All through the week, pedaling out or back home across the playa, I would see on the horizon: “BELIEVE.”

I’d always believed in people. I’d always believed in myself. Now, for the first time, I was losing it.

A month before Burning Man, I had given up on my first real relationship. It was my fault. I was young and in a time of transition. I didn’t want to be in one but he was so important to me that I tried anyway. There were clashes in what we wanted from each other. There were clashes in what was important to us.

After months of uncertainty and ups and downs, I took the easy way out. I cut myself free because I couldn’t be tangled up with him anymore.

A month went by, one of the hardest months of my life. I cried every night for weeks. I drank and went out alone and kissed strangers in dark bars. I was so lost and confused, I wanted to be self-destructive, I wanted to punish myself for shutting off the light in my life. I only had myself to blame.

We were going to be camping together at Burning Man, and I made a decision. I knew that I had to try again. Because how could we throw away something so beautiful? Let it go to waste? We loved each other, wasn’t that enough? I hadn’t given it my all yet, and before we could part, I had to know that I’d tried my hardest.

He came to pick me up in San Francisco. I didn’t know what was going to happen when we saw each other. My heart leapt into my throat when he kissed me immediately. We were back. Our love had never died. It felt good, and we were so happy. On the playa, I would pedal past the BELIEVE sign and smile, tears streaking from my eyes, because I did. I believed in us. We were struggling with so many issues, but I wanted to keep trying because I had faith that eventually, we could make it work.

Over the course of the week, we lost track of each other. We wanted different things from the Burn. I got wrapped up in the love of dozens of strangers and friends, old and new. He spent most of his time with one other person. I kept flying around while he wanted a buddy. It was analogous to how we acted in the real world, but became all the more clear under the pressure of one week.

By the end of the Burn, he had fallen in love with his new playa buddy. I had kind of seen it happen. She was trying to help us reconcile until it was clear that she had feelings for him too. There was a day I couldn’t talk to her at all because I was so hurt from all that was happening. On the last day, she couldn’t talk to me either.

We had our last conversation on my birthday. He made it clear to me that he didn’t want to try again with me regardless of whether she was in the picture. It’s only been a couple of weeks now but I am getting over it all. I realize that we aren’t right for each other, not for this point in our lives and maybe not ever. I see how much more sense she and he make as a couple. How they just get each other, and their happiness flows so easily.

This year’s Burn reminded me not only to believe in love, but also to know when to let go. On Sunday, I scribbled my message onto the Temple: “Love is amazing but it can’t solve everything. Sometimes it’s not enough to overcome our differences. It’s still a beautiful experience. But you have to know when to let go.” As I watched the Temple burn, holding his hand, my tears fell and I was prepared to accept our end. I had given it my all, and so had he. We believed in us until we couldn’t anymore.

by Wild Cherry

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.

One comment on “BELIEVE

  • Nik says:

    This is a beautiful story. I was exactly like that in my 20ies so I can relate to this so much. It’s life. Love, loss, and love again… each time we learn, we grow. Enjoy the ride.

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