Between the Rows: The Fear of Missing Out

Don’t let it rob you of your simple, everyday joys.

Published online: May 29, 2020 Below the Surface
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This column appears in the June 2020 issue of Potato Grower.

Summer is really just getting started, but it’s a different start to the season than most of us can probably recall. No one can be sure where things will stand when this magazine hits your mailbox, but it’s probably safe to assume that several rites of passage to summer will have been completely abandoned.

Daddies in 2020 haven’t had the privilege of forking over four good pickup tires’ worth of cash for a fancy prom dress—a price one would think would pay for considerably more fabric.

Supportive community members have had to forgo the opportunity to listen to a minimally prepared speech at a high school graduation and wonder, “How was this kid the valedictorian?”

White Sox and Phillies and Pirates and Mariners fans haven’t (yet, anyway) been able to settle into the comfortable, familiar armchair of a mediocre season after a get-your-hopes-up hot start.

A national TV audience has been deprived of the chance to see a bunch of allegedly successful, polished individuals dress up in power suits, stand on a fancy stage, play out their own rendition of Mean Girls, and pass it off as a debate.

I don’t mean to make light of the global or personal impacts COVID-19 has foisted upon us. A lot of people have gotten sick, a lot of people have died, and a whole lot of people are suddenly struggling to make ends meet. We’re probably still a long way from finding out what it all means for all the big-picture stuff.

Even with that knowledge and appreciation of the mountain we have yet to climb, seemingly trivial things we’ve always taken for granted now seem like a pretty big deal. Every parent of a high school girl subconsciously longs to gleefully embarrass their baby by forcing her to pose for an awkward picture on the front porch with a nervous, rented-tux-clad Peter Parker type. Every Peter Parker type knows he may not be Spider-Man, but he might have a chance of donning the superhero costume that is the undeniably goofy graduation cap and gown, and addressing his peers one last time before venturing off into the big world. And even if your team has no real hope at the playoffs—much less the pennant—there’s a real joy in commiserating with your fellow fans about how “If only we had a decent bullpen…and a single competent infielder…and an owner who wasn’t so cheap…then we’d have a real shot at something.”

But I suspect that once everything gets back to normal, more than a few of us will pine for the good old days of mandated social distancing. With regular school, so-called “non-essential” work gatherings, and a zillion events being called off over the last couple months, hasn’t it been nice to have the family together at home more? Hasn’t it been a blessing to have the kids around every day to run planters, finally get that headgate rebuilt, and just talk? Haven’t you enjoyed getting a hot dinner every night without having to stress about being on time to some meeting of the co-op board, irrigation district or PTA?

It’s easy in times like these—or, to be perfectly honest, in any kind of time—to bemoan what we might be missing out on. To an extent, that’s fair; I wish I could’ve been a lot of places I wasn’t or done a lot of things I haven’t. I’ve let a little jealousy creep in when friends have made a trip to Italy or Indonesia, bought a fancy new pickup, seen Brooks & Dunn live, or fallen into the proverbial manure pile and come out smelling like a rose bouquet. (I always seem to come out of those situations smelling like…well, manure, to put it as delicately as possible.) But that attitude ensures you miss out on at least a small chunk of the beauty right in front of your face.

This pandemic and economic slowdown are major bummers, yes. But if, in between frantic phone calls to find new customers for your cellar full of now-homeless spuds, you take a couple seconds to look up, you’re sure to find that the whole ordeal has already provided a few priceless moments you would’ve missed out on otherwise.