August 6th, 2013  |  Filed under Playa Tips, Preparation, Spirituality

Burning Expectations

August 6th, 2013  |  Filed under Playa Tips, Preparation, Spirituality
Survivors of an afternoon dust storm. Walk-in Camping circa 2007.

Survivors of an afternoon dust storm. Walk-in Camping circa 2007.

There is no one as enthusiastic as a second-time Burner. After our first time, we can’t wait to go back and we can’t stop talking about the playa. Our restlessness is palpable. Second-year Burners have been stoking that fire for 12 months, fresh off a transformative experience. We want to do it all over again, only with better gear and more art and more friends. We understand the lay of the land and the porta-potties and we’re ready to pitch in.

All the costumes and camping supplies and decent food — the things I needed that first year when I didn’t even have a chair — don’t add up to the exquisite mind-blowing first Burn. Burning Man changed my life. My experience as a virgin Burner was typical: my mind was blown wide, wide, wide open. I was grateful, gracious and disbelieving. It’s all I could think about when I returned to the default world. I ached to be back on the playa. I came back to BRC ready to do it all over again and my expectations fell flat. Where was the lightning bolt to my psyche?

Subsequent Burns are more about reigniting that original flame, more life-affirming than life-altering. Some years it’s a big fire; other years it’s a lot of dust. The months spent daydreaming of electric moonscapes and deep playa kismet and … well, I still do that. I want to be closer to that wide-eyed wonder. Could y’all bottle that for some of us old-timers? Maybe start a theme camp that serves some of your fresh-Burner juju?

After 12 Burns I don’t expect the catharsis and epiphany I experienced walking around Black Rock City in 1998, colliding with splendor at every turn. A few years in I accepted the ebb and flow. Don’t get me wrong — I am excited for BM2013. I’m looking forward to driving with a friend and camping with a group of women. Mixing it up is a good way to get a fresh perspective on the event.

Taking time off from the playa is one of the best things for reigniting the flame. My return to the playa was resplendent and relaxing and hilarious and serious and sad and wonderful. I still get teary driving into Black Rock City; the first glimpses of the event on the horizon feel like coming home. I cry when I take my annual solo bike ride along the trash fence and stare back into the city. I may be a realist but I’m still a softie.

I’m not trying to bum you out. Burning Man is the greatest. Your second Burn will be splendid; so will your tenth. But after you know what to expect, maybe things start to seem a little less grand. Your mind gets occupied by other things. You consider using that vacation time elsewhere. Everything evolves: Burning Man, Burners, anticipation and expectation.


42 Responses to “Burning Expectations”

  1. John Curley Says:

    I love this. Lots of truth here. See you out at the trash fence.

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  2. Evil Pippi Says:

    Nicely done, Molly Go Lightly! I will cry with you on that jaunt by the fence. Well captured. See you in Lady Town!

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  3. Jets Says:

    Great writing. Thank you :)

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  4. Sarah Says:

    Thank you for this. This will be my third year and I definitely experienced a little bit of a let down last year, and I’m definitely considering taking a break next year. A piece of advice I heard recently is – “do something different” each year, so something about your experience remains brand new. Go to the trash fence (I never have!), volunteer for something, hop on an art car, run around naked. I’m grateful for that advice, and for this post :)

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  5. ChrissyP Says:

    your post has made me cry…. some are tears of joy though, in the hope that after a break, and coming back in a different way, maybe I can grab onto that wonder and awe….. thank you.

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  6. Ouchy Says:

    You have never been to the trash fence!?? Well there ya go! There is something new to do, and I can almost guarantee you will find something weird and fresh to your eyes out there too if you walk around a little.

    See ya’s all in the dust!

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  7. Narnar Says:

    Nicely written, Molly! Good food for thought during the last few weeks of prep (or the only ones left, at this point). Hoping you enjoy lady land and some fresh experiences this year. Hope to run into you at the trash fence. All this talk of the trash fence is making me want to revisit it. Last time I was there we encountered the remnants of a fancy dinner party, complete with leftover nice desserts. Wonders never cease.

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  8. Richard Says:

    I don’t understand the nature of this post. You don’t seem exited. Are you trying to ensure you don’t hear anyone say, “It was better last year?” Are you trying to dissuade people from going? 12 burns out of 15 years is not exactly, “… consider using that vacation time elsewhere. Everything evolves: Burning Man, Burners, anticipation and expectation.”

    Why not let people come up with their own conclusions?

    Just curious =\

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  9. Jonathan Says:

    “After 12 Burns I don’t expect the catharsis and epiphany I experienced walking around Black Rock City in 1998, colliding with splendor at every turn. A few years in I accepted the ebb and flow.”

