Extremely Firsty: Stories From First time Burning Man Staff, First-Time Burners

Gate Road, 2014. Turned out it was the fastest route to Fernley.

For the 2022 preseason, Burning Man has had more first time Burners on staff than any year I can remember since I first picked up a sledgehammer for DPW in 2009. That to me seem like a profoundly courageous leap off a cliff into zero visibility; to dedicate weeks of your life to a whole host of unknowns, embedded in a strange work culture in a strange land, building an experience for strangers for which you have little frame of reference.

That is the mark of an adventurer, heeding the knock on the door and following the call to a place “where the pavement ends, and the West begins”, to build a mirage in the desert everyone can see, while subsisting on beef jerky, Cerasport and tallboys of Montucky. I have great respect for that kinda energy. I was once not so different from yourselves.

If you’ve been out here for a few weeks working for the first time and you’re reading this, you’ve lived through enough of the experience to understand how unique it is, how far off the map your adventures have taken you. Not everyone who hasn’t done this can wrap their head around what you’ve been doing; you may find yourself trying to explain your summer to friends and family, some even Burners, and see them nod their heads and smile in polite confusion. But there are a lot of people around you who were once first-years on a crew, and long ago all of us had a day when we first stepped onto the playa.

I want to give you double first-timers a chance to share your thoughts. Those of us who have been around a while have a way of getting jaded, of only seeing the problems, or turning a blind eye to others. A fresh set of eyes is exactly what we need, to see things for the first time and rediscover why we put ourselves through this each year. And a living culture always needs new voices, new perspectives, new myths and burn-barrel tales to remind ourselves of who we are, fuel for the fire we use to light the way for the next ones who come along.

So tell me your stories. Tell me your first impressions. Your adventures. The work, and the play. The hardships, the new friends you made, the things you’ve learned about the world or yourself, the lessons you’ll take back to the world of pavement and rent and whatever the hell is wrong with the world right now. And tell me what folks could learn from you.

Click here to answer a questionnaire I’ve put together. If you have other, longer, or unrelated thoughts, you can email them to me here. I’ll eventually post these in some form here on my site. Responses will be submitted anonymously by default, but if you don’t mind being known, you can sign your playa handle and/or department at the bottom of each post.

I look forward to reading all your responses, and I hope this season has given you at least as much as you’ve given it. Thanks,

-Professor Plague (Survey, DPW Spires Install)