Each night at work, I usually head out, headphones in hand, ready to make my commute home.
"So we're all heading to Hangover bar." (Yes, that's its real name.) "You want to come?" my coworkers ask.
"Nah," I say, turning in my paperwork, "but you guys have a great time."
And I'm off, music drowning out their protests as I stride off to the subway.
Don't worry, they're used to it. I'm sure it didn't even phase them because, more often than not, I'm the uncool kid of the group. The lifelong nerd who still opts for a good book over a bad gin and tonic. The girl who loves editing photos and listening to podcasts on a Saturday night.
I've been this way for a long time, and years of being single have reinforced it. I really love being on my own.
Most people, though, interpret this as being a loner or the "good girl" afraid of bad choices, busy bars or risky decisions.
But really, it's simple. I'm OK begging off a third round of cheap Chinese beer because I've never been afflicted with FOMO, one of the top ailments of the expat community.
As quoted from the Oxford Dictionary (I shit you not, it's there), FOMO is: "Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media."
Basically, you can't stand thinking anything is happening that you're not a part of.
To which I say, "Good grief."
Many of my friends here have told me as much — that they find themselves worrying a lot about what they missed. That they're exhausted but can't not go out, because what if something happens at such 'n' such bar?
As I listen to my friends wonder aloud why they can't say, "No," I'm secretly thinking, "Who cares what happens at the bar after 3 a.m.?" I'm quite sure I could predict the outcome of any such night: folks get drunk, do something stupid and stumble home.
What part am I supposed to worry about missing?
It seems especially odd to stress over nightly debauchery when things are happening back home we're all missing. I've watched, via social media, all sorts of milestones. This summer alone, five of my friends got married. Two announced their engagements. Three had a loss in their family. Two are now expecting children.
And I wasn't there for any of it.
I've missed out on seeing them celebrate their nuptials or toast to their new promotions. I've had to send love and support through WhatsApp messages rather than holding them as they cry. I listen to their daily successes or frustrations or sadnesses as I walk the hectic Beijing streets, and finally I feel pangs of FOMO.
My fear of missing out on the big moments in the lives of my people.
A coworker caught up as I made my way home after work. As we transferred subway lines, we chatted about our evenings. He was off to some brewery his friends were at, and he invited me along.
When I shrugged it off, he chuckled. "I figured. See you tomorrow," he called as I hopped out at my stop.
Yeah, yeah. Of course I said no. Typical Alex.
But this wasn't about being the "good girl." Sure, I'd love a pint, but I had a date that night. My friend was calling in, and I wasn't about to miss it.