On my way in every way
Be my guide or be my ghost
There are no two ways about it
You’re my guide or you’re my ghost…
Five hours of Donato Dozzy, Neel, and Voices from the Lake. Caribou. Rival Consoles. Andy Stott. Nicholas Jaar. Leftfield. HVOB. Playing all together in one place, in one weekend. The electronic artist motherlode. This is how I ended up lugging two suitcases full of camping gear and elaborate outfits onto a plane and flying to Las Vegas, getting on a bus, and heading out into the Moapa Valley desert to camp out at a music festival alone. This is how I found myself in the Further Future, sitting in a cabana with a clan of magical German night vampires dressed all in white, drinking their morning champagne at 11pm “Berlin is a city of love. You are one of us, everyone here is one. This world is about love and we are the same. You are with us. Come to Berlin.”
So, first, let’s talk about anxiety. When your brain starts getting barraged by fear and worry and angst from the moment you wake up and you can’t turn it off, life starts to feel pretty scary. My anxiety is a symptom of something being amiss. In this case, everything in my being has been screaming at me to move forward. To change careers, to open my heart and my life up to the endless possibilities before me, to be ready for a drastic metamorphosis, to think bigger and wider and higher. To stop banging on closed doors. For quite some time, I have felt lost. I have looked for answers in relationships, in the sky, in the ocean, in the trees, in books, and writing, and music, and travel. I have walked the streets of New York City, draining my woes into her cement veins. I have gone to the edge and asked for guidance, and I have waited and listened and learned. I threw my love into the sea and she boomeranged it back to me. I have been still and I have tried to treat myself with compassion and kindness when I look for comfort and solace in old behaviors and indifferent people.
Anxiety for me is the canary in the coal mine. Everything in my being has been telling me the time is coming to change. Not just jobs, or houses, or cities. Yes, those things. My time in this space, in this version of my life is coming to an end. It is cosmic, a shift in being and consciousness, and yes, changes in everything else will and must follow. I’ve managed the anxiety with yoga and meditation and exercise, but right before I left, it was starting to feel rather serious. Unease is what called me to the desert. It was the next step in my vision quest, looking for my future guardian spirit to lead me to the next phase. When it is time to change, you can’t stop it, it becomes a force and manifests in your life and you just let go and do it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve gone out into the world alone, following the call of my nomad heart. I value my solitude and feel pretty much like a badass being able to go where I want by myself. Each time, it feels brave and scary and courageous and terrifying. But…one of my core needs is sharing experiences with people I care about. I need community and human connection. In fact, I know now that’s why I went on this trip, I was looking for my tribe.
This time, I was clad in an armor of fear, and the desert broke me. By the time I got my tent up, I was exhausted, lonely, nervous, and holding on to all the stress I could carry as I walked into the grounds of Further Future. My only rule was no alcohol, and while that wasn’t hard to do, it was hard to unbox myself enough to be able to talk to anyone. I felt isolated, and worried that I wouldn’t be able to stay awake to see the artists I really came to see. As I wandered through the hours and became familiar with the grounds, I got some food and looked at all the people around me who were clearly letting go and enjoying themselves in every possible way. Beautiful, happy, friendly people in amazing, ornate costumes danced and laughed all around me. I walked in feeling separate and other, like I didn’t belong. I felt outside and locked inside myself. It was hard.
It occurred to me then that one of my layers of fear is worrying what people will think about me. That I am not good enough. That I don’t belong in a space with artists and creators. That people will look into me and say no, that my gifts are not special or interesting. That I am not a writer or designer or artist. That all the things I like about myself will not be enough. I am afraid all my flaws are hiding my strengths and that everyone can see my broken parts and nothing else. Because I just can’t with alcohol, it’s just me and my sober brain feeling like a 12-year-old on the first day of school. I’ve been really honest about my issues with alcohol, about how for me, it hurts. Something about my chemistry makes it feel really bad. It’s hard to lay all that out for everyone to see. By being open and vulnerable, I give people ammunition and power to stand in judgement of me. And when I fall, everyone sees me fail.
And yet, bravely, loudly, I’ll say it again: Alcohol hurts. And after nine years of getting real with myself about my relationship with it, and spending most of that time without it in my brain and body, I have come to a point where I realize and am relieved to admit that it has zero value for me whatsoever. Even on the occasional basis like I have used it over the last year, it’s like drinking depression, and I’m just done. As long as I don’t put that in my body, I am healthy and okay. Not drinking for me isn’t hard, and in fact all weekend everyone I met was so supportive and understanding and careful to make sure I had something non-alcoholic to sip on. People I just met took care to make sure I was comfortable and safe. It was a revelation.
