I went to Burning Man this year, a massive arts and music festival in Nevada. I was nervous. I’d seen the Mad Max like photography posted all over the internet. I’d watched documentaries, and short videos, and I anxiously wondered “Is this going to be another occasion where I feel like I don’t fit in?”. If you’ve seen me in person, you’ll know that I don’t have radical hair, nor do I dress radically. I look normal.

While I appeared, on the surface, to be normal, I’ve never felt like I fit into “society”. I’ve always felt like an outsider, awkward, strange, abnormal and weird. I’m hopeless at conforming, just awful at it. I’ve tried but failed many times. Following others or abiding by socially acceptable norms has been something, I struggled with all my life. It’s made people angry with me, this includes my family, friends and acquaintances. The black sheep. My opposable, non mainstream ideas on life, most of the time, make really poor dinner conversations. I’ve got in trouble many times over for my lack of main stream thinking and behaviour. Particularly in my teens and twenties.

Whilst you might think, this would make me feel like I was unique or special in some way, it didn’t. It made me question, again and again, my beliefs and my behaviours, and that maybe I was wrong to think the way I do. I doubted myself and felt, small. After all, the majority think this way, and I don’t, so maybe there’s something wrong with me?!?

I learned to adjust to society so that others didn’t feel uncomfortable or get angry and so I didn’t have to justify my beliefs and choices. I hid. I learned to keep my mouth shut because I know how my beliefs can negatively impact and challenge others. I know that when I’ve shared, a small portion of my thinking, how much it shocks some people, when that wasn’t my intention. There are no words, that could ever express, how enormously suppressing it is, for someone like me.

My philosophy on life is: If it doesn’t hurt anyone and it’s consensual than I don’t really care what you do. Now because of that thinking, my life experiences are made up of situations, circumstances and people who, for lack of better words, sit outside the norm. I’ve lived with a prostitute, friends who worked in Bondage and Disciple. Married friends who are swingers, friends who owned escort agencies. Friends who’ve taken copious amounts of recreational drugs. A female friend who slept with six guys at the same time and loved it, etc, etc, etc…

I don’t see anything wrong with any of these things. These things exist in the world, they are real and they give me the spectrum of life’s colours. It fits my code, my philosophy. This open- mindedness made me feel like I should be apologetic. And I was, often.

As we entered Burning Man, someone had a sign that read “Welcome Home”. I was curious. What did that mean? It wasn’t long for that to hold significant meaning. It wasn’t long before I felt like this is my long lost TRIBE. These are MY PEOPLE. I felt NORMAL. I FIT. WOW. I’ve never fit before.

A playground for uninhibited adults, creating for the sake of it, destroying for the fun of it, creating some more without discernment. Adults running around without judgement of others, free spirited, open-mindedness. Beautiful. Insanely awesome. I fell in love. With the people, the culture, the art, the desert, the lights. I’m still in love.

My brain has changed. I feel it deeply within my cells too, they are dancing and happy. I don’t feel apologetic, no longer like an outsider, awkward, strange, abnormal nor weird. Knowing that

I have somewhere in this world, that I unquestionable belong too. I’m beholden to this magical place. I feel content. I feel more free then ever before. I draw enormous strength from it.

Life is strange. I’m forty one, and I’ve had my fair share of devastating loses, heart retching pain, major depressions, existential crises, anxiety and adversity. It’s nice to know, and feel deeply, that life can also be filled with such stunningly beautiful experiences. Then again, I’ve always chosen paths less traveled by. Perhaps not so strange that I ended up here.

It’s been over two months since the Burning Man event and I’m still feeling the same freedom as I did when I was there. It’s being reflected in my everyday behaviour. I’m not bothering with small petty activities that don’t bring me joy. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone anymore, including myself. I longer experience harsh self judgement. The internal changes keep on unravelling which are impacting the external changes in my life.

This is just the beginning of the journey. I now see the possibilities for my life being much greater than before. I’m excited at the thought of where this will lead. In the future, I’ll reflect on this trail, and say, it was because I choose, to expose myself to unique experiences, and beautiful people, and that’s how I ended up in this spot. My life is a canvas in which I create. Watch this space.