Over the years, I've oft referred to myself as an education addict. Nary a semester passes when I don't think of going back to school. Maybe the fact that I still measure my days in semesters at nearly 40 is also a clue that there might be a problem?
But like clockwork, every August and January I find myself looking for programs to start. Summer even begs to be filled with continuing education; this very afternoon a long car ride found me looking up summer programs at a local community college. Composting? Photography? Metal work? Why, sure!
It doesn't end with formal classes: home improvement, blogging challenges, self-help books, and my personal Achille's Heel, the (act within the next 24 hours to get it for only $199!!!) lifestyle improvement online course. I'm a sucker for good marketing and the promise of the new and improved. I intentionally do not have a Pinterest account because I'm convinced it's the gateway drug to producing very little of value, ignoring my family, and KonMari'ing the shit out of a mental institution.
In 2016, my New Year's Resolution was to give the finger to FOMO - fear of missing out - when it came to online courses. I made a vow to wrap up loose ties and actually finish the programs I was in and, here's the kicker, not to start any other online courses for an entire year.
I did pretty well - I only broke my vow four times.* (I'm not an addict. Maybe that's a lie.)
The first was in February - I fell prey to a $99 communication short-course. In a sick twist of fate, the course was cancelled and I never did follow-through to get a refund. I figured it was what I deserved for breaking my vow. Fate and all that.
The second time I fell off the wagon was in March - an online course for developing a Red Tent/Pink Tent program. There I was, just innocently thinking of how amazing it would be to plan and host women's gatherings, and the next thing I know I had the business plan all in my head, purchased a new domain, and logged into the forum. I logged in a couple of times, then got sidetracked by life and... yesterday I discovered the domain auto-renewed for another year. (Has a year passed already? Damn.)
The third time was over the summer: a gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free 30 day challenge. I convinced myself this one was different from the rest, after all, my friend was leading it. I should support her, right? I did actually finish this one, and through the process learned that my body really does do better without the trifecta of culinary goodness. (Thanks, Candace!)
The fourth was a Coursera class on agile development. I learned a ton and loved every minute of it, but about halfway through realized my need to buckle down and finish my certification program in theology... with the looming threat of not walking with my class in May!
Trust me when I say that for every program I said no to, there were five others I wanted to sign up for, and didn't. So four* in a year feels like a success.
What was fascinating, though, was the focus this exercise brought to other areas in life where FOMO was at play, too. Extracurricular activities for my kids, family vacations, marriage retreats, and don't even get me started on Christmas. How great would it be if I could have the kids in dance and karate and 4H and Scouts and violin and soccer? Spent every day off at the lake and breaks in exotic locales? Asked the Genii Grandma for a weekend of babysitting a month so Matt and I could go away together?
This week was Spring Break. I took a week off from work and I intended to fill the days with fishing, bowling, hikes, swimming, mini-golf, go-karts, day trips to Chicago and to St. Louis, memorable events. Events that would make this Spring Break THE Spring Break my kids would remember for years to come. As luck would have it, I was recovering from bronchitis, little J came down with the flu, and Matt's doctor didn't think it was a great idea to go hiking in New Mexico, so we all stayed home.
My week - the first full week I've taken off work since 2012 - was largely spent adulting and catching up on much needed sleep and self-care. Talk about FOMO. With every passing day I heard the siren calls of cruises and water parks and Geneen Roth conferences.
As I was driving home from the dentist on Thursday, a memory flashed into my head of the best Christmas I ever had as a kid. My mom and dad had indulged us in too many presents (per usual). Then when all the present opening was through, one of them directed my brother and I to the porch, where there were two scooters waiting for us. After a fair bit of jumping and squealing, the variety 9 year-old-girls specialize in, my parents took us on a long walk so we could ride our scooters.
When I look back on that Christmas now, what I remember most isn't the joy of having the scooter itself (though mine had an ice cream cone on the footboard and was pretty bad ass), but the glorious memory of wind in my hair, looking back to see my brother close behind, and mom and dad holding hands walking behind us.
It's the only memory I have of my parents holding hands.
They divorced soon after.
I'm pretty sure when my mom and dad planned spring breaks and charged Christmas gifts against their better judgment that FOMO - fear of my brother and I missing out - was a hefty part of the motivation. Yet what I remember now isn't the stuff or the trips, it's being together. What a great reminder that FOMO is a terrible motivator, whether for life change or for parenting.
I'll probably always have a penchant for self-improvement. Attaining a PhD is still on my Bucket List**. I'm attending a leadership conference in April that is the stuff dreams are made of - and for free due to a scholarship from Salesforce.org!
However, I've decided to continue to steer clear from online courses that require little personal interaction, yet promise me fulfillment for three easy payments. So, too, will I steer clear from the river cruise on the Mississippi and the Spy Museum that seductively vie for my time tomorrow, my last official day of Spring Break.
There will be time.
For now, I have two kids who would rather stay at home and play nerdy math games with the non-new-and-improved me.
F You FOMO.
*That I can recall. Although I just thought of another one typing that last sentence.
**The opportunity might not be too far off. I discovered the tell-tale sign of water damage this afternoon when I retrieved my diploma from safe keeping to frame it. That's a reason to go back to school if I've ever heard of one.