Making Zero Plans This Summer Taught Me Some Important Lessons About JOMO

Photo: Getty Images/Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury
At a time when most people were figuring out how to make the most of their 99 days of summer, I set a different intention. After feeling a bad case of burnout coming on, I decided to sit the summer out. Because, IMHO, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day feels more-and-more like an extended New Year's Eve, where plans must be made and fun must be had. I was over it.

Mid-way through my experiment, a term was coined—JOMO or "the joy of missing out"—which pretty much sums up what I was going for. My goal was to do nothing or as close to nothing as one could do with a full-time job at a women's lifestyle website. Now that summer has come and gone, I have a bit of distance and can reflect on what the experience taught me. Here, my biggest takeaways from a summer spent celebrating myself.

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Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

1. The real thing we should fear missing out on is getting to know ourselves

Super-packed calendars keep the mind occupied and allow us to avoid confrontation—with ourselves. At other times when I've felt exhausted or overwhelmed, I've thrown myself into social functions. My hope was that by putting an emphasis on the "fun," I'd forget how I was feeling.

Doing so didn't solve my problems—it just delayed my dealing with them. By eliminating outside distractions, I forced myself to face my own fears and gave myself the mental space to solve them.

2. Stepping back from friendships doesn't end friendships

When I decided to take a social sabbatical, I worried about how my friends would react more than what I'd miss over the months ahead. I realized though that honest communication was the key to preventing hurt feelings. Rather than ghosting them or declining their invites, I talked to each one of my friends and told them my plan. By doing so, I had a chance to remove any doubts that this was somehow about them. It wasn't. It was about me. It also helped me set boundaries I was better able to enforce as the summer wore on and my willpower was tested by well-meaning friends hoping to coax me out of my hermitage with invites to barbecues and beach hangs. (Bless.)

I didn't feel guilty about not responding to text messages as quickly as I normally would or opting out of group emails, entirely. Sure, I missed making some new memories with my nearest and dearest for a few weeks. But I gained the time I needed to recharge. In doing so, I became better able to be a good friend to both them and myself.

3. Sometimes being selfish in the name of self-care is essential

I consider myself to be a generous person, but I'd come to realize that the one person I wasn't giving enough to was myself. By not allowing myself to use all of my nurturing energy on others, I was able to invest more in my own healing. In turn, this has made me better able to take care of the people in my life. That, to me, is why self-care is essential and not indulgent. Like Ru Paul says: "If you don't love yourself, how the hell are you supposed to love anybody else?" To which I say, "Preach!"

It's now officially fall and my summer of JOMO is officially over. But if I'm being honest, I wasn't ready for my social sabbatical to end. And I'm certain, that if I'd extended it a little longer, I'd have learned even more. But even though I totally believe staying in is the new going out. I also believe this: You can have too much of a good thing, which is why I'm back to seeing my friends on the reg.

If you want to make this the fall of JOMO, start with a few seasonal self-care rituals like a ginger bath and a night in making this 4-ingredient pumpkin fudge

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