Burning Man is many things to many people. Expectations about Burning Man are diverse and abundant. The classic Burning Man joke, “I heard that last year was the last good year” epitomizes the expectation aspect of the event. The words “transformation” and “going home” are common expressions among burners and burners-to-be. Those words contain expectations.
What are your expectations for Burning Man? If you’ve already been to TTITD at least once, how much does reality differ from your expectations? If you haven’t been yet, how were you introduced to the idea of going to Burning Man? Somebody who wants to go because they heard it was a big party in the desert will have different expectations than somebody who heard that it is “hard to explain,” “complicated,” “more than a party,” “a transformational experience,” etc.
Your expectations are affected by your reasons for going. My reason for going was triggered by great personal loss that left me with the need to do things NOW, not put them off. That led to “What’s the weirdest thing I can actually do NOW?” The answer, for me, was Burning Man. My expectation was to “do” Burning Man, whatever that meant. Having gone in with pretty open-ended expectations, my experiences have also been that way. All positive, leaving me with a desire to “do” more at Burning Man, and to keep “doing Burning Man.” Was I transformed? I have no idea. That’s a loaded word.
I do know that Burning Man does something positive for me. It fits into my “irritant/soothe” theory. I believe that our systems can become overloaded with irritants (stress, stimulus overload, etc), causing problems with physical and emotional health. We need to balance out those constantly incoming irritants with things that soothe us. Soothes can be many things: alone time, writing, walks on the beach, a good book, a Buffy marathon, creating art, a talk with your best friend, a nice dinner, a relaxing vacation.
I am a caregiver. That means never-ending responsibility for somebody besides myself. That gets very wearing. What I tend to crave most is freedom from that responsibility. For me, Burning Man is the one week of the year when I am only responsible for myself. Just me. That freedom is very soothing to me. That freedom makes me smile (I almost always have a dorky smile on my face at Burning Man). I’ll be there again this year, smiling, and doing my thing, whatever that may be.