    The ebb n flow is the best part! Accept for resistance is futile. Expect nothing!

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  10. Gin Says:

    This will be my 2nd burn.

    I’m bringing my newly divorced 7 years older than I brother. I’ll let you know when I return to the default world about how this burn was better than my first.

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  11. Ty Button Says:

    Well written and insightful. Nicely done and short enough my attention span allowed reading the whole thing. Kudos.

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  12. Megan Says:

    I like the honesty of this post. The amount of effort to do a burn is tremendous and the after effect on your life takes weeks or even months to process to help you get back in to the “real world”. I appreciate the burn for what it is and love it….even after 9 burns since 2002 I feel that most should go to expand their mind in a way you never would. I also see how after so many burns you need a break and to re-energize through other means. A break is an okay thing. As some posts above say – I don’t believe this is someone is not excited or dissing the burn for “changing”. It’s just the ebb and flow of what the experience is.

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  13. Monster Says:

    Written wonderfully, with right amount of emotion, balance, and truth. I am 5 time burner, and this is number 3 in row this year. For me, each Burn man has been better than the last. I seek out the things I love so much, and then add in something new each time. This year, I plan on visiting the “walk in camping area” to see what it is about, it people, its vibe. Just as in the default world, look at the little things. Really look at them. A smile is not just a smile at Burning Man. Look past it and see its emotions down deep. It is honest, bare, and truth. Just as Molly word are. BRAVO MOLLY!

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  14. Blitz Says:

    You can only be a virgin once, but you can still love it every time.

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  15. Lodestar Says:

    Generalize much?

    Everyone has a different experience. Your experience does not equal everyone else’s.

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  16. Charlie Malarkey Says:

    My second burn will be like the second watching of a really, really great movie. The first one made me wanna watch it again, and the second time around will give me a chance to study all of the background nuances. Rich and fulfilling, if not as alien. That being said, I am still that pre-second year Burner, high on expectations and the thrill of that first, amazing burn. <3

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  17. Cheryl Barrar Says:

    Love your writing and thoughts on this. My third burn is coming up and second art installation and it feels like it is getting better and better with all the effort required thru out the year. We will have a couple of virgins on our crew this year and I am wondering if that will be a thrill seeing them experience BRC for the first time. I got to the trash fence my first year and I loved the art work out there…still think about the license plates decorated for each state. I really get a kick out of the hidden art treasures in the deep playa, enjoy way more than the big stuff. I loved the one chair sitting out with a button that said ‘press this to make everything alright’ I have a feeling that the burn for 2013 is going to be way better than alright.

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  18. Budda Says:

    The burn brings life to those who attend. After my revelation in the Temple in 05 I have made it a point to gift a ticket to a new burner every year whether I attend or not, I have only missed one since. I give so those who go can find what they seek. To watch another experience it for the first time is joyous. I will see you all in the dust my friends,

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  19. Ergot Fetlock Says:

    I’ll be a 2nd timer with lots of good advice like this that’s been coming my way since B4 the first. We 2nds HAVE to go, to see if what we experienced was REAL or just a dream. NO expectations. “Radical Self-reliance: Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise, and rely on his or her inner resources.” In 5 days of looking I saw a small portion of the “ART” and I want more. Thank You to every participant. See you in the silt.

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  20. Bagg Says:

    Flying out from sweden to attend Burning Man for the first time togheter with a friend
    who visited Burning Man about 10 years ago and have been raving about it every single time he could. Don’t really know what to expect. Look for a big swedish flag covering the better part of an rv! :)

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  21. Viper Says:

    Cool, as they say. Cool.

    My second burn coming up.

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  22. Mikey Microphone Says:

    This will be my third year, and while there’s a risk of confirmation bias, I think that more energy has gone into this one (not from me, but from many). With our culture getting attention around the country, we have strengthened our resolve to protect it with gregarious exuberance. With the ticket confusion (and resulting low attendance) of last year all sorted out, we ought to have a huge city with a proper mix of old-timers and first-timers. And with things like kickstarter in full swing, there’s all sorts of funds but also awareness of what’s going to be lurking there. I’m also relatively sure that the level of fluency and appreciation for techno and house and various other flavors of dance culture (including hooping for instance) has gone through the roof in the past 18 months. Plus no presidential campaign this year, and Obama won! :). So get ready for a wild ride.

