It’s unconventional to share this part of the story now, instead of first, but yet here we are. When I talked about doing this there were raised eyebrows and whys. Alone, really? What for? And why Japan of all places? A few people said they could never do something like this, or they were afraid or intimidated to try. Let me pull back whatever imaginary cobwebs there are around this and explain it further.
Just as I collected dollars for the trip, I collected reasons to go. Art research provides a professional claim if it involves continuing education and/or marketing content. And I guess a vacation too – like why not?! Who wouldn’t. But it needed to be more than that.
It’s because of my dad that I came to appreciate Japanese culture in the first place, and so this was in part in honor of his memory since he never got to go. So that was a major factor. There’s much to love about Japan, in general, of course. But there was also this primal need to absent myself from everything and everyone familiar for awhile. That mostly came as a reaction to the pace of every day life, the speed at which things move seems to happen in permanent escalation forever now and I wanted to get off the carousel for a little while. I also knew I was using this busyness as a cover for avoiding exploring parts of myself like what’s next for my work, for myself, for my life, and relationships.
It’s real scary to flip on the lights of one’s interior self and let the chips fall as they will, but there’s no way to avoid this when everything’s all scrambled up from culture shock, jet lag, language barriers. I definitely had to face parts of my personality I don’t love. Like for example, it took me a long time to feel comfortable speaking up about having gluten issues while there. Or the homesick, intimidated, or lonely moments. The hope was the would rip the band-aid off of everything and promote that much more growth in life and work.
It definitely feels like a feminist move, because women generally aren’t encouraged to show up in a foreign country alone. Also it comes with the implication that things are not alright at home, or the concern she’s running from something. As if that’s the only reason a person would want to do this. Clearly, a woman traveling alone for her own self-investment, or even just to have an adventure and make some good stories is a bold move. So you could say I did it for the raised eyebrows, to challenge them.
In the end the big takeaways are further vision about where I’m going with my work, more acceptance and self-love for my body and brain, renewed confidence overall, deeper understanding of a new culture in addition to my own, and more empathy for those less fortunate as well as immigrants and refugees. It is incredibly humbling to be immersed in a culture where you know no one, don’t speak the language, and the food is not yours. I have such respect for people and families who make this leap. It’s more important to me now than ever to show this and continue to fight for immigrant and refugee support, less hostility between nations as a whole. I’m also interested in helping others figure out how to get to have an experience like this, whether it’s through moral support, offering resources to retreats, grants, or even student-focused initiatives, whatever it is. If this is you, let me know how I can help.
So! This concludes this portion of the Japan diaries. As of now, I do not have plans to travel beyond the Midwest for the next few months. But who knows what’s next!! Lay it on me, universe. We got this.