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Post-Playa Syndrome
What to expect and how to cope
by Hurricane Linda

If this is your first year at Burning Man, it must seem pretty amazing, huh? But let me warn you: the Burning Man experience doesn't necessarily end here on the playa. There's a distinct set of symptoms known to hit Newbies after they leave the Burning Man festival, known as Post-Playa Syndrome.

Actually, the syndrome is not merely limited to first-timers. However, those experienced with PPS are usually better able to cope with it. Knowing what to expect is key, so don't be caught by surprise if you experience the following stages of Post-Playa Syndrome:

Stage One: You're home. You've taken that first bath, had that first uninterrupted eight hours of sleep, pumiced the feet, lotioned the sunburn. There's a blissful afterglow, and a feeling of pride that you chose the best possible way to spend your Labor Day weekend. Enjoy it while you can.

Stage Two: Back to the grind. Depending on your work environment, you may find it difficult, or even totally disallowable, to accurately answer your co-worker's inane "Did you have a nice weekend?" queries. You may also find yourself steeped in superiority when listening to insipid chatter about the picnics, television, and consumerism they occupied themselves with while you were on the playa, living a life that they couldn't possibly visualize.

Another thing to be conscious of during Stage Two: Try to bear in mind that it is no longer okay to strip naked in public, no matter how hot it is.

Stage Three: All of us have friends and family members that didn't or couldn't get out here to Black Rock City. If these people are patient and understanding, they will not berate you for your inability to stop uttering "Burning Man" for periods of greater than five minutes. Be patient with them too, and realize that, as difficult as it may be to believe, after six months of hearing your incessant yammering, they may actually consider the topic boring. It's impossible at this stage to stop talking, thinking, and dreaming about Burning Man, so the only real solution is to spend as much time as possible with sympathetic parties, i.e. your fellow Burning Nerds. More than likely, there are a few in your hometown, and this is the time when those internet Burning Man bulletin boards really come in handy.

Stage Four. By this stage, there will be a few twenty-four hour periods where you actually manage not to talk about Burning Man to everyone you meet. However, you'll still find it difficult to resist asking, "Have you ever heard of Burning Man?" to anyone you meet who seems like they may be sympathetic.

Stage Five. Six months have gone by. Finally, you've made it past the halfway point to next year's Burn! Now is the time to start those free-for-all brainstorming sessions with your campmates. Yes, you've got to make everything bigger and better than last year. Go wild, and let your imagination run free ÷ don't worry, you'll downsize all your "brilliant" ideas in Stage Six.

Also, now is the time to realize that it's not always going to be possible to convince others to commit to going, no matter how sure you are that they'll enjoy it. If they know you, they've heard of Burning Man; the rest is up to them. The best that you can do is point them to http://www.burningman.com and hope that they'll see the light.

Stage Six: Now you can legitimately feel that you aren't being silly in beginning earnest preparations for the next Burn. But it's during this stage that you may have to come to grips with the fact that you aren't really going to build a full-scale replica of the village from The Prisoner, or learn to juggle six chainsaws while firebreathing, or build a papier-machˇ version of the Batcave by Labor Day. That's okay. Just take the one really great idea you think you can accomplish, and get to work on it. Finally, a direction for your energies!

Stage Seven. Welcome. You are now a seasoned Burning Man veteran and Newbies will come to you for advice. It's up to you to choose which attitude to adopt: the cynical "It ain't what it used to be" 'tude, the patronizing "Oh, you silly Newbies" posture, or the loving "Welcome all!" pose.

Although it may be difficult to deal with at times, Post-Playa Syndrome is manageable. Good luck, and see you next year.

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