Avoiding mid-life crises with a life course correction: Burning Man

Men approaching 40 often hit what is termed a “mid-life crisis”. They dump their old car and buy something they can’t afford with lots of horsepower and a sexy exterior. They start jumping out of planes. And often, they divorce their wives in the pursuit of younger women.

The underlying cause is a feeling of unfulfilled expectations, often accompanied by revisiting the hopes, aspirations, and dreams men had in their younger years.Β The mid-life crisis can take many forms, but the concept of transition is one that is undeniable.

The problem is, it’s not a healthy transition. Fast cars are expensive. Young girls interested in older men are more expensive. And divorce and child support? REALLY expensive. On top of the financial impact, men often find they had it pretty good, but after goofing off in their mid-life crisis for a while, pissed it all away for no good reason.

I’d like to propose that there are better solutions.

The real cause of the mid-life crisis is those expectations, so the key is to reduce those expectations. One way to do so is to have a truly life-changing experience that can show you that the pressures you feel, the expectations placed on you (by you, your family, your school, etc.)…they’re all BS.

There are many ways to achieve this sort of mind-shift, but none more powerful than a festival known as Burning Man. The week-long “Burn” takes place in the desert of central Nevada near Reno. It’s a beautiful out-of-mind experience that is hard to put into words for folks who’ve not experienced it. There’s art of mind-blowing creativity. There’s music. There’s yoga. There’s costumery and games. There’s a sharing economy that rivals anything you could dream up if you had to create a money-free society.

Young to old, straight, gay and everything in between, Burning Man attracts a wide swath. And once you arrive, all pretense goes out the window. In my first Burn, I arrived a pretty straightlaced guy (some might even have said uptight, and damn them, they were right). Within a few hours of arriving, setting up my tent, and donning a giant afro wig and some preposterously fluorescent pants, I found myself dancing to Paul Oakenfold on top of a 40 foot tall Merry-Go-Round (literally, on the horse’s head).

Β Python sidekicks are not essential at Burning Man, but hey…it’s quite the accessory if you can pull it off.Β 

So what is essential? Absolutely nothing. That’s the beauty of it. You bring what you want and you explore your own creativity as well as that of the community all at once. You can certainly do faux fur outfits, cool vogue wigs, create your own costumes with second hand craft supplies, shop thrift stores in hipster neighborhoods for some truly vintage and preposterous outfits….the sky is the limit. You won’t see a lot of store bought new costumes…the idea is to be green and crafty!

The main thing to remember is that Burning Man is a community. You must consciously try to leave behind those things that create negative energy in your life in order to open yourself to the life-changing effects of the Burn.

So how did dancing on a 40 foot tall horse’s head work out for me? I can truly say that Burning Man changed my life for the better. All the pretense washed away, priorities came into clear focus, and I discovered that real happiness comes from connections and community, not anything that has to do with fast cars and fast women.

So…go. Open your mind so that the beauty can pour in. And please carpool to Burning Man if you can. πŸ™‚

Photos from Dust to Ashes, Jasper Gregory, and Travis Britton on Flickr Creative Commons

Written by Scott Cooney


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  1. I gotta say that for a man not espousing the typical midlife male crisis in dumping your everyday life and heading off to find a new sexy younger woman you certainly picked alluring pictures to entice men over to “Burning Man” didn’t you? In fact…as suspiciously cynical as I am, I might even think that one was actually encouraging men by using these pictures to facilitate the “free lovin'” outcome of Burning Man? Perhaps I am wrong but I don’t think so πŸ˜‰

    • πŸ™‚ I hadn’t actually thought about that, but I will say that these pictures are pretty tame in comparison to some I’ve seen floating around. I tried to find pictures that showed creativity, but your point is taken. Hopefully did not offend, as that was absolutely not the desired outcome.

  2. That’s me… I’m Naga, sporting one of my pythons, Monty, at Decom a couple years back…Will be heading to my 11th burn this year (sans python, they don’t make goggles that small). The irony is not lost on me that my (former) husband (who I first took to Black Rock back in ’03) didn’t resolve his mid-life crisis, but instead left me for a younger woman he met at Burning Man….Nothing is going to get between me and Burning Man, just saying its not the panacea. Expectations are a tricky business.

    • Hi Naga (and Monty),
      Wow…the interwebs are an amazing place. I am amazed that without your name or any other identifier there, you were able to find this post. Everything happens for a reason, so who knows…maybe you’ll find the real love of your life in the desert this summer. πŸ™‚

  3. This is an interesting festival for people who are in their mid-life and looking for new adventure and explorations. I wonder if mid-crisis is most common to men than women.

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