For some of us, a festival is more than just a festival.
This piece of writing is coming from a place of vulnerability, transparency, and the wish to connect to my community on a deeper level.
This was supposed to be “the year.” The year to squash my insecurities, prove myself as a student and as a partner, build stronger connections to those around me, travel, attend as many festivals as I could, and celebrate the passing of 2019 which at that point I had thought was the most difficult year of my life. I was so obsessed with kissing the memories of 2019 goodbye and making new ones to dull the pain of the past. The memory of the death of my best friend, the memories of the idiocracies I had put myself through because I was under the influence, the opportunities I missed as a journalist because I was too scared to take the leap, the interviews I missed with artists because I wasn’t in the right mindset, the list goes on.
This amazing 2020 was going to be the best year yet, or so I thought. Once the news of the virus hit Canadian shores I knew it was all over. Though my hopes were still high for a few festivals happening towards the end of the year, I knew all my immediate plans were going to be squashed. To be honest, at first, it was a bit of a relief. Being a fulltime student my finances sometimes are stretched a little too thin to attend events and festivals. I thought this was the opportunity to save some money, hit the gym, stay sober, and make sure I am ready for festival season. But, as the days in quarantine turned into weeks, which then turned into months, I finally felt the weight of reality hit me. It’s just not going to happen this year.
For some people, not attending festivals is “no biggy.” Sure, they’ll miss getting fucked up for a weekend, but they’ve got other passions or opportunities to express themselves. For myself, festivals have been ingrained so deeply into my livelihood for so long that it almost felt as though I had lost a part of myself. A weekend at a festival for me is connection, expression, and community. It’s a time to see friends from afar where we all gather and celebrate life together. It’s a weekend to let the stresses of life melt away by the thumping of the bass, to navigate thought patterns on another level, to be fully immersed in art, and to just feel… human. More human than I feel in our blue-collared society.
I found myself in tears recently after the official cancellation of two festivals that I call home. I sat on the ground, holding myself, and cried for longer than I’d like to admit. I felt a wave of guilt wash over me. Why am I feeling so sad when people are losing their lives? I found myself feeling almost embarrassed that I could be so selfish. But I wasn’t being selfish! I was truly mourning a loss. My life had changed completely, like so many lives have. Our world is literally turned upside down. Is it so bad to grieve normality? No matter what your normality may be.
Once I allowed myself to feel the emotion I was feeling without guilt, I really started to think. For some people, the festival season is their income. Artists slave away year after year to get to where they are. Entire careers are based on these events: lighting, sound, visuals, and more. So much happens behind the scenes by such talented and driven individuals that a lot of people take for granted, myself included. It’s truly a scary time for our industry, the industry that provides us with a sense of belonging.
With all being said, when you find yourself feeling guilty for feeling the way you feel, make sure you squash those negative thoughts. Allow yourself to grieve the memories that were to be created, allow yourself to mourn the connection that you may not feel to others and yourself. Because for us, festivals are so much more than what people may perceive. It’s our freedom of expression, to let the pressures of life melt away, and to feel at home.
*Featured Image Via BEEDEE*