Louise Bruton is embracing the Joy of Missing Out. And she wants you to join her.
Picture yourself on a Saturday night, possibly in the depths of October, lying on your couch and surrounded by a self-made fort of blankets, pillows, pizza boxes and an array of sweets, biscuits and remote controls. You’re alone, except for the quips of Detective Jake Peralta and Captain Raymond Holt as you binge on Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix. It’s not even 8pm and you’re in your PJs, the ones that your mam gave you for Christmas last year. You scroll through Instagram and see that all of your friends are updating their Insta Stories as they tuck into pre-drinks in a friend’s apartment. You’re delighted that you’re not there because this night is for you and only you. You’re experiencing JOMO – the joy of missing out – and sweet Jesus does it feel good.
As we’ve seen happen so often across the plains of Serengeti, when a gazelle calf strays from the herd, it becomes prime target for the roaming lion. When this young and inquisitive gazelle was probably just taking a break from its nagging mother, David Attenborough softly narrates her demise. In the herd she is protected, safe, surrounded by the familiar and possibly indistinguishable from the older, more haggard gazelles that fill up the numbers. But when this gazelle strays off, she is vulnerable and eventually becomes a light snack for the lion.
That’s how some people still view lone time, like they’re some sort of quivering gazelle who’s staring down the drooling and toothy mouth of a ravenous lion, forgetting that there’s a great difference in choosing to be alone and being lonely. When you choose to be alone, you allow yourself to gather your thoughts and recharge your batteries, which can be incredibly difficult to do if you are constantly surrounded by the chatter of the braying herd. Some gazelles just need to break free and it doesn’t always mean that they become someone else’s supper.
Before I go any further, I must declare the great irony I’m practicing in writing about JOMO while figuring out a way to make it from Dublin Airport this Sunday (after seeing Miss Britney Spears at Brighton Pride) to the All Together Now festival happening in Waterford, because while I’m a gazelle sometimes, I’m also a sheep. Baa. During these 72 hours of madness, the only respite I’ll have from the crowds will be in the baking hot portaloos that come with a queue of tipsy people whose bladders are a ticking time bomb. Their persistent knocks on the door are a warning to not get too comfortable, even though the sheer design of portaloos is to evade all comfort. So while I will be up to my ears in people and noise and chatter and FUN and dancing and Britney and drinking and in-jokes and weird tensions that develop when friends live in each other’s pockets for an hour longer than they should have, I’m just clocking up bonus JOMO points for when I get home… alone.
Loneliness ain’t killing me no more
So I’m here to plead a case for lone time. I want your opinion of lone time to turn right around, sure, didn’t Britney Spears herself evolve from singing “my loneliness is killing me” on …Baby One More Time to just dismiss that frame of mind entirely on Stronger. “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more,” she declares, stronger than yesterday and, indeed, all of the days that came before because in choosing lone time, you are choosing you above everyone else.
When you switch off and hang out with yourself, your body’s natural hum returns to its own setting. It’s not trying to fit in with everybody else or even keep up with them. Opting out of socialising shouldn’t feel like a shameful thing – it should be considered more of a necessity than a treat. If your job demands a lot of you during the week, blowing off steam by going ‘out out’ can sometimes be a counterproductive move, with the hangover feeding off your downtime like a parasite. Come Monday, you’ll have repeated the same Saturday night you’ve been nailing since your early 20s but you’ll feel a little bit weary and then fearful of that towering block of laundry you didn’t give a second look to. You see, with lone time comes personal admin time. You do the boring but utterly essential things that piece your outer shell together.
And if you’re not a Monday to Friday workin’ gal or guy, lone time can be found in the muggy afternoon of a Tuesday, when you can just sit back and watch the world go by. You can take a walk with no destination in mind and just let different ideas float around your brain until something clicks, whether that something is love woes, what you actually want for dinner or how to stagger out your workload so you’re not burning the wick at both ends.
I may sound like your mam, your kind mam who still buys you PJs for Christmas, but to declutter your head sometimes, all you have to do is take a break from everything. Look inwards and you’ll find that the answer that was there all along. Or, you know, you don’t have to think at all. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to and that’s the sheer beauty of JOMO. There are no expectations, no pressures, no schedules and nobody waiting on your answer to develop a plan.
Lone time comes in many shapes and forms and it’s something that shouldn’t be feared. In amongst the herd, you are one brave gazelle that refuses to become the lion’s dinner. And when you’re not working yourself up to ninety figuring out how to have the best time that you can possibly have with all of your friends (i.e. getting from one festival in the UK to another in Ireland with nothing but a wish in your heart that’s so pure), JOMO is the only company you need.