Every year, near the end of February, there is a Burning Man inspired gathering at a Castle close to Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. The festival is called Burning Bär.

On the opening night of the Burn, everyone gathers for a semi-serious Talentshow. This year, I was invited to hold a speech.

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, Bears and Burners, Fairies and Friends, Extrawursts and Extrawürstchen,

The Story of Miss Burning Bär 2017 is not a story of glory or fame. It is a story about vulnerability and shame.

Can you raise your hands if you were here last year?

For those of you who missed it, I’d like to give you a quick reminder: I got on stage nearly naked wearing just two ropes around my chest and my pelvis and I flirted with our incredible host and the magnificent audience in a very charming way. Sex sells. That’s how I became Miss Burning Bär.

But to tell you the truth, that is not my story. So please let me share with you, what really happened one year ago, on the night of the February 24th, 2017.

My first Bär had been exactly one year before. On Saturday night, just after the Burn, I met my previous partner Simon on the dance floor of this very castle where we are right now. We became lovers, fellow burners, trip sitters and after nearly one year traveling back and forth between Berlin and Bern, we decided to split up. It was loving and yet very painful, and only a few weeks before Burning Bär. The next time we would see each other after that would be here at Beesenstedt where our story began.

When I arrived at the Castle, I felt very uncomfortable. I was nervous, tensed and when I spotted Simon on the other end of the room having dinner with his friends, I just wanted to become invisible. I felt hurt, excluded, abandoned and I had a massive stomach ache. I asked myself: What was I thinking? How am I supposed to survive this Burn? And why on earth did I decide to come here?

So how did this insecure, self-conscious and anxious version of me become Miss Burning Bär 2017? Because there was this quiet inner voice deep down in my body (right here in my belly) that whispered: C’mon Laura! You’re here for a reason. In is the way out and to love is to give. So don’t hide and give yourself to this burn!

I gathered all my courage, asked my friend Nina to put those two ropes I brought around my naked body and walked down the stairs — the show had already started. I had no idea what I was doing. I was on auto-pilot. I didn’t even dare to imagine myself participating in that competition. Friends literary kicked me up onto the stage. And there I was, still super nervous and quite shaky but at the same time proud of myself for pushing my boundaries way beyond my comfort zone.

The reason I share this story is because I believe it has very much to do with why we come here. We don’t gather here, year after year in this beautiful castle only for a really great time. We gather here to grow.

So even if throughout the Weekend we experience moments of loneliness, shame or doubt, please let’s remember that these feelings might feel real, but they are not true. Our deepest pain and our best kept secrets are our most precious gifts — let’s not hold them back! Let’s share them with one another so that we blossom and grow.

I invite you all to let synchronicity take over. Let’s all together welcome the spirits of Beesenstedt, the lord of abundance and the goddess of love and ask them to enfold, once again, every single one of us.

Whatever you’d like to explore or experience, do it now and do it here. Don’t postpone happiness. Be bold. Be brave. This is your playground. This is where the magic happens.

I wish all of us a very happy burn!