Waiting for the Man to burn
Although it’s been on my bucket list for most of my twenties, I never thought I’d make it out to Burning Man. I never have been a person for the outdoors until recently- frankly, I just hate sweating (almost to the point where I want botox injections in my armpits). For those who don’t know, Burning Man is a week-long event out in the middle of the Nevada desert, about a three hour drive from my home in Reno. The conditions are rough- the temperature highs can peak to the 11os and the lows to the 20s. Add the wind swirling the fine desert sand 60+ mph and it can be torture. But year after year, 70,000 people gather their RVs and camping equipment and rough it out. Why? Burning Man is this all encompassing festival with art, culture, bicycles, lights, music, architecture, dance, lectures, friends and fun.
I had breakfast with a friend a few weeks ago and he thought that Burning Man was just one drug influenced orgy. Sure, there are drugs and sex at Burning Man but it is so much more. Out of all the things I experienced over the four days I was there, it was the people that charmed me the most. Me, the manfriend and our friend, CC, drove out on Thursday morning and was greeted with hugs and tickles. We crawled around in the playa dust, shouting out that we lost our Burning Man virginities and set up our tents and shade structures. We then, changed into more appropriate gear and ventured out in bikes.
45+ mphs winds + fine playa dust = whiteout conditions
I have to admit that I had too many reservations about the whole experience- the night before we left, I cried to Steve, telling him that I didn’t want to go. I was feeling agoraphobic- in the past few months, I cut relationships with former friends and decided not to venture out to make new ones, retreating to my home and forming a more comfortable connection to my couch and Netflix. I was terrified about being open and present. Also, I spent the week before silently cursing at my body. Burning Man is a place where almost anything goes- including nudity. When you Google Burning Man, photos of naked women with gorgeous, slender bodies grace the webpage. I wasn’t ready to face that.
My fears got the best of me on the first day. Burning Man is a sensory overload- it was too much for me and my fears. At a friend’s camp, I got overly intoxicated and tried to bike back to my camp. I think I fell off my bike (I can’t remember as I blacked out) but I do remember a wonderful older gentleman seeing me struggle. He kindly walked me back to my camp and tucked me in bed. The next day, I wandered around the streets, feeling ashamed of the night before and still wanting to go home when I stopped at the Mystic Camp to watch people meditate. I was invited to join and afterward, I sat there and cried. A woman named Deva with the most gorgeous locked hair ran up to me and gave me the warmest hug that seemed to last for an hour. I told her that I was having a terrible time and she listened, telling me that everything was okay, that I was in a safe space and that I would be stronger after experiencing the event with all my emotions. It was the kindest gesture and I immediately felt better.
Me and the manfriend: dusty, happy, and in love
The rest of my time at Burning Man was awesome. After mediating, I decided that I was going to enjoy myself, even if I had to force myself to (although I didn’t). I met some more awesome people, exchanged blinky lights, danced, drank (in moderation), explored, kissed, took pictures, ran around partially naked, cheered and had a great time (even in a four-hour long whiteout). Steve, CC and I stood together watching the Man burn on our last night. I was excited to get a box of Girl Scout cookies from a fellow dressed as Santa Claus and spent the entire time dancing and hugging my friends. As the Man went ablaze, I threw my anxieties at him- every negative thing I felt about my body, my job and perfect career hunt, issues with money; all the fears I have about my relationship with my boyfriend and my family and turning 30. Within minutes, the Man turned from wood and lights into ash and I felt clean. I felt lighter. Everything terrible I was feeling was suddenly gone. All felt wonderful and still.
I’d never thought that the Burning Man would be restorative. I’ve read that’s why many people go but I just wanted to go and party. I’m still coming off my good burn rush. I feel more vibrant and energized and positive. I’m ready to conquer the world and be great. After my first day, Steve asked me if I wanted to do Burning Man next year- I told him, no. But since then, I changed my mind. I need something like Burning Man in my life. I need that one constant reminder where you know that there are good people out there and that you have the power within you to change for the better. I think everyone should experience Burning Man once. If you let it, it may just change you.
I can’t wait for next year. Must start saving money now.