The magic of missing out
The problem with time alone is that many of us only experience it by default when we have exhausted all other options. As a result, we regard solitude as a pitiable state. “Poor man has no one to spend the holiday with” or “she lives all alone in that great big house.” We exhaust ourselves with obligations in an attempt to avoid this fate and then wonder why we hate being alone inside our minds. Perhaps we have neglected to consider the magic of missing out.
I remember it clearly. Standing in my bedroom window, I could see the fireworks cresting in the sky above my neighbor’s roofline. One by one, popping and crackling and painting the night with color, leaving behind a smoky haze. I watched maybe two or three and then turned away from the window, drew the curtains, and smiled. “This is someone else’s special.”
I had spent the previous day out of state, unlocking unexplored maps in my mind. I savored a peach iced tea, found a zoo, and hiked to a waterfall, all the while leaving love notes in my wake. It was a truly extraordinary day — the kind of day that leaves you with tan lines and tired legs, memories and leftover pizza.
Returning home, my phone buzzed with opportunities to partake in 4th of July celebrations. My reactive brain, conditioned by the world around me, immediately wanted to commit. But something in me paused. I just had the best day. Now, I need some space to let it soak in, to commit all of this goodness to memory. I don’t want to rush to the next big thing; I want to be still for a moment longer.
So I said no to everyone — to everyone but myself.
It’s not deprivation or self-sabotage or even selfishness. It’s selecting which parts of my life I am safe to miss. And we must all choose to miss something. I recommend that you choose never to miss the small things and silent moments that remind you of who you are. If you miss out on these things, you stand to risk losing your identity completely. Your sanity, I fear, is never far behind.
Frankly, I think it is critical to have an activity that you do simply for yourself. Maybe it’s golf or riding horses or playing the banjo or tying knots. But, let it be something that brings you joy with no objectives or performance metrics or pressure to exhibit your skills unless you so choose. Even then, be sure to keep it sacred. Close the comments; ignore the feedback. This one is just for you.
And because it’s for you and you value yourself, it’s necessary that you don’t miss out on that time. It’s an important commitment. Other people can wait. We must all choose areas of absence so we can be fully present where we want and need to be. Take that permission seriously.
So, on that day, I read and had ice cream and walked and took a long bath and photographed flowers for no other reason than the sake of my joy. The filling of my cup. I had my day away and now I have a day of stillness and the rest of the world can do as they please. We shall meet each other again soon, reinvigorated by exploring what felt right for each of us in the moment. At that time, we’ll both have something meaningful to offer the other.
There is liberation in missing out. It’s letting the world exist without your influence and knowing that it’s actually doing just fine. More than that, it’s honoring your personal world and knowing that you must tend to yourself to be effective anywhere else. When you honor yourself, you give others the space to explore and honor themselves. In doing that, we all become better, brighter, and more positively connected. The beautiful, ironic truth is that being away can actually draw our hearts nearer to each other and to what matters most.
The magic of missing out is that you’re not really missing out at all.