When I started mentally drafting this post, it sounded a lot like a defense. “Lady’s and gentleman of the jury, let me explain.” It read like a persuasive rather than informative and (hopefully) encouraging speech. Gross. Why do I feel like I’ve got to defend myself?
Then I got annoyed at myself and decided I wouldn’t write it at all. Eph you, fake audience, you don’t get an explanation.
Then I got annoyed again and realized this was an actual thing that needed to be addressed. Mostly I want to address the fake audience we’ve all got, and the image we try and project. I know you do it too. I’m not that unique.
So here it is; why I turned down a free ticket to Burning Man this year.
It all started when I was homeless after camp and a friend of a friend let me move in. Mollie lives in Phoenix (so I do too) and does theater-y stuff. She’s friends with e’erybody, and while I peaced out for California to go on a #postcampportland road-trip with Camp friends, Mollie’s friend offered her a free ticket to Burning Man. Mollie’s a real adult with a real job and things, so she declined, but gave this friend of hers my phone number and convinced him that not only am I totally un-psycho-y, but that he should give that free ticket to me.
So there I was, somewhere in Napa Valley with a belly full of wine, and I recieved a text offering me the ticket and the ride and a bunch of new friends.
To BURNING MAN.
Naturally I said yes. My method is to agree to All The Things first, and then think them over. We all stumbled to bed and the next morning, my camp friend and I headed back down the 5 toward Los Angeles. We debriefed our weird week of driving and camping and discussed the foreseeable future.
The more we talked about Burning Man, the more anxiety I felt about it. For those of you unfamiliar, Burning Man is a week-long festival sort of thing in Nevada. Lots of nakedness, lots of drugs, lots of “art”. Then they burn a giant man. Its supposed to be this spiritual thing and its really popular. It used to be free but now tickets range from a couple hundred to (I fuck with you not) six-hundred dollars.
Its many people’s dream to attend, but for some reason (the price?!?!) I’ve never actually cared to go. I’ve never had this burning (har har har) desire to experience it, and especially after my physically and mentally exhausting two months at Summer Camp, followed by being a bridesmaid for my old roommate, and then this weird West Coast Roadtrip, I’m just tired. I’m homesick. I want to buy a bike, get a job, start writing for my newspaper again, frequent my coffee shops, run around with my real friends, and not live out of a backpack for a while. Plus I’ve already played around in Slab City and at the Rainbow Gathering, both of which aren’t total sell-outs yet. (Want some ice for that wicked burn, Coachella?)
The problem is, this was free. And what a way to cap off the summer! And how envious, on a scale of envious to super envious, would this make everyone?! And how consistent with my wanderlusting, constantly curious, random and hyperactive lifestlye!
I tried to find the source my my decision-making anxiety and this is what I found; going to Burning Man upholds the image I project to my fake audience…but I didn’t actually want to go to Burning Man.
Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely am fairly adventurous. I like spontanaiety and I like new places and people. I genuinely like Kerouac.
But here I go defending myself.
The painful truth is that I want you all to think I’m this carefree Dharma Bum, endlessly adventuring and having a ball everywhere I go. I want you to think I’m beautiful and fun-loving and never tired. “Eyes incapable of anything but wonder…” just running around the world digging everything.
Its this totally one-dimensional idea I’m safe hiding behind. If they think I’m a gypsy, they won’t question me.
Because friends, people are all kinds of dimensions. You are not a description, you’re a human being. Sometimes you may like to hop in a van with strangers (see west coast roadtrip to the Rainbow Gathering, circa 2011) and sometimes you want to watch New Girl re-runs all day.
I don’t know why I pressure myself to be so easilly defined. People mentally categorize everything because it makes processing them easier. If I were to describe myself to you, I’d hand you some adjectives and you could file them away. When I cross your mind you could quickly pull out my binder and see “vegan” and “writer”, along with a paragraph or two on “chronic depression” or “logical theism.” There might be a whole page dedicated to “wanderlust”.
But those are just neat little adjectives and they’re one-dimensional, the way that we are not. There’s more than two sides to a story, and there’s more to a person than the About Me description would have you believe.
I don’t want to categorize people like that. I am consistently surprised by people wrecking my simplified judgments of them, and I’m learning not to put anyone in boxes anymore. I want to extend that same curiosity and authenticity to myself.
All this to say, I’m not going to Burning Man. I’m going back to Arizona. Here’s to busting out of the box. Here’s to not being impressive.
<tired selfie on the train.
(Last week I bussed from Phoenix to LA, caught a cab to Union Square, and was quite pleased with myself on the train toward my dad’s house. Two days later three friends and I drove to Portland, camping in Big Sur and spots like it along the way. Sometimes life is really good.)