Let me paint you a picture of myself in 2015 - a young woman with a blonde pixie cut, at the ripe age of 25, who up until that point did everything that was pushed to do: go to college, get a degree, get a job, work a 9-5, freelance, get burnt out, quit your job, look for another job, etc. That couldn’t just be it, could it? I was in my “quarter life crisis,” so to speak, and going through a lot of changes in my life. I needed to make changes in my life. So I decided to leave the country for a year on a work and holiday visa because I simply needed time and space. My world turned 180 degrees over the course of that year leading up to me leaving - friendships that once stood the test of time started to feel like we’d all outgrown the roles we played in each others lives; I got burnt out from my career and I became less interested in climbing the corporate ladder because my health was far more important than a title on my linkedin; I realized I deserved better than a heartbreak I went through; Things that once would excite me or get my gears going creatively was completely stifled. My home in LA, where I was born and raised, was getting increasingly convoluted. The more I stayed, the more the loud it became and the less I could hear my own voice. I had just had enough. Some of you astrology nerds may call this your saturn return.
Mentally I was in a space in which I was willing to go beyond what I knew and experience new things, even if it was going to be a lot of hard work and I was probably going to cry a lot. Fears, insecurities, patterns would be unearthed in these endeavors. I was in a period of “unlearning” and I was having a good run going to festivals that were at the time a bit more “off the beaten path.” I thought it would be a good way to expand, especially before leaving the country for however long. And boy, did it deliver!
I was first introduced to LSD at my first Lightning in a Bottle Festival by my camp neighbor. He was this huge dude from New Zealand. He and his partner flew from NZ to attend LIB because that was where they met years ago. They asked me on Friday and Saturday if I wanted to partake but I politely declined. I didn’t really know what to expect and I didn’t have any internet service to binge research on erowid or reddit - Yeah I am one of those people. Also, the idea of getting drugs from a stranger is uh, kiiiiinda frowned upon, isn’t it? But then Sunday morning, one of our other camp neighbors was like “Jeanette! You HAVE to try it! Everything is soooooo sparkly and pretty!” By then, all our surrounding camp neighbors around me were raving about it. I guess you could say peer pressure worked on me.
If you haven't been to LIB before, it’s honestly one of the most perfect grounds for psychedelics. The set and setting were incredibly ideal, especially looking back on experiences following my first LIB. There are so many impressive things to me about LIB and these “transformational” festivals. The people – the kindness of strangers, actual eye contact, random conversations and sprinkles of magic moments. In addition, the creativity of the production and the unique attendees - from the fashion to flow artists and from painters, sculpturists, and muralists and what they share with you. They have workshops that expand your consciousness, sound baths and a place called meditation mountain (now meditation grove). You’ll interact with the quirkiest of characters and everywhere you look has tchotchkes galore. Colorful stages and places to lay out and hang out while you meet new people or make new memories with your friends. I love how people cared about leaving the space in better or the same conditions as you found it - pack it in, pack it out. It felt like no separation between the festival and you, especially since you’re camping there.
So one of the friends I went with and I decided to go for it. I asked for a smaller dose and it was the perfect introduction. It was enough to make me feel altered and see differently, but not question my reality too much. Colors were changing and patterns were wavy. I felt like my bones were noodle-y. Words were hilariously and frustratingly difficult to express, as if they were bottlenecking from out of my mouth. I also couldn’t sleep either after. Stimulation overload.
I went into it pretty blindly - I didn’t know what “set and setting” meant. I didn’t know what “bad tripping” was. If I had read about other people’s experiences, I don’t know if I would’ve had such a raw experience. My judgment would have been filtered through other people’s experiences and I would’ve gone into it with certain expectations of certain things happening or would have been disappointed that certain things didn’t happen for me. I mean, the most eye-opening thing I saw happen to someone on LSD was them running around naked, (which I NOW understand why you would want to do that, I’ve been there), and I was promised this dose wouldn’t get me there. So, I thought, when in Rome. When else would I get this experience, under these circumstances?
Looking back, what was scary was more the fear of the unknown. As the years went by and as I underwent multiple trips, I learned that there is no such thing as a “bad” trip. There are simply challenging moments, yes, but nothing that cannot be worked through. Consider looking at it through the lens of “information” rather than “good or bad” emotion — something to be afraid of versus something that you feel pressured to always uphold; In becoming non-judgmental and non-reactive to your experiences, you’ll find your own roadmap to how you want to solve issues, learn where to soften certain edges and push yourself, and honestly, have more fun! Sometimes, experiences are just that - experiences. And this takes time and some growing pains. I’m very grateful for organizations like MAPs and Zendo, (which I volunteered as a sitter for at Burning Man in 2019) who help people going through it at festivals like LIB, the Burn, and Envision. The thought of people volunteering to support you and help you work through the experience to gain knowledge and challenge your own narrative is such a gift.
While every trip is nuanced and it’s very hard to speak broadly about LSD, I will say I have incredible respect for its power through all colors of the rainbow. For me, I am a bit more cautious and intentional about it in party settings although in outside settings like going to a national park or on a hike, I’m pretty open to it. My favorite time and place to do psychedelics is among the trees at sunset or in the desert. I would like to eventually get into a habit of microdosing on the regular and see how small doses more often versus larger doses more randomly makes a difference for me with integration or day to day habitual thinking. Routinely tripping with my boyfriend has also allowed us to create a more compassionate container and helped us with our communication skills in adopting elements of trip sitting, such as talk through, not down. Certain friendships deepened through tripping together as well. One afternoon of tripping can sometimes feel like months. Although, I recognize all of the above isn’t always the case. It definitely isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. Misunderstandings, wrong words, and frustrations are all game to show up, but they have all been very important experiences. I have found incorporating psychedelics into my life has been a powerful tool in discovering parts of myself and forcing my brain to push past a plateau.