I Went To a Music Festival and Didn’t Have a Breakdown

 

When Wayhome was happening last year I was in the ER, throwing up into a cardboard bowl and having some sort of pain killer stabbed into my hip at 1 in the morning. While I was checking in, a man came rushing in sporting a Wayhome bracelet and having a panic attack. When I received my bracelet in the mail this year a massive wave of dread came over me: what the hell was I getting into? This was the most out of my comfort zone I had stepped in over a year. I remembered the guy from the ER, sweating and hyperventilating while his girlfriend tried to remind him how to breathe. “That’s going to be me by the end of this,” I thought. I had numerous people question why I was going, telling me I was “too socially anxious” and that the whole weekend would just be a mess I would be unable to handle.  The first night I sat in a little red lawn chair, trying to breathe in and out to ease massive waves of fear that were crashing over me due to the unfamiliarity of the situation. I kept thinking about the guy in the ER last year. “Please don’t ruin this weekend for everyone else by having to go to the hospital” I told myself. I pushed through. I went to bed early. I had a beer in the morning and had a headache by the afternoon. I left in the middle of Foals to lay down. Alone in my tent my eyes were stinging with tears. I wanted to be here, I wanted to do this, despite my aching body and frightened mind attempting to tell me otherwise. I did not want my body and mind to be ruled by the same inhibitions that had kept me in my room alone for the past year, or the same anxieties that had left me out of so many memories in my first year of university.

“You need this” I thought. I heard voices outside my tent, loud and laughing. “Get up. Ride it out.”

Somehow, within the next hour I twirled to LCD Soundsystem on a grassy hill and screamed the lyrics of Salad Days and slept like a happy little baby.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know how I went from crying in my tent to dancing to Bahamas drenched in sunscreen and sweat and rust from the cheap necklace I was wearing, so hot I could barely breathe but loving every second of this fever-y dream. Music is kind of insane. There are very few things that could ever get me to stand outside in nearly 40 degree weather, let alone dance and sing under that killer sun. I wandered around the festival with another $10 Somersby, running into long lost friends and hugging their Moms, freely admitting that I was pretty drunk but unbelievably happy. Arcade Fire played Wake Up and I screamed the whole thing alongside my best friend. Fireworks lit up the sky and in the moment it was the most beautiful thing I could have imagined. Later I was a few arms lengths away from FKA Twigs, an experience so surreal I still check the photos on my phone to make sure it wasn’t a dream. Sunday was drenched in boxed wine followed by midday naps and holding hands under the cover of the crowds. 13 year old me died and went to heaven when The Killer’s started their set with Mr. Brightside and 20 year old me teared up listening to thousands chanting “I’ve got soul but I’m not a solider.” I looked up at the stars and smiled, my inner monologue rejoices that it was right all along, “See VB, I told you would be happy again.”

Ultimately I spent the weekend in a state of bliss. Something about sunscreen and sweat and music that makes us all willing to be vulnerable and relax and love harder than we would in our air conditioned basements. I came home exhausted, a kind of hangover with no headache, only a wish to re-live the nights before it. A year ago I sat shrivelled and aching in the ER. 365 days later I twirled under fireworks in long skirts and laughed until my sides hurt. I hated when people used to tell me things would get better. You don’t want to believe that when you’re going through hell. “Better” seems like false hope. Of course, growing up means that life will never be as perfect as it was as a child on Christmas morning, but there are always going to be those moments that remind you how to breathe and give you the strength to get up and push through it.

These photos were taken with 35mm film, using both my trusty Pentax k1000 and two disposable waterproof camera, the film in both of them expired,

 

Kind of dizzy but really pretty and always happy.

Everyone loved everyone here. I never knew a place that could make people too happy to remember misery.

The sunscreen melted but the one from my hometown that made it big was on the stage. Who needs to breathe when you can dance?

What’s worse? A chance of a thunderstorm during The Killers or 35 degrees during The Struts? Neither are unbearable as we thought they would be.

Whiskey drenched shoegaze complete with crowdsurfing and bumping into old flames during Salad Days.

Sangria is best made on a sweltering 10 o’clock morning: mix boxed wine with no name fruit juice. Serve until you run out of cups, then just drink white wine from the box and don’t tell your classy friends about it.

Follow the boy with the camera on his arm and the flowers in his heart.