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  23. Magic Says:

    Thank you for this. I thought I was alone in my feeling ga. my first burn was just mind blowing and I couldn’t wait to get back on the playa and got teary eyed on the approach (guess am not so special!!) but the burn itself while fun and amazing, I had this feeling all the time of “things were better last year” and this fear that this will be the last burn and that with all the ticket confusion the place is full of MOOPing frat kids leaving beer cans in the ports potties.
    It took me almost 5 days until, walking through that big maze somewhere in deep playa that I found a sign saying ״if you are looking for a sign – this is it”. And that was my sign to let go and enjoy. But yes, without the wow feeling – things just aren’t the same. Felt sometimes like the magic was off and the illusion was over.
    I didn’t plan on coming again this year, (3rd) but in the end wanted to synchirnize burns with my friends who go every two years so will go this year!! One advice in the comments which I tend to take fully is to try something different. This wil be my theme this year! So if you see me in a disco ball top hat – come say hi and give a hug!

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  24. Monkey Gurl Says:

    Loved this post. This is your personal experience well told, Molly. I can relate. 2011 was my first amazing life changing mind blowing completely saturated with emotion burn. And yes, it was all I talked about, thought about, planned for. Then came the 2012 ticket fiasco. Will I get a ticket? Will my campmates get tickets? Will I stay or will go? Then my Dad died. And so 2012 became a “necessity” for me. In July my daughter gave birth to a baby boy, and I had to leave them back East to burn. I couldn’t wait to get to the Temple. But it wasn’t my Temple, the feeling from the Temple of Transition was not the same in 2012. I was disappointed, and kind of annoyed at some people’s behavior, there was a “tour bus” at one point, and I just didn’t get it. I’m going back this year, but arriving late, and made the decision in late July to find a ticket and just go. I’m not expecting, I’m prepared to be open. I’ll never be as open as I was in 2011, but I know I’ll find something I never knew I needed out there.

    MG

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  25. Julie aka Winebuff Says:

    Love this! It is my 2nd burn and so true. I had to leave early for my first burn cuz my daughter was giving birth. This time nothing will stop me from having an amazing burn. See u on the playa!

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  26. OmFu Says:

    This link landed on my FB homepage and it was like a personal message. This too is my second burn. After 3 years I am returning. Nothing can be like a person’s first burn. You can never go back. You will never have the same amount of child like wonder, confusion, and first times. Keeping my mind and expectations open. I too will look for that something new… Thank you

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  27. Starstuff Says:

    Oh yes. My first burn was life changing; I met my husband, moved across the country, started a new life. My second burn? The guy with our entire shade infrastructure decided when he got on the playa that he wasn’t going to camp with us afterall, leaving us completely exposed. My man and I got sinus infections, and he had to have an IV drip. It was my first time in a theme camp, and as the partner of the camp lead there were expectations of me that I wasn’t prepared for. In so many ways, it completely fucking sucked. There were certainly good times, but I remember that year as a struggle and challenge.

    It’s the difference between meeting someone and falling in love for the first time, with all those wonderful exciting discoveries about them; and years into a relationship, where you are so familiar with them and have a different kind of love through the intimacy and trust you’ve built up. Even after years together, your partner can still surprise you and reignite that electric spark that you felt when you first met.

    This is my fifth year, and I love that such a familiar place is filled with new experiences to discover and delight.

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  28. Willisfire Says:

    Not going this year, my first Burn was last year. I totally get what you are saying here though, I don’t expect to have the same experience the next time I go at all. So much changed in my life after my first Burn, divorce, moved, learned to ride a motorcycle, diagnosed with MS, abducted by Aliens (just kidding on the last one) I don’t think I am even the same person. I think going back will be like another first, because I feel reborn, and I am still getting to know this new person. I feel as though I will be able to enjoy my next burn in a completely different way than my first burn. Frankly, I can’t wait!

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  29. Vicstersf Says:

    Starstuff…..

    Love your comments on the above post. So true and described my love of the event completely. I’m coming on my 8th year in a row. My first was mind blowing, second. “different” than my first. As each year progresses, I have come to love each for the different experiences it has shown me. There is a certain familiarity with each year, but all have their stand out moments, different from the rest. I’ve grown to be open for each one and what they have to offer and experiences to learn from. Looking forward to what 2013 has to bring!

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  30. Jed Says:

    I am going home for my 11th burn and I have found that I get out of it what I put into it. The preparation, the EL wire on my clothes and camp, the the chance to test new improvements to power systems. It’s all about what I bring to the city. BRC never lets me down, but I could see me letting it down.

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  31. Finn Says:

    Budda said,
    To watch another experience it for the first time is joyous.

    Yes! That’s a great way to preserve that wonder.

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  32. kara Says:

    So true. But as i have heard and believe…. “you don’t get the burn you want you get the burn you need”.
    I arrived at my 2nd burn with a chest infection. Loved my time in the hospital – delightful team. It tested my marriage, and moved us swiftly into the next better stage. I gave up smoking forever, and it was easy ( thanks BM! ) – and I still had the time of my life!

