A Bad Burn Can Be A Good Thing

If You Fail at Burning Man, Fail Spectacularly

Photo by  Galen Oakes

Photo by Galen Oakes

I was sitting in an RV on Saturday morning at Burning Man with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school. His eyes were red, his voice strained and he had the look of someone very ready to pack up and go home. “No one told me it would be this hard,” he said, “I was prepared for the dust and the work but I wasn’t prepared for this.”

Now that we’ve had time to decompress, it’s starting to come out that a lot of people had a really difficult burn this year. In fact, almost everyone I’ve spoken to — from newbie to veteran — felt uniquely challenged. Yes, there are always aspects of Black Rock City that present a struggle, but something about this year felt particularly bleak: building was delayed, sets were missed, camps imploded, the dust was relentless, and relationships changed.

After the usual social media wash of “OMG best burn ever!”, people came out of the woodwork and began to express how challenging this year’s event really was. The popular DJ Atish posted on Facebook, “I find that all nearly all posts I see in my own newsfeed are gushing with positivity around Burning Man, but those who don’t have a great time generally remain silent perhaps out of fear of going against groupthink or perhaps out of a desire not to bring others down.” atish proceeded to eloquently and thoughtfully list his personal struggles at the burn. It was a great read and I’d highly recommend it for its honest and balanced perspective. After his post, I started seeing similar statements online and it became clear that this year really took a toll on many burners.

Here are some reasons it was personally tough for me and others I spoke to to after this year’s playa journey: