Hello FOMO My Old Friend

Not much good comes from sitting around “having thoughts” instead of being out in the field reporting, but that’s the situation we’re in. We don’t like it, but we’re going to deal with it.

For all the good reasons, we weren’t at Fence Day on Friday. So that meant no dawn patrol, no weak coffee in the darkness, no taping of fingers, no pep talk from Just George, no pounding of stakes, no push-ups, no beer at the finish, and no feeling of immense accomplishment and satisfaction in the evening. No, just Instagram and Facebook feeds filled with pictures from the day, of everyone out there getting it done, in the heat and sun, yes, but with each other, having the good times.

The time is so precious — the getting ready, the anticipation, the great collaboration, and it doesn’t last for long. It’s just a few short weeks until the gates open and the real party begins. But this can be an especially tough time of year for people who aren’t going to Burning Man this time around.

It’s the season of FOMO, and it is not fun.

[Editor’s note: not everyone knows that FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out.]

 [Reporter’s note: STFU old man.]

For old-timers, missing a Burn is like missing a family reunion, or skipping the holidays, or not having summer vacation. For newcomers, maybe it’s a bucket list item that once again doesn’t get checked off.

People have lots of good reasons not to spend all that time and money going to the desert: They’ve got jobs. They’ve got families. They’ve got responsibilities. They are ADULTS, ferchrissakes, and they better start acting like it!

But still.

There’s a part of you that would rather be finishing the art and checking the packing lists and cleaning out the dust from the camping gear. You’d rather be doing the shopping, getting the water, and figuring out a shower plan that will actually work. And costumes! You’d like some new costumes!

No, no, no, that’s not right. You’re feeling fine that you’re not going. In fact, you’re feeling really good about it! You’re doing the right thing, and you know it. And there are plenty of other people who aren’t going, either. We’re going to hang out and build a little fire at the beach, and we’re going to park and eat wherever we like in the city because it’s going to be so empty, and it’s going to be juuuuuuust fine. It is! It is!

Yeah, it is. And it isn’t.


It’s been a little bit like that these past few days, doing the adult-ing and watching everything happen from afar, and going back and forth about it in our brains.

We believe, though, that in the end, we wind up doing exactly what we truly want to do, despite the mental chatter clouding things. So it makes sense to put aside all the rationalizations, stop debating with yourself, and accept the fact that you’ve put on your big-boy pants and you are getting down to business.

But we’ve been feeling your pain, and we’ve had the pangs and conflicted feelings, too. While we were away, we consoled ourselves with pictures from previous Fence days. We hope they console you, too.

We’ll be back out there in a day or two. And we hope you’ll come back, too, if and when the time is right.

More pics from Fence days past:

About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

17 Comments on “Hello FOMO My Old Friend

  • BigBlueDoggy says:

    Thank you once again, John! It will be nice to have you back out there keeping us from feeling so cut off from the action! 2.5 weeks until we hit the playa!

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  • Genie says:

    Sigh. Yes. This was not the year for me to go, and I let my tickets go with a heavy heart after finally coming to that conclusion. Though I’m mostly at peace with it, I know it’s going to be hard watching all the social media traffic from the Playa and seeing everything I’m missing. But…I have been making a plan to have a little Man Burn of my own away from the Playa. :-)

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  • Justin Credible says:

    Damn you Curley! I was.. just feeling fine about it! But now I miss it again! You hit the nail on the head. Fuck Cancer you fucking fuck!

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  • Jim (JumpseatJimmy) says:

    Well John … For those of us who won’t be there due to no tickets … THANKS! I feel better. Even though I’ll miss it … HEY! I have a wonderful world out there to enjoy.

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    • Wraith says:

      It’s a lot easier to manage when you decided not to go because you had other things you had to do.

      Suppose I’m glad I couldn’t come up with a ticket this year, since it looks like I’ll be spending Burn time laid up with medical issues anyway.

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  • G says:

    Here is hoping the video feed is better this year.

    I had to watch the burn from here at my desk last year due to my dear 93 year old Mom doing her end of life thing.

    The video feed froze after the fireworks and a few minutes into the burn. It did not come back until the Man was down and the crowd was gathered around the smoldering embers.

    Sucks to be on the outside looking in.

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  • JV says:

    Oof, I’ll be missing it harder than usual this year. The Building BRC series you do is a blessing and a curse, that way. I’m glad to be able to see it happening, but it only makes me miss it more. Next year, as they say…

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  • purplekoosh says:

    My husband and I had to pull the plug on our Burn last year less than six hours from our scheduled departure; he’d been discharged from the hospital two weeks previously, and simply did not recover as fast or as fully as we had hoped. It’s not the first time one or both of us has missed the event due to his health, but aborting the launch in the middle of the countdown like that was soul-crushing.

    Next year was better, they say – well, it’s next year now, and we’re gonna rock this thing.

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  • Rainmaker says:


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