Calm Before the Burn

I don’t go to festivals. I don’t go camping. And yet here I am, Burning Man bound.

I’m worried about the elements, particularly the dust storms, 40+ mph gusts of wind that sometimes last for hours on end and punish the skin. I’m nervous about the ubiquity of drugs and alcohol and how sexually charged people might be. I think about worst case scenarios: getting hit by an art car at night because my LED lights fail, my bike breaking down and getting stuck without shade in 110 degree heat, finding myself sick and living in porta potties for 5 days straight without toilet paper and running water.

It all sounds terrible. But I’m going anyway!

Last September, I was at the Nicole Miller fashion week show with J and I felt ridiculously out of place. I was surrounded by glamazons and people who just didn’t feel like my people (no offense to anyone in the fashion industry, it’s just not my scene). In the moment, I told him, “This is what I imagine I’d feel like at Burning Man. I just don’t see the appeal.”

In his always-convincing, calm, and rational way, he told me the following: “All the tech and celebrity stuff you read about is a small fraction of the actual community. People have been doing this for more than a decade and as a person who loves community, it’s really amazing to witness. It’s also deeply spiritual. You have to go.”

I’ve had similar conversations with people I love and respect since and they all say something similar. When you eliminate what you know or think you know about Burning Man, the costumes, the excess, the privilege, it just seems like a really wonderful experiment in human expression.

For me, this experience is an exercise in letting go of my shoulds. It’s a chance to wake up every day without an agenda, a plan, or a goal. It’s an exercise in practicing gratitude and asking for help when I need it (lord knows I’ll need it). It’s an opportunity to evaluate my boundaries and values and see just how fixed or malleable they are.

I’m looking forward to seeing some really amazing art, partaking in many spontaneous dance parties, and maybe finding some people who I wouldn’t normally think of as my people.

I’m nervous. I’m scared. I’m excited.

I’ll see you on the other side.

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