What I Learned When My Lantern Didn't Fly

As the main event of 2013 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, first 200 Lanterns are released at Shifen Sky Lantern Square on the Fi
As the main event of 2013 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, first 200 Lanterns are released at Shifen Sky Lantern Square on the Fifteenth day of Lunar New Year, a.k.a. Lantern Festival, Feb 24, 2013.

My lantern didn't fly. It caught fire and fell to the ground. It never caught the air enough to lift it into the sky...
And I held onto it as it burned in my hands -- I panicked, cried and begged the universe to take it from me...


I came to the Rise Festival with great hope. I had had one hell of a year; between work and my personal life and two sick parents... I planned on using the event as the opportunity to close the page on one chapter of my life and start another. So I sat there, dusty in the hot desert sun waiting for darkness to come. And when it came I poured my heart out onto that paper lantern.

With steady fingers I clasped the marker and achingly said goodbye to everything that weighed me down. To the men who never showed up when I had laid myself bare who still made me ache on the inside. To the jobs that had depleted my soul. To the fears that make me want to over-plan every single damn piece of my life at the exact same time with precise control. I covered the thin, white paper with my words and intentions. I said goodbye to the crushing pressure I put on myself every single day to be better than I already am. To the need to define my life and to find a neat little box to fit it into where my still being single is justifiable and normal. I cried, I wrote and I waited for the lighting time to send it all into the universe and simply let it go. Knowing I would soon be free...

The time came for the lanterns to take flight. One by one the people around me tended to, and launched their lanterns. We held my lantern over the open flame, keeping the paper edges from burning. One minute... two minutes... it didn't take off. It teetered on the edge of my fingertips.


"When it's ready to fly, you'll feel it, you'll know," they said. "It will tug at your fingers and when it does you just let it fly." Except mine didn't tug at my fingers. The wind blew and the flame licked the inside of the paper. I willed it to fly. The tears welled up in my eye. It had to go. It had to fly. I needed it to go. I needed it to fly. Except mine didn't fly. And just when I thought it would never move, it did -- for a split second a bit of wind kissed it and then, in that same split second, it died.

I started to panic. The lantern burned in my hand.

The paper caught fire. I pushed it towards the sky. "Take it, oh G-d please take it," I begged. The next thing I knew... it fell. "What do I do? What do I do?" I literally cried out loud. All around me lanterns were flying and filling the night sky in swirling, glowing dots, yet mine was burning before me. Somewhere I heard someone tell me to let it go in the sand, that it would burn out itself. So I dropped it to the dirt. I stamped on it, folded it with my feet, and in a matter of seconds it lay charred, smoking and curled on the desert ground.

If I could have dropped to my knees I would have. "It didn't go, it didn't go!" I literally wailed out loud. I gasped. I choked on my own tears. I buried my face in my hands. Tears poured from my eyes; my intentions, my pain, my hopes and my dreams. Everyone's flew but mine.

But I had a second lantern. On it I'd written my prayers for those I loved. I wrote notes asking the universe to care for their children, to keep them healthy and fulfilled. I wished peace for my friends experiencing anxiety. I wished calm for those feeling grief. Success to the ones that struggled. By name I wrote them out with my messages; they didn't ask for my intentions, but I wanted for them.

"Do you want to light it? It's time," they asked me. I couldn't do it. I was crippled with fear.


My dear friend, Laura, urging me to open my eyes and see my lantern flying... "It's going, it's going, look!"
For minutes I sat there and I stared up at the swirling lanterns. Each one was someone's dream. Someone's hope. Like mine had been. 28,000 intentions, kisses and prayers to the universe.

And when I could stop crying enough to breath steady -- with pain that my first lantern had fallen and relief that my second had flown -- I looked down at the sand and the dirt. Charred and burnt. It had to mean something. There had to be a reason it didn't fly. I couldn't think of any, I just felt... sad.

And that's when I saw it. The word "Bravely " pointing towards me, untouched by flame. In my unsophisticated handwriting, the only word I needed to remember stood out clear as day. And when we left the site, dusty and tired and spent, I was sad all right... but I was also ready to steamroll forward the only way I knew how and, frankly, the only way the universe wanted me to be... bravely.