Vote Charlie!

Social apprehension

Posted at age 28.
Created . Edited .

After our long journey to Burning Man Saturday, I woke late and did little Sunday. I think I’ve learned to be OK with that, which itself has been a long journey.

This entry is No. 3 in a series of 14 entries.

Sunday, August 28: Slept ~09:00 to ~16:00. Uncertain since Fitbit died unexpectedly.

In the past I felt pressure to get up early, partly from the hot sun, but mostly due to my perception of social pressure that may not have existed. I’ve always been a night owl, though I have tried to normalize this year, with varying success. Back in boy scouts, I remember times camping where mostly everyone got up before me. I don’t recall if it was problematic or if I was scolded for not rising on time; I may not even have ever slept in inappropriately. I do recall dreading getting up for want of more sleep, and the association with good behavior and reputation, with self control and maturity. Rising and tackling responsibilities early was definitely desirable.

Fast forward to my first burn three years ago, and in many ways the situation felt similar to camping as a boy scout. I was bound to a group of peers and leaders, enduring each other for days, wanting to make a good impression. This desire was amplified since I was just meeting most of them for the first time upon arrival. But here, a good reputation wasn’t to be earned by performing camp duties, for the camp was not then and is not now so organized as to have assigned duties. Rather, I felt I should join the others in group outings as much as possible, and of course try to get to know them and allow them to get to know me well enough to like me. This sometimes conflicted with my tiredness, laziness or shyness.

I know I didn’t attempt to connect with campmates as much as I wanted to those first few years, but I think I’ve gotten better. I’m not sure how much of this was guaranteed to happen through several burns together and how much was due to my opening up more. Much of my social self exclusion has been due to the 50K race I’ve done three years now, and a lot of it has been due to not finishing my LED projects before arriving at Burning Man, needing to repair things or needing to set up my yurt’s somewhat extensive amount of electrical equipment.

I can be inattentive when I am nervous. When meeting someone new, I can avert eye contact or make jokes in lieu of serious conversation. I imagine I can sometimes give the impression I don’t want to get to know someone, when in reality I’m nervous and might even fear they don’t want to get to know me. Of course I don’t examine the likelihood that could be true yet they would still go out of their way to talk to me, the likelihood they simply feel compelled to talk to me because of an obligation to the group. I know if I actually considered these things, I would understand there is nothing to worry about, and I should just relax. But I don’t often get there soon enough, and by the time I relax, the situation is long passed.

This nervousness was greater in previous years, when I assumed everyone knew each other and I was the outsider. It’s been harder to maintain this fantasy knowing this is my fourth year and many of my campmates are virgins. Separately from Burning Man, I’ve been trying to relax in general, to assume the best, to assume I can enjoy getting to know anyone. I haven’t had many occasions to practice, having worked at home for most of the past five years, and mostly leaving the house only to run or bike. But I feel clearer. Now my battles are with being all right with taking time for socializing, as I don’t yet feel set in my career path, and I often burden myself with documentation tasks such as writing this. Hopefully I can find balance. I have at least been enjoying the journey.

That’s a roundabout way of explaining my reduced apprehension about waking up late. Especially since we were sort of independent as a camp this year, I didn’t feel I needed to prove myself to anyone. When I discussed this with David, he said Burning Man of all places is where you should do what you want. It’s hard to disagree.

So Sunday, I had no qualms about sleeping till 4 p.m. Certainly nobody in my group could argue I hadn’t done my share. And nobody tried. Erik and Phillip had gone to sleep shortly after me, but rose after only a few hours. They did want me to figure out the shower setup, but they managed till I managed to get to it.

In the meantime, they had helped set up the communal shade area and kitchen. I discussed the shower design a bit with Scottie and others, as it was apparent stability would be an issue once we popped together the plastic pipes and saw how tall it would stand. Of course, I knew the 10 foot poles would yield a 10 foot shower, but I didn’t know how flimsy the poles would be till I built it, which happened for the first time there on the playa. I don’t quite consider this an oversight, as I knew the poles could fail, but figured in the worst case, we would just dangle one of the shower bags from the SUV. I thought the others were right and I would have to change to some pyramid type design instead of a simple rectangular design, but I was also curious if I could get it to work as originally conceived.

I spent the evening setting up our batteries and solar panels, and then, yes, the shower, while the group went out exploring. I expected they would be out late, and I had been taking my time, but they returned and went to sleep right away at 10 p.m. I had finished the shower by then, but had been expecting to be able to work on lights and music in the yurt in peace, so I had to adjust. I thought I could seize the opportunity to start my journal on my laptop, but lacked willpower to actually type. I stayed up a few more hours, but didn’t end up doing much more Sunday night.

The story continues in Race prep by day drinking.

Entries in this series

  1. Unpacking Burning Man 2016
  2. The journey ‘home’
  3. Social apprehension
  4. Race prep by day drinking
  5. Third ultramarathon fastest yet
  6. Feeling astonished, validated, home
  7. Recovering, welcoming
  8. Lost at day, seeking friends
  9. Lost at night, seeking joy
  10. Joy, right at home
  11. Man burns, desert chills
  12. The Temple
  13. Return to default world
  14. Bonus: The golden stool