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Saida Mouradova turns forty



It’s not easy to describe what I’m feeling on this the anniversary of my four decades on Earth, also known as my birthday.

forty Burning Man queen

The number itself strikes me as odd, but mostly because I never expected it to feel quite like this. Had I known that this was how it would feel, I’m fairly certain it would have spared me countless hours of struggle back in my twenties.

Why? Well, duh. Because things are far FAR better than I had anticipated–than we are all used to anticipating they might be at this period in our lives.

I’ve always walked around with the vague suspicion that I’m “not quite right.” I saw that I possessed a variety of aspects and that these never seemed to be compatible among themselves, or at the very least they didn’t seem to add up. Whereas the prevailing consensus around me kept echoing in different ways the idea that eventually one must “become.” There is a wholeness implicit in becoming, the suggestion that a complete, mature (in the best sense of the word) individual is one who has managed to collect all of his or her broken pieces and glued them together like some ancient vase into a single, perfect, definable unit. Or better yet, into an ideal man or woman (whatever that means, and I had assumed that it meant…something). I can’t tell you exactly who had put these ideas into my head, whether they were imposed by society or by the magazines I read, but they certainly didn’t feel like my own even as they were firmly lodged inside my brain and affecting my existence in non-too-pleasant ways. Maybe it was my mom who had put them there. Perhaps it was all the talk back in grade school. Maybe it was a side effect of the old “working on myself” holy grail we’d all become so fond of as a culture. I venture to guess I’m not alone in this. I think we’ve all had the creeping feeling at one point or another that we are not quite living up to some ideal according to which a person of our imagined stature is “supposed” to live.

Never mind that the “supposed to” for a woman is especially particular. Oh, the number of “supposed to’s” boggles the mind! When the full extent of it eventually hit me, it hit me hard. I wrote an article about female sexuality as a result. Thing is, I’d grown up under a completely different set of mores to the one I now find myself believing in, and it had been painful. It cost me quite a few scars and hard lessons, but it was worthwhile because it led me and all of my pieces to a place where we make perfect sense.

forty Burning Man costume

It turns out – there is no spoon! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, all the templates and ideals are imaginary and have been invented long ago. Which, of course, means that there’s no template for happiness. Happiness is unique to each person and utterly dependent on all the tiny (and not so tiny) parts that he or she is composed of.

And this, it turns out, is my great insight.  After countless attempts to summarize my forty years on this planet, I’ve concluded that the greatest personal feat I’ve accomplished is the ability to accept myself (and all of my pieces) just as I happen to be.

This includes not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly parts of what makes me – me. Because, I’ve come to realize, no part of me is less important than any other. Each of them is my loyal servant, coming to the surface at critical times and showing me the way back to my self and away from my ego. This is the balance where wisdom resides, and the more frequently we allow ourselves to enter this state, the more balance becomes habit. The more deep meditation becomes something you do on autopilot.

All of these units comprise all that is me – every part of me, every piece of wisdom, every lesson that has brought strength, every aha-moment that unites me with the world around me. It is precisely the way in which these units interact, the way in which they co-exist, that my essence is to be found.

And so I finally have an answer to “how does 40 feel?” It feels like just another part of me. Another unit thanks to which I ascend another step, closer to wisdom, closer to the Universe. It’s (just?) a part of my current inner balance, a part of my path and a part of my reward for the paths already taken.

Here’s to the next forty, my friends!


forty Burning Man playa and a girl

BOOTS- vintage, hand painted by me,
MESH TOP – For Love and Lemons, BRA – Forever 21, BIKINI BOTTOMS- Agent Provocateur,
SKIRT – my design, made to order, TRIBAL NECKLACE-  Erika Pena Designs,
HEADPIECE- my design, 3D printed, shells, silver plated

Burning Man Style