Every year around this time, it seems like several people I know are going to (and returning from) Burning Man.
I love looking at their pictures on social media and enjoy hearing their outrageous stories.
But there’s something about experiencing all the fun vicariously that has always made me feel a little worse about myself.
I’ve never been to Burning Man, but for years I’ve thought about it. I thought that I always wanted to go—but what I’m realizing now is that wish I were the kind of person who would go.
In reality, I’m not.
I am prone to falling madly in love with the ideas of things rather than the actual things.
Burning Man would be the same. I love the idea of getting wild out in the desert with thousands of other people and I love the idea of the art and music and sense of community and spirituality, but I know myself. I’d be there for about ten minutes and want to leave because it would be hot, crowded and dusty. Apparently, there’s also a major bug problem this year.
I’m conflicted about Burning Man. From one angle it looks freeing, transcendent and beautiful and I imagine all sorts of enlightening, uplifting experiences. From another angle I see a Road Warrior/ Fear and Loathing Outside of Reno hybrid, and it looks hot and filthy and downright hellish.
If I were there, I’d begin to complain. You see, I don’t like crowds. I’m also a big prude, so if the revellers were doing drugs, this would probably upset me because the After School Specials I watched as a kid made an impression, and I’d want them to stop before someone got hurt. Loud music makes me want to fly out of my skin and can set off fits of panic, so I wouldn’t like that either. Burning Man just wouldn’t be good for me, although I wish it were.
There was a time in my life when I might have gone, or at least I think I would have, but it was a brief window of opportunity before I became chronically uncool and tragically adult. The truth is, I was never into the dirt and sweat involved in enjoying a long outdoor festival and I’ve heard about some very unpleasant dust storms in the area.
I’ve finally realized that there’s absolutely no reason for me to feel badly about myself because I’m too fussy to go out into the desert and deal with dehydration and stink bugs. There are many ways to live an artist’s life and honor a creative spirit, and there is nothing less “real” about my passion just because I prefer the comforts of air conditioning and plumbing. I shouldn’t think that I’m “uncool” just because I’ll be editing a memoir and entertaining my preschooler this weekend instead of donning my sparkly unicorn costume to dance with the Burners.
Although I live a structured life that doesn’t involve traveling to hedonistic festivals to dance for three days straight while on Ecstasy, and while I don’t make out with strangers and have peyote induced visions of goddesses, I still live a creative life dedicated to my art, which is writing.
My younger self might be disappointed that my older self isn’t very bohemian, but she’d be thrilled that I never sold out and gave up on making a life dedicated to art. I never folded and went down the practical path. I didn’t go to school based on which degree would make me the most money. I chose the only path that I really loved—writing. I followed my art in a way that was authentic to me and I chose to make a career out of sharing my love of writing and telling stories with other people, because I love it that much.
I know I did the right thing, even though sometimes I still long to be the kind of woman who’d spin fire under a desert moon on the first weekend in September. Knowing me, I’d probably ignite my hair and end up with third degree burns on my scalp anyway, so maybe it’s better I stay at home each Labor Day.
I’m finally okay with the fact that I’ll probably never go to Burning Man. It’s a unique and beautiful spectacle, but I don’t need to see it in real life and I no longer imagine that attending the event would give me validation as a real artist or adventurer.
Good luck to everyone partying on the Playa this weekend without me. I can’t wait to see all the pictures.
Author: Victoria Fedden
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Jennifer Morrow at Flickr