Note: Each heading is accompanied by a song that sets the scene for my experience that day.
Journey to Roo - Space Oddity by David Bowie
It’s all happening at the perfect time. I’m carrying a heavy heart, and I really need to take a break. To get back to a simpler reality than that of a recent college grad trying to figure out my life. I get into the car, and I feel grateful as we drive towards this much needed interim.
After over 9 hours in travel time and 2 standstill traffic jams, Maddie and I part with the idea of food shopping at a grocery store due to road closures. Our only option? To buy some gourmet finds at a gas station in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. We gather a few lunchables, granola bars, and a jar of peanut butter, and this is okay because we’re #RoughinIt.
We walk towards the register when disaster strikes; Maddie’s wallet and keys sit on the isolated seat cushion in the locked Toyota Yaris. We're out here, in the cold cold late evening in middle of Tennessee. Lucky for us, the locals are out of this world friendly and spend over half an hour attempting to unlock the car with a hanger. To all my Game of Thrones fans, this was about as suspenseful as last episode’s trial scene (soundtrack and all). I watch them lift her car keys in slow motion towards the tiny crack in the window (SO CLOSE), and then all the of the keys exploded through to the other side… all but the car key (naturally). Then AAA came… BLESS.
Day 1 - All You Need is Love by The Beatles
We create a home away from home on a farm in Manchester, Tennessee. I lounge across the sacred space, looking up at our Roo mascot, Oswald the Octopus, just hanging quietly as a tapestry is expected. We have plenty of shade and sangria, really it’s the perfect setup. I was nervous about this, I don’t really consider myself a good camper, yet I find so much happiness in this moment. No A/C, no technology, no walls to close me in. Just grass, a gentle breeze, and crisp air in my lungs. Simplicity is beautiful.
The Bonnaroo high five: perhaps the most wonderful way to spread positive human connection amongst 80,000 free-spirited individuals. The arch, a visual cue that shoots sharp adrenaline up my arm as I run towards it, high fiving complete strangers. But they don’t really feel like strangers. The fact that we are all here experiencing reality in such a vulnerable and raw setting creates a layer of camaraderie. Human connection is beautiful.
Day 2 - Intro by M83
My heart beats uncontrollably as we puncture the crowd of excited individuals at M83. I’ve listened to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming on repeat for countless hours, and now I find my tear struck face completely engulfed in the vibrations of music that, in my eyes, will always be larger than life. Intro blasts from the enormous speakers, the lights are going crazy, and I look up to discover the most beautiful totem I’ve ever seen: a giant glow-in-the-dark dream catcher. It is the most magical moment I’ve experienced at Bonnaroo thus far, and it feels rather symbolic of my endless capacity to dream. Imagination is beautiful.
I stand against the barrier that separates general admission and VIP, feeling every emotion humanly possible, knowing that I’m as close to Tame Impala as my wristband will allow. During Apocalypse Dreams I feel the entire planet rise and fall as the beat does. In that moment, I melt into the crowd and we all ride the Tame Wave together. I relinquish all control and allow my spirit to explode into a supernova of the most beautiful emotion imaginable. Oneness is beautiful.
Day 3 - Have You Ever Seen the Rain? By Creedence Clearwater Revival
We walk towards the main stage when…. “Dear Bonnaroovians, there is a storm coming. Please walk over to your campsite and take shelter in your vehicles. All shows are cancelled until further notice.”
As a Floridian, I’m thinking BRING IT ON.
I find it rather symbolic that in all of Tennessee, the storm decided to form right above Manchester. Looks like we rocked the boat pretty hard Fam, even the lightning wants to head bang to some Pearl Jam right about now.
Day 4 - Sea of Voices by Porter Robinson
I look down and see Bonnaroo in all its miniature vastness. Sometimes I get so stuck in everyday details that I fail to look at the overarching beauty of being alive. From the top of this ferris wheel, I see the farm so clearly. It looks much larger and more intimidating from the ground. It’s easy to get stuck seeing the world in one specific way, but I’ve realized that perspective is everything. And the beauty of it all is that we can create the kind of world we want to live in through understanding that. Perspective is beautiful.
“I don’t know the date nor time, and I find such beauty in this.”
Leaving Roo - Sun’s Coming Up by Tame Impala
My little escape from reality comes to an end as I arise from the tent one last time. I look around to a different Farm, one that lacks a certain energy that made it so special. It’s all very quiet, and no one is screaming “Happy Roo” anymore. It’s time to go home and make sense of all my bundled up emotions. *Cue Sun’s Coming Up* Tears stream down my dirty face, and I let them fall because I understand how real this moment is.
Bonnaroo was easy, hard, emotionally and physically challenging, perspective changing, empowering, SWEATY, beautiful, positive, simple, and raw. Bonnaroo was everything that life is. I think we get so swept up in our complicated lives that we fail to acknowledge the only thing that matters; we have way more control than we understand, to lead the lives that we want to and to have the courage to make a change. Bonnaroo encourages wild imagination, showing us the that magic exists in the most simple of moments, but sometimes we are just too distracted to see it.
What happened next is my favorite…
I bought a one way ticket to San Francisco with no promise of a job or a concrete next step. Getting back to such a simple way of life silenced my fear of being bold and failing. Because the world will keep turning if I fail, and no matter how confusing things get, I will always have the solid Earth beneath my feet to catch me. I don’t need to have it all figured out because life happens in the moment to moment, and in this moment my heart screams California.