Somewhere between the ages of 8 and 34 years old I forgot how to be playful and free. I mean, like, TRULY playful and free – the filled with wonder and silly abandon kind of stuff.
That unfortunate, but highly productive, need for order and achievement that popped up from my adolescent insecurities squashed my inner child. So much so I forgot I had one.
Until I went back to Burning Man this year after a three-year break. My husband and I have had valid excuses (new baby, possible spinal surgery, move to another city, blah blah). But this year we agreed to go with our closest friends and stay with the most amazing “no-camp” camp. And boring story later…
…we did it.
It was awesome.
It was worth it.
And this is what I’ve figured out:
Burning Man forces me back to my uninhibited, wildly accepting 8-year-old self.
You play house. You decide who you’re going to play house with, get together, and make it happen. The personalities come to life and it’s the best game of house you’ll ever play.
You build forts. But now with the money and the know-how, this shit’s for real. These are the coolest forts you’ll ever innovate with your buddies. You become clever, creative, and resourceful (i.e. tie wraps rock). Your barricades protect you from the elements, your things light up, your devices make music, and your decorations end up better than using the sheets off your parents’ bed and knick-knacks from your bedroom.
You get to be a part of the coolest, most exclusive club ever. Remember the “members only” rule with your childhood forts? The “No Girls Allowed,” or the “Only the Fastest Runners on the Block,” or the “Only Kids with Names that Start with A”… yeah, it’s kinda like that but it’s not exclusive and it’s not members only. It just feels that way. You end up adoring, or hating, those you decided to let into your club (a.k.a. camp). And it’s freakin’ awesome.
You make forever friends. As a kid you’d make a best friend in an instant, right? And you did it everywhere with anyone.
“This is fun!”
“Wanna be my best friend?”
Yep, it’s just like that. And there you are – a forever friend.
The other kids’ art is freakin cool. Ok, it’s beyond cool. It’s MIND-BLOWING. The only way to describe the feeling when looking at this shit is sheer wonder – an 8-year old’s astonishment but with an adult-sized appreciation of just what had to happen to make this stuff go down. Mind. Blown.
Every night is the best slumber party ever. You stay up late. You feel like you get away with breaking all the rules because you stay up all night. It’s expected. It’s fun. And it’s better than TP-ing the front lawn of your nemesis or creating all-night dance routines with your best friend.
You play dress-up. Remember when you began to dress yourself and you couldn’t understand why your mom didn’t let you go to school with mismatched socks, a tutu, and a tie? Or your camouflage pajamas with suspenders and rain boots? Well, this is what you were practicing for. Here you wear absurd fun that makes perfect sense to no one. You feel like a million bucks.
You don’t have to take a bath and no one makes you. Nope. The dust is so fine that you don’t sweat, hair doesn’t get greasy, and everyone else looks a mess so there’s no reason to end playtime for bedtime routine.
You eat from an 8-year old’s birthday party menu. Ritz crackers with spray cheese, pickles, candy bars, cereal, chips, sodas… Your repressed child self will speak loud and clear when you’re doing that last run to the grocery store or gas station before you hit the desert.
You create things only to dismantle them later. Impermanence is the name of the game. If an entire city is created for 72,000 people for just a week, you can only imagine the impermanent nature of EVERYTHING you are a part of. No kragle for these Burning Man folks. The lengths you go to to create really cool shit is insane, and you do it knowing full well that it’s going to take just as long to take it apart.
And for this reason, we’re engaged.
We’re curious, open, playful, inquisitive, positive, excited.
But most importantly, we’re present.
My husband and I forced ourselves out of our rigid ways to get back out there this year and participate. I’m glad we did. It reminded me that there is an 8-year-old inside me dying to get out and play. I’m not going to wait another year for one week in August for uninhibited self-expression and joy. I’m claiming it now and committing to it forever!
How about you? Do you feel the need to spark more joy in your life? Are you more serious than you’d like to be? What little tweaks could you make to your daily routine that would allow for more freedom and play? For those of you already committed to practicing joyful living, give me your ideas – I’m all ears!! And for those inclined to share… Welcome Home. 🙂
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in the Sacramento, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.