When I was sixteen and preparing to leave my Minnesota hometown to spend eight weeks in Japan, I remember trying to squeeze a whole summer’s worth of activities into a couple of weeks — seeing movies like the newly released Top Gun, visiting nearby lakes where we waterskiied across their still-cool waters, making late-night French-fry runs — all the while hoping that by making memories then I’d have a social life to slip back into later, when I returned from Japan at the end of the summer.
FOMO — fear of missing out — is nothing new.
At the time, I was so caught up in my regular life that I could hardly look ahead to where I was going and certainly had no idea that a page was turning. A whole new world of sights, sounds, flavors and attitudes was about to open to me. I would encounter people and situations that would change the course of my life and leave impressions on me that were so strong that I would adopt new hobbies (like the koto), develop new favorite colors (like vermilion and celadon) and, later, spend years of my life writing about them.
How easy it would have been to opt out, to give in to FOMO and spend the summer before my senior year of high school “lying around” — what I so astutely told a reporter for our local paper that I would miss while away. (Did I really say that? Oh, grasshopper.)
Instead, I got on the plane and went to Japan, met a new family and cadre of friends and learned to embrace what must be the opposite of FOMO: trust. Trust that my friends were my friends, even if I disappeared for a while. Trust that we each have our own path, and that path we must follow.
FOMO follow-up: I still get together with some of those same Minnesota friends every summer. And all these years later, I consider the host family I lived with in Japan my second family.
So even as I worried about the events I would miss in Minnesota that summer I went to Japan the first time, I was, at age sixteen, also somewhat prescient. I told the reporter, “I think that can wait for another summer.”
Experiences from that first summer in Japan kick off my recently released memoir, The Same Moon, which was released June 18, 2020, by Camphor Press. Before I went, I never imagined Japan would become my “happy place” — the place I would return to in my early twenties, when life went sideways.