Monday, April 15, 2024 -
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That’s it,” I said to The Wife a few months ago, when the last of the workmen exited our apartment and the renovation of our kitchen and living room was complete. “We’re done. There is now no need to ever move. Ever. As long as we can navigate the stairs, we’re here until the end. We’re staying put.”

That was then.

Fast forward about six months, and in the interim, two of the neighbors on our floor — including one whose wall we have shared for no less than 26 years — have moved out. In addition, an upstairs neighbor, this one a renter of only a few years, left the building, and our downstairs neighbors — who have been in the building for nearly three decades — gave notice that they intend to do so as well.

All of a sudden the composition of our building is changing radically, with fully one-fourth of the building vacating.

People we never thought would move, were packing up and leaving. People whose children we watched grow up, were depriving us of seeing their grandchildren grow up. People with whom I served together on the vaad bayit (building committee), people upon whom I fobbed problems I could not or did not want to deal with, were essentially saying to me: “You’re on your own now, sucker.”

The impact was fierce. It triggered self-doubt.

If they are moving, after being here so long, what’s the matter with me? If they are looking for a different place to live, why aren’t I? Why am I staying when everyone else is leaving?

There’s a term for this psychological state of being, or at least there should be: FOSP — the Fear of Staying Put.

Everyone knows about FOMO — Fear of Missing Out — a term coined in 1996 by marketing strategist Dan Herman to describe an emotional state many of us feel at various times.

I felt it on a recent cruise with The Wife when I was oddly unable to completely relax in the most relaxing of all settings because of a concern that I was missing out on some other more relaxing, or fun, activity taking place somewhere else on the ship.

Should I really be reading a book, when I could be gazing at the water, looking for whales? Should I really be looking for whales, when I could be lounging on the deck near the swimming pool sipping cocktails?

Should I really be lounging on the deck near the swimming pool sipping cocktails, when I could be playing pickleball on the starboard deck? And on and on.

I also feel FOMO intensely on the Friday nights when all my kids, their spouses and my grandkids come over for Shabbat and stay up talking into the wee hours of the night, undoubtedly revealing things about themselves and their lives that I would like to hear — that I need to hear — were I not so tired.

FOSP, though lesser known — in fact, up until now not known at all — is FOMO’s poor relation.

I first encountered this phenomenon almost 40 years ago, when I volunteered for a few weeks on a kibbutz in the North. A couple of families had decided to leave the kibbutz, and it created an upheaval, triggering other families to ask themselves why they were staying while others were leaving.

Even if people wanted to stay, even if they liked the kibbutz, even if they were basically content, the very fact that others were looking for greener pastures led them to question whether their contentment was perhaps misplaced. This was prototypical FOSP, a fear that a contentment to stay in place revealed a lack of ambition, daring or drive.

Up until now I’ve never really been bedeviled by FOSP. 
Heck, I’ve worked at the same place now for nearly 37 years, and have watched untempted as scores of colleagues have gone on to different — but not necessarily better — jobs elsewhere.

My oldest son, The Lad, toils in hi-tech. He’s been in the work market now for some five years, and has already had four different employers — and in his field he is seen as a veritable rock of stability. I’ve been at the same job for 37 years. For Generation X, Y and Zers, that is something simply unfathomable.

In addition, I’ve lived in the same apartment for 26 years, typed on the same computer for the last 12, had the same suit for the last 10 and worn the same glasses for the last six. I have no Fear of Staying Put. In fact, I like staying put.

The corona-induced lockdowns of a couple of years ago were for me not a punishment, but a pleasure. I like to stay put both in the figurative sense, as in staying at one job and in the same apartment, and in the literal sense, as in physically staying put in the house.

“FOSP, thy name is not Keinon.”

Yet, with the composition of my building changing, FOSP started to seep in. This too triggered self-doubt. What was happening to me, a generally content individual? Why was I no longer content in our newly renovated apartment? Why was I thinking that, perhaps, it might be time for us to look to move elsewhere?

Then it dawned on me. My fear was not of staying put, I was not suddenly hit by a bad case of FOSP. My fear was of new neighbors (FONN).

“A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing,” the ancient Greek poet Hesiod wrote way before there were even multi-story apartment buildings.

For 26 years The Wife and I were blessed with good neighbors. We stayed in the apartment not only because we liked the apartment and the neighborhood — and now that the apartment is renovated we like it even more — but also because we liked the apartment’s neighbors.

As they move out, one by one, what are the odds of being blessed yet again with good neighbors? What are the odds of getting lucky yet another time?

No, mine is not a fear of staying put, mine is a fear of a different sort: FONGLA, the Fear of Not Getting Lucky Again.

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Herb Keinon, a Denver native, interned at the IJN before going on to a career at the Jerusalem Post, where he is a senior contributing editor.

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