To Burn, Or Not To Burn? A Neurotic Introvert’s Struggle To Attend Burning Man


I have always been something of a worrier.  Ever since I was little, I hated going anywhere or doing anything that wasn’t planned out in elaborate detail, or at least ended with a nice bed in a clean hotel (that I helped pick, and/or approve).  I’m an only child with parents who are prone to being fussy, and controlling, so one might chalk it up to a perfect mix of uptight genetics and over-nurturing.  Either way, it’s always been a struggle for me to relax and go with the flow.  This got somewhat better as I got older, and attended a very liberal camp where cleanliness and order were almost impossible to maintain.  I found freedom in this chaos, but camp life was short-lived, and I soon found my anxiety spool winding up again.

Ironically (or perhaps appropriately) I’ve been dating a guy who’s the polar opposite of me.  He can always go with the flow, never overthinks, and actually thrives in high-energy social situations.  He’s also been going to Burning Man every year for the last 8 years, and we’ve been dating for 6 ½ of those years.  Naturally he always tries to get me to go, and I conveniently always have other plans.  However, this year something momentous has made my ability to say no much more difficult.  We moved in together.

Now taking this big step forward in our relationship was scary for both of us, but it was especially so for him because he has perpetual Peter Pan syndrome, and moving in together is a huge check mark in the maturity column.  I on the other hand have wanted to do it for years, which doesn’t necessarily make me more mature, but rather more prone to nesting, as most introverts are.  And just as things were going according to plan (mwahahaha), he sits me down and says to me point blank, “I want you to come to Burning Man with me this year.  I think that with everything else that’s happening it’s time that you get to know this other side of me.”  Oh. Shit.

Needless to say, there was no way I could say no this time.  While it wasn’t an ultimatum, I knew the only way he could see a future with me is if I embraced this side of him that felt so foreign.  Naturally I started to panic, and the whirlwind of anxieties came pouring out.

How will I get there? What if my plane is late, and I miss the express bus into the city? Do we have to sleep on the ground? Are there scorpions?? What if there’s a dust storm?!  If I try to change my contacts will I go blind?  I can’t do porta potties for a whole week!  What if I’m not paying attention to my water intake, and get super dehydrated?  If I’m prone to UTIs will I get a super UTI??  How does anyone take drugs there if dehydration’s already a problem?  I’m not a night owl, do I have to become one to have a good time? Am I going to destroy all the clothes I bring just by wearing them? How do we find each other if we get separated with no smart phones? What if I get asthma and forget my inhaler?  Can I just get away from everyone and recharge? I’m practically invisible, how will any level of sunscreen protect me in a freaking desert?  What if I forget something really important? Like Advil?  It’s not like there’s a CVS down the street!  Why is this the acid test for our relationship?!

You get the idea.  However on the other hand, I desperately need something to press the release button on my anxiety spool, and Burning Man may be just the thing to do it. In the end, I’m taking the leap for love, and just like a regular ol’ virgin, all I can do is lay back, relax, and let the weirdness happen.  The plane tickets are bought, the RV is rented (the only creature comfort I requested), and goggles and tutu are secured.  I’ll be sure to report back when it’s over, if I make it out.