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  33. Stuart Says:

    So, so true. So, so beautiful. My 5th burn had me crying at my camp (which was giant. The high water mark) because I thought I was all out of Burning Man. This year I’m bringing my niece, who has been hearing about Burning Man from her crazy uncle for well over a decade. Light That Fire!

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  34. Justin Time Says:

    “Subsequent Burns are more about reigniting that original flame, more life-affirming than life-altering.” Yes, “So, so true.”
    For me, after all these years, it is more about Life-affirming. I tell folks ” BRC is a Life-Altering Event, you will never be the same.”
    I have been blessed to have participated in large, challenging and beautiful art builds (thank you Kate Raudenbush), Theme Camps, EMS-MED and this year EMS-Fire.
    I bust my ass every year, like so many others. To me, I hope my giving back to the BRC community helps us all be a little “enthusiastic as a second-time Burner”.
    Come by for a Snow Kone and a Steam, 8:00/G @ Nectar Village.
    See you in the dust.
    Justin Time.

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  35. Larry Smith Says:

    Love this piece, MGL. My personal approach to chasing that first Burn high is to always arrive with someone who’s never been to the playa before. You only get those first-time wide-eyes once, but entering that Black Rock Dimension with a newbie fills me with exuberance. If I’ve brought that person there myself, I feel like a proud papa (or maybe cool cousin). The one year Piper and I realized we didn’t have a newbie with us we of course ran into someone who needed a lift immediately upon landing in Reno. Even though we had to listen to her yammer on the whole way to Gerlach about how she kind of, sort of was dating someone in The Other Ones, it was still a thrill to be with her as she crossed over to the other side.

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  36. Catie Magee Says:

    Very well said, miss molly! Looking forward to Lady Town and seeing everything fresh and new for the 12th time right along with you!

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  37. Kismet Says:

    What ever is the same twice?

    Entering year 6 …or is it 7? I am looking forward to growing more, being open to sychonisities, and meeting my new friends – could it be you?

    Can’t wait to See you at Home.

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  38. RickShaw Says:

    I’m 66..been a lot of places and seen a bunch. The more I experience the more I realize how much more there is out there. So I don’t return to many places except for a few favorites. I’ll be back to for another burn in 2013. They’re just epic!

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  39. FoXXX Says:

    Every burn is great for me and I stare at the wonderment each year as I go around each corner. Rarely is anything the same, despite it’s resemblance to the same thing the previous year. This will be my sixth burn. I volunteer more each year. I also try to carry the burn with me into my regular life (per Halcyon’s sage advice), and whether ebbs and flows exist or not for some burners, I do not know. I’m happy to slosh around in the tide wherever it is, and wherever it takes me throughout the year.

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  40. SirenSays Says:

    Thank you, Molly, for this article. This is will be my second burn and I am slowly accepting that 2012, my first year, is a memory. I seemed to begin the acceptance the moment I packed my car to leave my camp last year. I looked at my dear friends with tears streaming down my cheeks and told them that I would miss them; here, in the dust. I would see them again, for we only lived 10 miles from each other back in San Francisco, but I knew somehow that I would miss the Playa them. The Playa me.
    My life has been dramatically altered and I can say that these 11 months of after-burn have been the most transformative yet. Everything looks different, smells different, sounds different and feels different. I appreciate art and love and music and look at life much more closely with wonder and gentle subtly than I ever did before. I feel connected.
    I can’t lie and say that this year I won’t be chasing the magic that opened me at my first burn, but I will try my best to continue to be open to new experiences and people and art. I will try to burn my expectations.
    See you all in the light!

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  41. SirenSays Says:

    Thank you, Molly, for this great article. This is will be my second burn and I am slowly accepting that 2012, my first year, is a memory. I seemed to begin the acceptance the moment I packed my car to leave my camp last year. I looked at my dear friends with tears streaming down my cheeks and told them that I would miss them; here, in the dust. I would see them again, for we only lived 10 miles from each other back in San Francisco, but I knew somehow that I would miss the Playa them. The Playa me.
    My life has been dramatically altered and I can say that these 11 months of after-burn have been the most transformative yet. Everything looks different, smells different, sounds different and feels different. I appreciate art and love and music and look at life much more closely with wonder and gentle subtly than I ever did before. I feel connected.
    I can’t lie and say that this year I won’t be chasing the magic that opened me at my first burn, but I will try my best to continue to be open to new experiences and people and art. I will try to burn my expectations.
    See you all in the light!

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