This year already feels different for Burning Man. Not better or worse, just different. There isn’t the hype built up that was present last year when anxious burners flooded the internet with videos, pictures, and questions regarding ticketing and the theme. I don’t remember anyone hypothesizing what the theme would be this year and when the announcement was made it barely hit my social network radar. That might be because the organizers did not launch much of a campaign this year to build up excitement or maybe it is due to the fairly obscure theme (Cargo Cult) or maybe both. Regardless, this year is looking to be different from an institutional level and it will be very different for me as well.
My first burn in 2011 was a point of self-reflection. I spent a lot of time just being free and dealing with my personal issues with my military history, relationships, and my future. It was a time of healing. I needed to be comfortable with “me” before I could be comfortable part of a “we”. It was a successful year and allowed me to enjoy myself in a different way in 2012.
My second year was more social. My camp from 2011 had mostly scattered but I was more seasoned and joined some of my friends at a new camp. I was more open to trying new things and made a proactive effort to be part of a community. This wasn’t as successful as I had envisioned due to my personal life at the time, I was just finishing my bike ride across the country and lacked any real foundation. Having a room to myself was an amazing luxury that I utilized a lot for meditational and sleeping purposes.
Now 2013 looks to be different once again. Due to other commitments and changes the group I have gone with in the past will be rather small and not part of an established camp, but there may be many new attendees. Many of my friends are looking to take the plunge, including at least one of my partners. The partner dynamic at Burning Man may take some discussions, particularly given others that might be present as well. Overall though, I am excited about it.
My first year was “me”, the second year was being part of “we”, and the third year looks to be a year where I am an elder or senior member of “we”. So far every year at Burning Man has faced a personal and institutional evolution, something that is scary but also very exciting.