Burning Man, Inspiring Stuff, Travel, USA

How Burning Man broke my self-identity: part 3.

How Burning Man broke my self identity

Leaving Burning Man, the depression was overwhelming me.

This is a continuation from part 1 & part 2.

Burning Man 2014
I was scared to turn my phone on. After a week in the digital darkness, I wanted to continue the freedom from Facebook, email, and my projects at work. I tell ya, living without connectivity for 8 days does wonders for the brain.

After spending the last week without any regard to time, commitments, or texting, coming back to the ‘default world’ was intimidating as hell.

Good thing I was headed for Las Vegas.

In the words of my BFF “You’re either doing vacation wrong…or very, very right!”

Turns out that was 100% the right decision. If you’ve never been to Vegas, it’s not exactly a representation of real life. For me, it was the perfect transition from Disney-World-For-Adults back to Real-Life-Things.

I had seen a whole city of people who lived together collaboratively, kindly, with acceptance and compassion. I spent two days drinking in my hotel room, feeling sad that it was all over.

But it wasn’t over.

I’m sure my friends hated me for the first few weeks back . I said lots of crazy things like “If you’ve never been to Burning Man, you don’t know me!” and “The 10 principles this, the 10 principles that“. Seriously: Burning Man, with the 10 principles, had become an overnight religion to me. One that I had to share with everyone.

I pulled myself back into the routine of work/sleep/work/grocery shop/work/sleep. Still, I felt incredibly disconnected – even from the people closest to me. Just like an old clock, something ticked inside me off time, de-synchronizing me from the world.

While I was going through the motions, I still suffered from a depression that I didn’t know how to handle. In my mind, the only solution would be to go back to Burning Man and just live there. Forever.

Of course, my logical (Vulcan) side knew that wasn’t a real option. You can’t just live at Burning Man, come on. So what was I going to do? Was I just doomed to suffer for 357 days a year?

One night, holding back tears, I’m telling this to my best friend. How I’m going to feel disconnected forever. How I’m never going to get back to that level, to that life. Bless her, she didn’t judge me a bit (that’s how you know it’s real BFFness).

Calmly, and so simply, she says “Why don’t you just make your life more like Burning Man so you can live it all year long?”

light-311311_1280
DING DING DING!

Shocked.

Stunned.

Dumbstruck.

Chin hits the floor.

It was so simple!

From that moment on, it was clear. Depression lifted, I began to practice the 10 principles on a daily basis, making my life an ongoing, living Burn.

Immediacy 

Standing on the train platform, I have 9 minutes until my train arrives. Down the platform a bit is a homeless man dancing to a stereo that’s playing some great tunes. In traditional Chicago fashion, everyone ignores him. Working up the courage for what I’m about to do, I walk towards him as the song changes. Dropping my coat to the floor, I bust out my best dance moves. He cracks a huge smile and together we break it down for the next 9 minutes. I see bystanders sneaking a look here and there, sometimes smiling. Slipping him a $5, I get on the train. From then on, I dance when I feel like it, no matter where I am.

After that day, things were different. I began to seek out other burners by going to local Burning Man events, including our regional burn, Lakes of Fire. I had found a community of people where I could be my full self, and a belief system that embraced that. There was no way I was going to let it go! I practiced the 10 principles daily.

The new Zoom

Over time, living by the 10 principles evolved into a new set of personal priorities. Instead of money and things, I preferred connections with like-minded people. I traded in possessions for experiences. Monetary value decreased while my love of gifting increased. Instead of looking at the past, I live in the moment.

I also found a new confidence. Bodies are just bodies. Who you are is who you are. No matter how loud you laugh, it’s okay. I have a place in this world.

It’s two years later and this transformation has driven me to do some amazing things. I’ve lived on a hippie bus. I’ve taken a month off work to go be a gypsy, traveling across the US at my leisure. I’ve quit my job to travel across Asia. I’ve made some incredible art. The pre-burn me would never do these things. I’ve been reborn.

