I’m afraid I lost my community during the pandemic. How do I re-engage?
“A Bintel Brief,” the Forward’s signature advice column, is now a podcast hosted by Ginna Green and Lynn Harris. Listen to the latest episode here (or wherever you get your podcasts), and click here to sign up for a weekly newsletter with backstories from the hosts. Need advice? Email [email protected], or leave a voicemail at (201-) 540-9728.
With the pandemic easing and my being vaccinated and all, I’m nervous about coming out of my shell and finding no one wants to be friends anymore, or that all my communities have shut down. I’ve noticed a decided lack of interest in the hints I’ve dropped on various Facebook pages and text threads, even as folks say they’re starting to be a little social. And meanwhile, I know of at least one group of old friends who met up when someone visited, but without me.
It makes me feel like I’m back in junior high school where I was decidedly the nerdy literary girl who didn’t get invited to parties. (I never wanted to go to those, but I did want to connect with my friends!) I’m trying to stay patient and understanding, but I also fear I’ve lost support and connection in ways that can’t be reclaimed.
It’s making me feel sad and lost, and I don’t know what to do. Can you help?
Fear of FOMO
Dear Fear of FOMO,
Your pseudonym is on point: You’re afraid of being afraid of what you’re missing.
We certainly empathize with the idea that it was easier to not have to worry about whether our friends made plans without us. During the pandemic, there was less pressure to make plans, to be out on a Friday or Saturday night, because you couldn’t be. It was OK to always be home. You didn’t have to worry about whether or not you got invited to the party at the popular kid’s house, and you didn’t have to worry about being included, and that felt like a relief.
And then, maybe, you retreated from making plans entirely because it felt easier. But now you’re going out into the world.
Many of us have those friends that are like those plants that take medium light and not a lot of water — the ones that are just going to be there no matter what you do, and they’re gorgeous and you love them and they adorn your life in a wonderful way. But did you possibly check out for so long that you do kind of have to warm back up again with everybody? Maybe your relationships just need a spritz.
When you brought up the junior high school thing, Fear of FOMO, it made us remember that feeling of “everybody hates me” — when they likely didn’t. We do wonder to what degree this might be your junior high school lizard brain insisting that everybody hates you when that might not be the case.
You say you’ve been dropping hints. We’re grown ups! Just be direct. Pick one friend you do feel comfortable with — even if it’s a newish person — and just say something like, “Hey, now that we can go out, let’s go out to that place, let’s go do a thing.”
Beyond that, it might be worth asking yourself some questions. What does community give you? And what are the communities and the types of people who can give that to you? We should all ask these questions of ourselves as we move through life. And as we move through relationships and people and community.
We don’t mean that you need to ask these in a “What have I done? Where did I screw up?” kind of way. But — and it’s almost a cliche of the pandemic now — this experience forced many of us to pare things down to what really matters.
So this could be a great opportunity to ask yourself: what kind of support and connection do I need? And also what kind of support and connection do I not need? Is it really just my lizard brain that wants to get invited to parties even though I actually prefer long walks and snuggling by the fireplace with just one person? What do I want as a grownup now? And how can I get it?
To hear more of our advice to Fear of FOMO, download the latest episode of “A Bintel Brief: The Jewish advice podcast” here or on any podcast platform. Send your dilemmas about Jewish-American life, identity, culture, politics or your personal hopes and dreams to [email protected], or leave a voicemail at (201-) 540-9728.