-never feeling of restlessness and urgency happened to some other person, an older person, in fact — to Gina, whom I have tons of admiration for. Will this always be us, humans or women, worrying at the end, middle or start of a new decade, wondering if we are on track or have more time? More time for what sef?

The post speaks volumes to me (you should read the full entry). Take the part about working in an industry with a youth fetish. I swear one of the things that struck me in the months before my birthday, was that I was on my way out of the “millennial” age bracket. Whose fault? Millennial suddenly became a buzzword in tech (like Big Data) and being one at my job and industry in general fetched you some level of attention. As I thought about my impending birthday, I got wistful knowing that I would soon be out of “the generation” — even though it secretly annoyed me when my teammates (most of whom my parents age, in their 50s — 60s) greeted me with “kiddo” at work. I also thought about how it was now too late to make a Forbes 30-under-30 nomination somewhere. Anyway, I quickly shut those head voices down, because none of these things made any real sense, and I tasked myself with reflecting and redefining what success and impact meant to me.

I had priorities too at 20, and I’m sure I worried about them, like I did at 25. I remember the panic attacks from 23, freaking out after college that I had not accomplished “much.” In reality, I had graduated from engineering school with honors, made my self and family proud, enjoyed the most amazing friendships, had a drive for myself and was building useful skills. Yet with the silly self-inflicted pressure, I felt like it was not “much.” It’s one thing to be restless and ambitious, but it’s easy to taint that energy and somehow manage to frustrate yourself. Happy to say those years turned out to be epic, which I can now see looking back.

The other part of Gina’s post that resonated with me was about being a woman and running out child bearing time. Ha! Even I had written a blog post about this one in the months before 30. 29 had me thinking about my family building timeline, and I found out while researching options of fertility preservation, that some companies offered their employees this benefit. Mind blowing, huh? Friends and research say that I’m clearly getting ahead of myself — worrying about this at 30. I probably do still have time, I just don’t think it’s early to expose my mind to the thought.

The running-out-of-time narrative is definitely not fiction. For me, 30 has finally come and it is my best year so far. Not just because it’s my most mature, duh, but it’s also been intentional. It’s come with epiphanies, connected dots, moments of awakening and gratitude, introspection, and the fulfillment of finding personal power. I am okay with the speed of the time of my life. I am okay with being an overachiever, but I also realize I am not Big Data. (My) life will not always be about Hadoop, my life is not (all about) my job title. I am not my resume, nor am I my accomplishments or the lack thereof. I am much more than that, and in fact, I am my life.

I feel like I have lived in my head for a long time, and 30 saw me evolve into Bold and Grounded. Stay on the ground, I remind myself. How? You take your life in sips. Everyday is a new sip, take your baby steps.

Count me in for healthy challenges. I’m always up for living my best life, I do my yearly reviews and hold myself accountable. But what I know for sure is that I’m done taunting and afflicting myself with career and personal FOMO, which is really a fear of “carrying last” in Nigeria speak. This thief, this fear of missing out, this incessant feeling of not being in the right place with your career, will make you consent to things and ideas and relationships that you really have no business with or genuine interest in. Not because they were bad per se, they’re just way off what you need or could give yourself to at the time. FOMO breeds indecision, and easily sets you up for … I wouldn’t call it failure, but more like waste. Yes, it wastes resources — yours and others involved, and gets you off track. It’s self-perpetuating, you’re never fully in or out, and you end up not making the best of any situation.

Don’t waste your journey. Enjoy the party that is your life.

Published first on Medium.

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