Monday, July 1, 2013

Burning Man: Self-Reliance + Self-Expression

Every time Halloween comes around I always wish the day could last forever and find it funny that the process of dressing up in a different character gives me more liberty to be myself. Perhaps it's because under the guise of being something else, I give myself permission to act how I wish I normally could - silly, playful, joyous, loud - but with limited liability for embarrassment. Basically, I wish I could dress up like Strawberry Shortcake if I felt like it and not be met with odd looks on the street.

In August I'll be heading to the annual Burning Man festival in northwestern Nevada. For an entire week, I'll be camping in the temporary Black Rock City with tens of thousands in an expanse of desert and heat. It sounds intense, it sounds inconvenient, uncomfortable, and rather rough, but after A.'s initial trek there last year I knew I wanted to go and see what I could gain from the experience. In the beginning, it was just to add it to my list and check it off as an accomplishment (because no lie, I'd never even heard of this hippie fest until a couple years ago), but as the date creeps closer, I'm starting to really think about why am I investing into this.

To me it's a personal challenge. It's not just about whether I can live in a tent for seven days, battle the daytime blaze and the cold each night, whether I can handle the blinding dust storms, or if A. and I will emerge from the desert with our relationship still intact. It's more about if I can allow myself to be genuine, curious, and selfless without that fear of what others might think. It's about discovering something about myself that I can then carry back with me...even if it's just the permission to be happy and a realization that everyone's just trying to do the same for themselves and therefore are too busy to spend much time judging you.

I know these are things I can learn here and now without a 10-hour drive or eating PB&J's for a straight week, but I hope this wholly different environment will become my playground and spark something within me. I hope that being surrounded by others who allow themselves to be free and express their character in any myriad of creative ways will make me feel comfortable to explore my own inclinations. If I want to run through Black Rock City in a makeshift bee outfit, then you'd better believe I'm doing it. I'm going to Burning Man to see what comes out of Dorkys, see what transformations I can nudge out of her, and what bits can be left out to disintegrate under the Nevada sun. And I guess seeing some major art installations burn in to the ground in spectacular fashion would be pretty cool, too.

Here's a little taste from last year's Burning Man:

Image: Courtesy of Andrew Gonsalves

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