This week I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
Back story: About eight months ago I decided to go to Burning Man 2012 on a whim. I had been inspired by some of the Trey Ratcliffe’s photos from the event and it had been something I’d wanted to go to for a long time so I decided to stop letting things stop me and just go!
A friend of mine was also going to come with me. Since then she has done most of the organising for the trip because she’s amazing at organising things, doing thorough research, making enquiries etc, and because I was kind of caught up with myself and let her do all the work. She has organised tickets to Burning Man, flights, booked accommodation, and an RV to drive into the desert. This is no mean feat and I was completely in awe and indebted to her for doing it.
When I decided to go to Burning Man, I was a different person. I thought I was happy in my corporate job, doing my business degree, existing through life with as little free time as possible because if I thought to hard about what I was really doing the bubble would have burst. I didn’t know the things about myself that I know now, I didn’t understand what made me happy, what challenged me, what depressed me, what I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the world; this is stuff that I have learned in the months since leaving my ‘real’ job.
The decision: Basically that I couldn’t go to Burning Man. I had envisioned this journey as a spirit quest of sorts, a shedding of all of my old self and a real immersion of the new self, the artist, the wanderer, the authentic me in a community where I felt I would be able to blossom and nourish that self. Having started the journey I realise just how far I have to go before I am ready to make that leap, how fragile the self I’m creating is, how I need to be gentle with it in order for it to grow. I have made a lot of big changes in my life, but they are really more like a series of small steps; Burning Man feels more like stepping off a precipice into the unknown and I honestly don’t think I am ready for it.
There were a few other reasons that factored in the final decision. Firstly I would have to miss a whole semester of uni which I am really enjoying and I feel like it is something that nourishes me; it’s not something I want to give up for 6 months at this time. Secondly that I actually don’t think I could afford it; when I decided to go, I had a salaried job with annual leave, I would have been able to take paid leave for the month we would be away with my current job however, I am casual so I don’t get any holiday or sick pay and I’m earning significantly less than half my old wage, so saving for it is more difficult and by necessity slower.
I started to think that I would have to pull out of the trip weeks ago. I thought about it a lot, I looked at all the angles, I tried to look at it objectively, because not only was it a huge decision for me, but it strongly affected another person. After considering my options and assessing my feelings about cancelling, I realised that I had to do it. I had to be true to myself, and to my friend, because if I went through with this trip without my heart being in it 100% it would be a huge mistake and probably result in both of us having an awful time and regretting the trip.
When I called my friend to tell her she was understandably devastated, but I hope she understands that it couldn’t have been any other way. This has to be one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do, but also one of the most liberating decisions I’ve made. I don’t want to imply that I won’t go to Burning Man one day, and in fact I still see it as the spiritual journey I need to take, but I also need to respect the fact that now is not the time for it. Part of realising how far I’ve come on this journey involves being realistic about how far the road stretches out in front of me and being gentle with myself about how far I’ve come along it. The road I am travelling is not a race, it’s a lifetime.