First of all, watch this. And then sit back and appreciate (read: worship) what I am doing here. I am attempting to put down my past week into words. Did you see my choice of word? "Attempting"! I make no promise that this is going to cover everything. So give me a break, let me finish consolidating my thoughts before you nonchalantly ask me about my burn on FB messenger. (Looking at you. You, you and you.)
Haha, just kidding, I love you all and thank you for caring about me.
Being stuck in a desert for a week? Oh no.
Wouldn't I just die out of boredom?
Going into burning man, I was super concerned. The concept of killing time kills me. I have always filled my time with events/tasks that are aimed to take me closer to my goals. On the burner express bus into the Burning Man, we were given this handbook that has the entire week's events listed out. I circled everything that seemed interesting for the first three days.
It should give me some guidance to start with.
In the beginning, I felt an overwhelming shyness and I did not have any idea what I should be doing. The first day was scorching. I picked an event in the book and biked there. It seemed like some sort of treasure hunt in a man made maze. Great! I love being athletic. But when I got there, people were partying around the maze with really loud music. Nobody was actually treasure hunting. I walked up to the lady behind the bar and tried to make conversation.
"What do you want, dear?", she said, as I handed over my cup.
"Is there... just water?"
"Nope. Welcome to Burning Man!"
"Uhhhh... Thanks." I squeezed out a smile and then left.
Next couple events I went to, similar things happened. People were rarely in it just for what the event was. In many places, people drank, socialized and partied. In addition to the fact that getting to each event on time was somewhat stressful, eventually I gave up trying to meet the self-inflicted "goals". I ended up letting myself be distracted by things on the way, which, incidentally, was an interesting life metaphor. Not having a goal at times can give you opportunities to discover novel and incredible things around you. It also gave me time and space for deep introspection - exactly what I needed. Later, I found out that there were so many things happening at the same time in Burning Man that you almost certainly could find things to diverge your attention.
I biked by a sign that reads:" Float more, steer less." Well put.
I stopped my bike at the center camp and walked around looking at the paintings hanging along the wall. I accidentally bumped into a guy who was also appreciating the art.
"It is beautiful, isn't it?" he pointed at the painting right in front of us.
"Yeah! I love how detailed it is."
"The world is so beautiful. I can see art everywhere!" He pointed at his universe-themed shirt, "I can see art here. Look at the 'stars' in my shirt!". He pointed at me, "There is art in you! I can feel it!". He pointed to the direction of music, "That is also art! So beautiful." His eyes were wide and he jumped up and down with excitement.
Uhh... You are probably on drugs. You don't seem very sane right now, I thought. Normally, I would just walk away from what could potentially turn into a weird and uncomfortable situation. Years of being way too sheltered in the real world somehow resulted in me being overly protective of myself (probably a smart thing to do, right?). But hell, it was Burning Man. So I decided to have an open heart (I wish I could be more like this in the real world!).
We talked more. He said his name was "JP". His “playa” (people's alternative identity in Burning Man) name was "THE JP", because he just wants to be THE best of him (I thought it was a cute idea.). He said that, in real life, he is a rock star.
"Are you performing somewhere?" Before I was able to finish my question, he nodded. "I am performing right now!", he sang as he started dancing. Feeling entertained, I joined in and we headed towards the music. He pointed out this three-story high structure right by the camp that was playing the music and asked the lady in the camp if we could go up there.
Nah. It looks dangerous, I remember myself thinking. Saying no to something like this in the playa felt weird. Heck, I did not come here to stay in my comfort zone, I thought. So we ventured forward.
I climbed up and turned around, trying to find him, but he signaled that he chickened out last minute. To be fair, the ladder was unreliably rested on the wooden structure. I am adventurous (read: crazy) enough to have the courage to have climbed up. The view from the top was incredible. See, the incredible things in Burning Man are usually completely unintended.
Afterwards, I snuck off into a random dancing tent. I let my mind wander as I watched people dancing, until a man interrupted my thoughts, asking me for a dance. You might know that I have never really enjoyed partner dancing. I am very uncomfortable with strangers being physically close to me. But it was Burning Man. (Yes. You will hear this a lot.) I said "yes" and I danced a couple songs with him. He seemed much more experienced in partner dancing. Thank god he was leading. I had no idea what I was doing.
"What are you looking for in Burning Man?"
"I am trying to learn more about myself."
"Whatever you are looking for, the playa provides."
Uhhh... Okay. Whatever that means.
"Did I dance okay? Anything you want to teach me? I am not very good at partner dance."
"You did fine. You were really musicly (interesting choice of word) and playful, which is hard to teach."
"I dance ballet and contemporary in the real world. This is very different."
"Wow, I was dancing with a ballerina." His comment made me giggle.
As the night fell, I met up with my camp mates and we wandered around until we discovered this relaxing area somewhere in the playa. We laid down and stared up at the light display changing color to classical music. I closed my eyes, trying to soak everything up. When I opened my eyes, I saw the lights above turn into stage lights. I was on stage! I was performing a ballet piece. If there had been more space to physically move, I would have. But inside, my heart was dancing the whole time. As the music ended, I finished my dance with a curtsy. I heard an applause! My heart was jumping with joy. Of course, it all had been imaginary. But it was so wonderful. I have ALWAYS danced, either physically or emotionally, when I hear music that I like. But it wasn't until then that I realized how much I loved sharing my feelings with movements. Did I know this about me before? Not in the way that I have realized now.
At the end of the first night, it was clear to me that I actually might have known myself more than I thought I did. I have always felt it, but I did not have enough courage to honor it. That night solidified my understanding. Why didn't I go ALL IN before in my life? I should have danced more. Why was I so reserved? What was holding me back?
I wasn't sure how dancing fit in with my many other ambitions. But luckily this question was answered on the 5th day when I visited the temple (a place where people commemorate those who have left their life with a written letter/photos or inscribed wood (and other objects). Those letters/photos/wood get ritually burned as the temple burns.) I will get to it in one of my next articles. Stay tuned.