From the outside looking in, I had no reason to be unhappy, but I was.
My husband and I rarely argued, but we had started discussing divorce. Our three children were beautiful and healthy, but we had started to resent them. We seemed to have outgrown a lot of our friends and struggled to make new ones. In what felt like a very cliché way, we were trapped by our own success and burning out. Every day felt the same; a whirlwind of daycare, work, dinner, and sleep. We were lost.
From the moment you have them, kids consume your life. You inevitably (and happily) stop being the person you were and it’s all too easy to forget you ever had an identity other than Mommy or Daddy. Passions, hobbies and interests take a back seat to diapers, kids books, and finger foods. Parental guilt consumes you any time you want to get away and you feel neglectful and selfish for not wanting to be around your kids 24 hours a day. If you aren’t careful, you become a mom zombie (mombie?) and life starts flying by in a blur.
One evening, my husband and I sat down for our nightly ritual of falling asleep to Netflix in bed. A documentary called Under the Electric Sky caught my eye. The film centered around Electric Daisy Carnival, a music festival I’d heard of, but didn’t know much about. I’m not even fully sure that I knew what a music festival was. I’d been to a handful of concerts, but never a festival. I’d traveled to Ibiza and seen some of the biggest names in electronic music, but didn’t know who they were at the time, so it was just another night at the club.
Under the Electric Sky follows several different people and groups through their EDC journeys. They share stories about their rave families, why they are going to EDC, and what festivals mean to them. I was drawn to the sense of community they described feeling, the freedom to be and do whatever they wanted without judgement.
While the film itself was undoubtedly a genius piece of marketing material, something in my heart told me that there was truth in the words of the people it followed. I was convinced that we needed to go to EDC Las Vegas and experience it for ourselves.
Two short weeks later, our parental guilt took a backseat to our need to live again. The amazing nanny that lived across the hall agreed to stay with the kids for the weekend, I purchased wristbands on Craigslist, and we began the seven hour drive to Vegas from the Bay Area. With a suitcase full of neon clothes and glowsticks, we were officially about to become Headliners. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like more of a poser in my life, but I didn’t care. I was too excited for the experience ahead of me.
EDC Las Vegas is an amazing experience, drawing more than 400,000 people over three days. As the largest music festival in North America, the Insomniac event also set the record for the largest stage in North America in 2014. It would be easy to spend a few paragraphs on the size and scale of EDC Las Vegas, but this isn’t that kind of story.
My story is about what I think is more important than the event itself. A concept EDC first introduced me to that has become such an integral part of my life that it’s now a mantra I try to live by – PLUR.
Peace, Love, Unity and Respect are the pillars that rave culture was built on. When exchanging kandi bracelets, ravers practice a handshake ritual, repeating these values and reinforcing the spirit that makes electronic music festivals so unique. Within a few minutes of entering the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a girl yelled “Hey! I love your outfit!” and bounded over to happily indoctrinate me into rave culture with my first piece of kandi and a genuine hug. Throughout that weekend, the PLUR culture showed up in every aspect of our experience.
Peace – I can count on one hand the number of fights I’ve seen in the last five years and 50+ festivals I’ve gone to. While I’m sure they do occur, and rude people do exist, they are extremely rare in rave culture. Rave family gives each other the benefit of the doubt and continually proves itself considerate and tolerant.
Love – From the minute we got to Vegas and started meeting people at our hotel who were also going to the festival, we were stuck by how friendly everyone was. It’s like every person you meet wants to know you and connect on a much deeper level than I had experienced before. It made me feel as if we had a few hundred thousand friends just waiting to be made. I’d never felt as accepted for my authentic self.
Unity – People come to festivals from all walks of life, for all different reasons. When the music comes on, all of those things melt away. Thousands of people begin to move and sway to a beat, united in their love of music and their desire to have the best night of their lives. When they see another person struggling, they help. Whether someone needed water, a place to sit, or just a hug, most people we met seemed to keep an eye out for others at all times.
Respect – It takes a very special kind of community for women to be able to dance the night away dressed in nearly nothing without feeling unsafe. It takes a special kind of community for you to be able to get to the front of the crowd at almost any stage and still have room to move. People at EDC looked out for each other and weren’t afraid to say something if someone was getting out of line or being disrespectful, something I found refreshing and inspiring.
My husband and I spent three of the best days of our lives under the Electric Sky. We made friends, connected and shared our stories with other people. We gave and received gifts freely and we got weird together, surrounded by more kinds of beautiful weirdness than I’d ever known were possible.
We also found ways to apply PLUR to our relationship, peacefully resolving arguments, loving each other unconditionally, celebrating our union and treating each other with respect. When you’re busy being Mommy and Daddy, you can forget to be husband and wife, or for us, French Fry and Frosty. That weekend, we remembered. We danced, laughed and cried together until the sun came up every day.
When we left EDC Las Vegas for the drive home, we were exhausted, but had a renewed faith in our fellow man. We remembered what it was like to be our adult selves and to be the crazy kids who had fallen in love years before. The source of our unhappiness had been our lack of identity and we had found it again in the desert.
The realization that taking time for ourselves allowed us to return to our kids as better people fundamentally changed the way we looked at parenting. We realized that we had been giving our kids 60% of ourselves, 100% of the time. We gave them what we had left over after being burned out and neglecting self care. By taking the time away to recharge and reconnect as individuals and as a couple, we were able to come back and give our kids 100% of ourselves 90% of the time, taking the other 10% of our time to recharge ourselves.
EDC Las Vegas was the first of dozens of festivals we’ve gone to. While not all festivals brought the same level of PLUR and togetherness (I’m looking at you, Neon Desert in El Paso, TX), they all gave us time to release stress and absorb positive energy from like-minded people. Our marriage is stronger now than it has ever been, and I believe with every ounce of my being that we owe that to music festivals and living a PLUR life.
The couple that raves together, stays together.
*Featured Image Via rukes.com*
*Featured Image via www.rukes.com*