A city. What a concept.
A seemingly gargantuan slip of concentration from the big man upstairs who was probably too busy thinking up Thierry Henry on whichever day the Angel in charge of The Department for Development and Planning: Earth Division, came to him and suggested creating an environment populated by a different human per inch of ground. An environment where each being will come into it with the forcefulness of their own ideas and upbringing, matched only by their desire to 'make it', whatever that actually means.
A city promises you everything, without every truly revealing what it is you really want.
A city, and to be precise, this city, London, can at times be an utterly wonderful thing. Where else do you get such diversity of being and motions? At whatever stage of life you are at, this great land will provide space for you to flourish. South London will be there to welcome you in your unemployed and confused post-university haze. When you decide it's time to get artsy, stop trekking miles to buy your yams and saltfish, or finally write that script, and lay down the first bricks of your start-up, east London will open its tattooed arms and sit you down at the nearest coffee shop to get you started.
As soon as you realise your kids may not want to spend their lives playing in and around Whitechapel high street, a home seconds away from a freshly-mown north London park may seem tempting. And just in case you win the lottery, you can sail through your retirement years in west London, reliving your youth by buying your vintage vinyls on Portobello Road. Of course, each area will mean something different to every individual. The choices and variances of experience are endless.
And that's the thing about city life. It is an environment almost utterly and completely motivated by choice. Good choices, bad choices, noble choices, stupid choices, fun choices, life-defining choices, highly-illegal choices, semi-legal choices. Even choices that are seemingly no-brainers are made more difficult by the presence of another option screaming loudly for your attention. A city ultimately provides you with the opportunity to fill your days with whatever wonders your mind can come up with, and your wallet will permit.
But herein lies the true difficulty of a city for its daily inhabitants. On the surface of things, it appears too easy to experience all the experiences, to feel all the feels, to dance all the dances, drink all the drinks, to gig all the gigs - to generally consume until your heart's content. But what happens when you think your heart is fully content? You get a text from a friend, or another piece in a magazine comes along and suggests that you need a bigger heart, oh, and conveniently: here is a list of the TOP 25 PLACES IN LONDON TO GET ONE THIS BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND!!! There is no room for being content. The fear of missing out lives with us all like the fear that the guy breathing heavily on the night bus might come and sit next to you.
In many ways, the fear is completely understandable. We all want to feel like our lives are moving at unstoppable speed towards the great destination marked, The Dream. We all want to feel like everyday was on purpose. Like we're doing life right. On a simpler level, our desire to consume, and be entertained is normal. Our generation is constantly surrounded by passion and creativity, and what scientists call, dopeness.
It's also a fear that exists against all logic. Generation Y's willingness to allow a perfectly crafted Facebook album, an Instagram post, or an interns online list of must-do events to determine the way we assess whether we are doing life right, is almost as silly as our parents' generation deciding that cannabis, free love, and a music festival could lead to world peace. And there is a deeper issue associated with the fear. It consumes too many, and extends into people's personal and professional lives - all made worse in congested environments by being surrounded by so many other people's experiences, without knowing the full story behind them.
The choices, and the many guides dedicated to overwhelming you with all the potential for fun you can have in a city, give an unrealistic distortion of what most people's day-to-day lives are like - thus perpetuating the fear of missing out among all who worry and ask themselves why we haven't written that book, created that start-up, developed that app, or generally achieved all they could ever want to by their mid-20's.
So how do we eradicate the fear of missing out? Well we might need to come together on this one, friends. Maybe we could start by reducing the social crafting? Instead of posting pictures of your amazing work drinks, how about a picture of your boss with the hashtag:
No? Yeah, I'm not going to do that either.
Well, they say the first step of overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. So I'll go first. My name is Dipo, and I get unreasonably sad about missing out on festivals, gigs, and nights out, that I didn't really want to go to in the first place, because I have done it a hundred times, hence why I didn't go.
I feel better already.
This article originally appeared at www.smokeandtales.com