I didn’t make it to Burning Man this year due to my travels through Asia. Still though, I wanted to celebrate Burning Man and all it’s done for me. In a move of solidarity for those who are on the playa, and to ease my own withdrawals, my dad assisted me with building a man of my own.

The Man from Burning Man

The beautiful thing about The Man is that he can represent anything you want him to. Whatever you might want to see burn and get what’s coming to it, is The Man. As burners, our whole week builds to this moment. For some people this can be “the man” (aka the government). Other people see The Man as the evil in the world.

This year, my man represents hesitation, oppression, and fear. These are things that can go down in flames.

With plenty of kerosene, he burned.

Homemade Burning Man
All of the labels I had given him burnt away, leaving me lighter and free.

I look forward to what adventures the new me will take on next year. Thank you, Burning Man and your people, for helping me shatter my shell and find my true self.

If you were at Burning Man, what do you think The Man would represent for you?

-Zoom

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

  • Reply

    Cassey

    September 4, 2016

    oooo…it looks quite spiritual for me, coming from a Christian background.

    • Reply

      Zoom

      September 5, 2016

      I’m coming from the same background…and you totally hit the nail on the head 🙂 Very spiritual indeed!

  • Reply

    florfullo0714

    September 5, 2016

    The burning man represents our frustrations and fears deep inside. It may be spiritual but for me burning it is like releasing your inhibitions.

    • Reply

      Zoom

      September 5, 2016

      OooOOooOO I hadn’t thought of it that way…I love it! Thanks for sharing that 🙂

  • Reply

    Marce mndza

    September 5, 2016

    Truth I feeling like you sometimes. I think is all we need. Be free

  • Reply

    Evelynn Moon

    September 6, 2016

    I love you that you made your own burning man, you have one cool dad!

    • Reply

      Zoom

      September 6, 2016

      I’m very lucky that he understands how important it is too me 🙂 I’ll tell him he’s getting public approval LOL!

  • Reply

    katrinajeancarter

    September 6, 2016

    Honey…..This article MOVED me. Over 2 weeks ago, I was faced with the reality of what I had become. I decided to take a break off intense physical training and focus on doing mental workouts to strengthen my mind, give it a refresh, and clear out anything that has been holding me and my loved ones back from living a better, authentic life. 2 weeks have gone and it has done so much wonders for me–I questioned myself as to why I even stopped doing that regularly in the first place!! I completely understand when you said you wanted to live there forever and how reality is intriguing now but your bff certainly made a good point. This week will be my first week back to training. I am excited but moreso excited about life in general as I tackle it with a wiser mindset. Thank you for sharing. Next time, I want to have the guts to just dance anywhere, anytime too. I was a stage dancer all my life but never had to guts to do it just for fun. lol

  • Reply

    Elien

    September 7, 2016

    This is so spiritual! I liked reading this article, you’re really talented you know.
    Love your style of writing.

  • Reply

    Sheena

    September 7, 2016

    I totally get what you saying about the complete disconnect and like you I just took a leap of faith (which is still ongoing as I live out here) but it has done a world of good for me. Never been to Burning Man but would love to go from reading this post

  • Reply

    Funke olotu

    September 7, 2016

    You’re very great with words!! Such a great post

    • Reply

      Zoom

      September 7, 2016

      Aw shucks girl, thank you! 😀

  • Reply

    Susan

    September 9, 2016

    Hi, thanks for writing about Burning Man. Without your posts I would have kept thinking it was just a big hippie party in the desert. There is so much more to it and it has a valuable message. I think we all have obstacles we want to overcome. Burning them away sounds like a great annual release.

    • Reply

      Zoom

      September 10, 2016

      That’s exactly what I thought it was too, until I went for myself. SOOOOOOO much more that than. I hope you get to go someday, it’s very cathartic. <3 Thanks for leaving me a comment Susan!

  • Reply

    Susan

    September 12, 2016

    You’re welcome! It’s a lot of fun reading your posts. You are a good writer.

Don't be shy!