MAGAZINE

How Can We Be Our "Festival Selves" 365 Days of the Year?

Photo by: Galen Oakes
by Jenna Sessions | @JtheSesh Fri October 20, 2017 | 06:00 AM

Every experience we have on this crazy trip around the sun impacts us on some level. While some can be tragedies – like losing a loved one or getting in a car wreck – that deeply affect us in ways we don't fully understand until years later, many are beautiful memories that can literally shape who we become. 

Sziget 2014 Csudai Sándor   36

Photo by: Csudai Sándor

As the years unfold, experiences mount, seasons change – and so do we. Festival season is no different; each summer, we have the chance to take our glittering memories home with us like kids returning from camp. But as we grow older, walls seem to build in our minds, telling us that our fabulously flamboyant festival selves are separate from who we really are every day. We have “real” jobs. We have families and friends and bills and rent. We have responsibilities. We have expectations. But do we have to live by them? How can we truly bridge the divide between our daily selves and festival selves? What creates this divide in the first place? How can we fuse our identities into one fabulously effective self?

I’m not talking about quitting your job, moving to an ashram and never showering again, but what I am talking about is trading expectation for integration.

Desert Hearts 2015 Galen Oakes People   11

Photo by: Galen Oakes

It can be emotional for festival season to draw to a close. In fact, each year it rarely seems to get easier. The disparity between the utopian festival world and american culture, in which there is so much focus on money, professional hierarchy, advertising and commodity, is frustrating. After experiences in festival life, priorities can change. I almost quit my job when I came back from Burning Man this year. I really struggled to find meaning in my position at a (truly wonderful) tech company in the Bay Area; I was tempted to run off into the sunset and follow my passion. And if you can afford to do that – by all means – go for it! But after realizing that I needed a certain level of financial stability, I chose to live by one of my favorite mantras: “Where is the grass the greenest? Where you water it.”

So I began to look for small ways to get my life in line with the fundamental principles that festival life encourages. After all, why does that alive and in-the-moment feeling at festivals have to end when you get in the car to go home? I wanted to look for ways to bring my sparkly self home with me.

Symbiosis Gathering 2015 Galen Oakes People   1 Of 55

Photo by: Galen Oakes

It wasn’t effortless at first, because I am relatively new to festival life – I’ve only been through two festivals seasons. But after my second year festival-ing,  my worldview began to shift. My perfume started to smell completely chemical and artificial. I wanted to see myself in the mirror as I am. Being “present” became more important to me. I started paying attention to how I spent my time, and with whom I spent it. I wanted to blend the types of conversations I have at festivals with those I have in daily life. And over time, I felt like each festival I attended wasn’t such a drastic change from my daily life. I was spending time with like-minded people in a relaxed environment instead of dressing up in a costume to go to a party. I felt more open and spontaneous because I didn’t have my phone in my face. With intention, I made changes to honor my true nature and priorities in my daily life, inspired by my festival life.

Boomtown Fair 2015 Tristan Dunford People   27 Of 34

Photo by: Tristan Dunford

I believe that’s one of the most beautiful parts about our festival lives and selves. We connect with each other and disconnect from technological and consumerist distractions. We literally build camps where we live together. We create art and don’t care about cell service. So why not make the effort to connect each day? Why not bring all the best parts of our festival experiences home with us? Let's unplug from our screens, embrace our festival fashions to feel fabulous on the regular, and be vulnerable and available with our friends, family, and acquaintances – just like we do at festivals. Because maybe someday, we can live in a world where festivals – and the magical freedoms they provide – are regular community gatherings to celebrate life instead of opportunities to escape from it.