By midnight, I had seen Caribou and Rival Consoles and it was becoming wondrous. And then, the rain came. Around four AM, I was alone in my tent, lying on my air mattress, freezing, unable to sleep, drowning in FOMO and cursing myself for doing another crazy thing that was super hard. It was pouring, and my techno shaman Donato Dozzy was not going to play. At all. They got rained out and I was inconsolable. That anxiety wave crushed me. Had I really come all this way to sit in a tent by myself and feel desolate and hopeless? What was I doing there? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME, LIFE?
I finally got up and wandered into the grounds looking for food and coffee around 5am. The only thing available was beer. WHAT? Come on. By that point, I was ready to come home. Instead, I wandered into a group meditation and reiki inside a yurt. I sat there, on the verge of tears, and as we started, people began to reach out and touch each other. I breathed. We went through each chakra and I could feel, for the first time ever, where I was physically holding my fear and pain. And with a roomful of people radiating love at one another, I let go. I took in the energy of the room, of each beautiful person there who was loving and needing love. And I walked out of there and left my armor behind. When my feet hit the ground, I felt the desert soak up my shame and fear and judgement and otherness. And from that moment on, things started to open up.
And just like that, I opened up and made a friend. We ate tacos and got caught in a massive thunderstorm and spent an hour in a tent talking about our lives and relationships like we’d known each other for years. It was easy and fun, and later that evening, surrounded by new friends, I knew that was why I had come. I needed to let something go, I needed to stop standing in judgement of myself, to shed the perfection obsession, the need for control, and open up to what I really need which is human connection, radical acceptance, friendship, and love. I was adopted by a gang of wonderful, kind, cool, smart people from California and New York and they took care of me like I was one of their own.
For the rest of the weekend, it was like blessings of the universe rained down love and friendship on me in a way I have never experienced. From my rainstorm rendezvous with that special, wonderful human that turned into a two day sleepover where I ended up moving into his tent when mine flooded, to the Berlin contingent of German gods and goddesses in white, to my HVOB loving, art building, dancing, smiling Dutchman with a penthouse bunkbed overlooking the whole festival, to the SF RV gang who made me laugh for hours while they got dressed to the nines, to the exquisite and lovely LA crew of the warmest, most welcoming, loving, amazing people who danced and shared and snuggled with me until the sun came up – my Oyster Pearl, her beautiful beau, and their gang of friends – so many shining faces and hugs and real conversations under the stars to the beat of the Robot Heart. And you, my salt and pepper Sunrise. You are exquisite. Sigh. I even managed to make a group of Austin friends on the bus ride home, because life is awesome.
I had no idea Further Future would be anything to me other than a cool music festival where I’d get to be in a Martian landscape and dance all night to my favorite techno artists. I didn’t realize the depth of the connections I would make, or the effect that being in that atmosphere of love and acceptance would have on me. I didn’t know I was trapped in armor until I was able to unlock myself and allow myself to really let go and be there. (Which took an entire day.) It wasn’t just a bunch of people at a music and wellness festival. It was something bigger, more intertwined, and more profound than I could have imagined or expected. It opened me up to a world of community and cooperation and possibility that I have been searching for for years. I found my tribe.
Since I have been back, I have slept through the night, peacefully, without fail, for over a week. My anxiety has evaporated. I somehow gained the ability to stop it from entering my sphere. I left the fear and angst in the desert. I feel strong, powerful, brave, and optimistic that for the first time in ages, my internal compass is pointed in the right direction. People I have known for years are like, “What happened to you in the desert? You are radiating and glowing happiness.” There are so many people in this world who will lift you up and make your fire burn brighter. This is where I want to be. Where I have to be.
This festival has gotten a lot of bad press about being the Burning Man for the 1%, and some kind of exclusionary, elitist, rich kids’ raver daycare. Yes, you could drop a load of cash on things like decked out Airstream trailers, fashion consultants, spa treatments, and $150 a plate dinners. That was a thing. But I didn’t do any of that stuff. Everyone I met was so generous and kind. I met doctors, lawyers, real estate developers, tech consultants, health and wellness practitioners, yoga teachers, therapists – high achieving people who were so fucking nice and fun and awesome I can barely believe it. Not once did I ever feel like I was excluded from anything, in fact, it was the most amazing opportunity for connection that I’ve ever had at a festival. The food was great, they had lovely coffees and juices and lots of art and space and places to hang out and rest and chill and dance and climb and be wild in the desert. I spent about $150 all weekend onsite. While they need to work on their logistics (cleaner bathrooms, really staying open 24 hours, and seriously, make a plan for the weather) and some operational stuff, for a second year festival, it was really well done. I will be back next year, because I think it’s going to be an important place for inspiration and music and sharing ideas about what comes next. The people there are awesome. And because the Robot Heart got into my bones. This is just the beginning.
So how do you manage all this magic and come back to reality and like do normal life and keep moving forward? Well, the day I got home, I bought a plane ticket to Reno for August. You listen to every single person you met and you go to Burning Man, obviously. Adventures await if you want them.