I became the Gaijin Henro just before my 40th birthday and now my fiftieth is coming up but I just don't think I've really given the experience the respect it deserves. I've talked about parts of it in depth with maybe 5 people. It's been forgetable fun fact slipped in between sips to 40ish people in the last 10 years. And I wrote a blog/book who 4 people to my knowledge have read (I feel like I'm exaggerating) that's been tucked away in googles dusty basement for 9 and a half of those.
So I put my out-of-shape pilgrim on notice that she may be in for some spectacular terrain, then bravely sent this email...
Hi RNZ Team
It's 10 years ago this month that I started and, despite myself, completed a pilgrimage around the 88 temples of Shikoku in Japan.
Info links here and here.
I won't bore you with the preamble of why I did it etc - you can read about it here.
Why I'm contacting you is because I feel driven to share what I've learnt in the 10 years since.
How the pilgrimage still affects me, how it improved my mental health, how it still informs some of my decisions to this day then ultimately, my now deep understanding of the life-affirming impact of 'rites of passage'.
If you were to ask what my agenda was for contacting you (and believe me, I'm shaking even as I write this so it's not about ego), I would say that it's only ever and always to share stories of weakness/strength and courage for the sole purpose of empowerment (especially toward youth).
After leaving my husband and children to overcome an OCD of self-harm and suicidal depression, only to add some more addictions to my repertoire, I was finally able to overcome them all through developing my own techniques.
It took 10 years, and the pilgrimage, but I've been everything free for 7-8 years now.
Despite my preferred state of flying under the radar, lately I've been feeling extremely irresponsible not sharing what I've learnt so I'm challenging my remaining fears in contacting you. I've done a lot of public speaking (as a JP) so I have no issues with the actual talking bit, I've just never talked about myself to an audience.
I'll understand if you choose to pass on chatting to me and have no attachment to the outcome of this email but if I was going to step out into this world of sharing, having listened to the RNZ family for so many years, I'd want to do it with you first and the pilgrimage feels like a good place to start.
Pimp My Attitude
You need to know, right now, this is all about me. I'm not educated. I don't have any (non-driving related) qualifications therefore, I'm not about to tell you what you should do - I know my place.
And here you are.
At my place.
So - welcome.
If you're here for 10 seconds, I won't even know so I won't be offended that you left early.
If you're here for hours and keep coming back, I will consider you a friend because the only thing my diverse yet loyal friends have in common, and what I appreciate most about them, is that they just keep coming back..