I am not one to post on here, specially making my own thread, but this is a story has stuck with me since I left the playa. This year was my 4th straight year of Burning Man, and was by far my most challenging experience. Going from a small camp of 8 to a larger camp of 25 was no easy task. Not only was it more work and money, emotionally it was challenge just by having so many different personalities bouncing off of each other. Because of this I spent the first half of my week getting out of this "group mentality," or funk, and into my own personal mindset, experiencing life around me according to me, not the whole group. Once I was able to basically get my head on straight, everything around me was becoming more and more clear as the week went on. I feel that there are plenty of lessons for everyone at BM, anyone, know matter how many years you've attended, can learn something new about themselves and/or the world. A lot of what I learned about BM this year, was although BM is community based, you need to have the right mindset and outlook personally, in order to add positivity to the community.
Here I am, the night the man burns, the night everyone looks forward to, the beginning of the end. I get prepped for the night at my camp with all my other campmates. Up until this time, there has been many highs and many lows throughout my week. Its saturday evening, and I finally have the feeling of everything in its right place, but at the same time, I feel like the week has gone by way too fast, and some how I hadn't gotten the most I could out of my experience. it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, I have been here 3 times before, and every time has been a COMPLETELY different experience in terms of my life, my surroundings, and the lessons I have taken from it. My campmates and I start that ever so famous walk to the man, one of my favorite "little thing" about BM, where can you go in this world, and see over 40k people in one giant circle meet in one place? Its like the walk from the parking lot of Disneyland to the amusement park when your 5, everyone has a smile on their face and something in common heading the same direction. On our way to the man, walking up to the massive group of vehicles and people in a circle, our group suddenly breaks up into different pieces. One group heads to the top of an mutant vehicle, some go to meet up at a different mutant vehicle, and only a few of us were left to figure out where to go. This wasn't a bad thing really, it just represented much of how our week went as a group, dispersed into smaller 'clicks.' I begin to navigate my click into the circle of mutant vehicles, picking out one which was playing the most appealing music at the time and headed towards the man. When we pick a spot, I look around, and take in the whole atmosphere, or as much of it as I can. I start to mingle with the people around me, reflect on the week with my fellow campmates, and really come to peace with the fact that although the week was challenging, there was no place i'd rather be. I start thanking the playa for the beautiful weather (absolutely amazing weather), the friends around me, and the strangers I had just met. The ceremony starts, and the man burns down, something that affects everyone differently. No matter how many times you've seen those arms fall to his side, the man burning is always a special experience. As the final pieces were falling I look behind me and notice a girl and a guy holding each other gazing off into the fire, and next to them, their friend sobbing (more like gushing) her eyes out. I walk over to her and ask her if she needed a hug, she looked up at me with her soaked face, nodded (because she couldn't really mutter any words from the tears), and grabbed ahold of me. Her friends begin to tell me that its her first time on the playa (their 2nd i think), and that she just could really really use a hug. we sit there for a good 10 minutes as this girl cries her eyes out on my shoulder. After that she looks up at me, wipes her face, tells me her name, and explains that its her first time, and she never imagined how emotional and at the same time amazing this trip would be on her and her own life. Sitting there watching the man burn, and thinking about the whole week, this girl came to the conclusion that she had to move to a different state, break up with her boyfriend, and align her life the way she wants it to be. She went on to talk about how amazingly beautiful the playa and everyone attending was. She thanked me for being me, even though she had just met me. I had never felt such raw emotions or experienced such a beautiful interaction between two strangers then that day. It brought tears to my eyes, and we began hugging again for another 10 minutes. I eventually had to let go, and run off in fear of losing my group, even though I probably should have stayed there longer (playa regrets is a different story :p). I hope the girl went through with all of her plans of radically changing her life for the better.
Going into the burn this year, I focused too much on everything around me, and current experience I was having, but rarely stepped back and reflected on my own personal life. I had this "lets make this work," kind of mentality, not a slower, reflective outlook on life. Up until the night of the burn I was forcing too much, and would wonder why my week just didn't seem right. I separated my life from the playa, I was there physically, but mentally I was in two different places. I did not allow the playa to shape my life, rather I tried to shape it. Although you will never know how much of an impact our long hug was on me, I thank you random virgin-burner girl from Ohio for making everything clearer, and teaching me, a more experienced burner something about myself and BM.