Being a Vegan Emissary

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Yesterday our new intern pulled me aside to ask me about going vegan. She seemed interested and eager to learn more since finding out that I was vegan a few months ago. She loves my vegan oat milk coffee creamer and told me she’s even started using it at home because she likes it so much. I was so happy that she felt she could come to me with questions, but at the same time I was immediately tense and anxious about how to respond.

This is not the first time that I’ve been in this uncomfortable situation. Many people have come to me for help when beginning their vegan/vegetarian journey. I thought I would get better at offering that help as I became more comfortable and confident in my own veganism, but it seems like it’s actually the reverse. I am so far removed from the normal meat-eater’s lifestyle that I no longer understand their questions half the time, let alone know what the most beneficial response would be. When people ask me things like: what do you eat? I can’t help but stare back dumbfounded for a few moments. What do you eat, I want to ask. I eat fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts. You know… food. The bulk of what any reasonable diet should already consist of.

There is such chaos and turmoil inside of me when I find myself having to give vegan advice. Part of me is overjoyed, part of me is annoyed, part of me is panicked. Overjoyed because my veganism has influenced someone to try to live a more compassionate life. Annoyed because their questions remind me just how far the majority of society is from doing that. And panicked because of the pressure I feel to offer the perfect answers to their questions. I want to make veganism sound easy and appealing to them. I’m afraid my response could potentially prevent more animals from suffering but that I will fail those same animals if my response instead causes the person to turn away.

My mind starts racing, trying to decide what parts of the encyclopedia of information I have inside my head is the most important, useful, or impactful. I have so much knowledge to offer. To break it down into the most relevant and easily digestible pieces seems like an impossible task. After these random encounters, I always feel disappointed in myself. I kick myself thinking I should have done better somehow, even though I’m never sure exactly what “better” would have looked like. At this point it’s impossible for me to remember what would have been most helpful to me when I first became vegan.

I wanted to write this post today to address people on both sides of the aisle. To the aspiring vegan: Don’t expect the vegans in your life to take you by the hand and make this transition seamless and easy for you or expect them to have all the answers. To the vegan being asked for advice: Don’t be too hard on yourself. There is no perfect response that you can give to make someone else change their behavior. All you can do is try your best, be friendly, and be open.

With that said, here is what I would like to say to anyone interested in going vegan: It’s going to be a hard transition. Being vegan isn’t hard at all, but changing is. Especially when you are changing something so integral to your culture and day to day life. There is no amount of information you can gather or questions you can ask preemptively that will make this transition easy. If you’re waiting for it to be easy, you’re going to be waiting forever. Change is never easy. Learning how to live a new lifestyle is never easy. One way you can make it easier though is being gentle with yourself while you’re still learning. I think a lot of people either avoid or give up veganism because it’s too daunting to imagine never eating meat or dairy again. That’s a scary concept in the beginning. You find yourself thinking, what about all the traditional holiday foods I’ve enjoyed with my family my entire life? I can’t have turkey on Thanksgiving? I can’t have a Christmas ham? I can’t eat cake for birthdays? It seems like a huge sacrifice. And some militant vegans will say it’s something you’ve just got to accept and white-knuckle your way through. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with identifying as a vegan or vegetarian and still making exceptions for yourself in the beginning. I also think it’s okay to essentially go vegan without adopting the label if that lets you feel less restricted. What matters is doing our best to cause as little harm to other beings as possible. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even vegans can’t help but avoid doing harm entirely. It’s just about trying. So if the only thing holding you back from veganism is Thanksgiving dinner, let yourself not be vegan on the holidays. If you’re having a really hard day and you can’t resist one of your favorite comfort foods or don’t have time to cook and don’t have the time, energy, or accessibility to find a vegan alternative, you don’t have to cast the vegan lifestyle aside because you caved and ate meat. Just try again tomorrow.

You can also start slow. Try making a vegan dinner once a week. Make one meal a day a vegan meal. Test out some vegan menu options the next time you go out to eat. These small steps matter. They still have an impact. And if this is the best way for you to make the transition and feel confident and comfortable enough to stick with it, I think it’s an excellent way to do it. There is no one way to live a vegan lifestyle. It is going to take some time and experimentation to discover what works best for you. Your body and mind are going to need time to adjust. There are going to be days when you “screw up” and can’t live up to your own expectations and that’s perfectly okay. I still have those days over 10 years later. The important part is that you’re trying. That alone is a beautiful gift to the animals, your body, and the Earth. That alone is something to take pride in. And for that alone, I for one, thank you.

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Hiding Behind Religion

A few months ago, there was a child that came to my office to be interviewed. She was going to an extremely small private school, like 25 kids total in K-12 small. Like most private schools, this school was centered around a religious group. While she came to disclose sexual abuse, the female PRINCIPLE had grabbed her breasts insisting that she must be stuffing her bra, the other things she told me were just as disturbing, if not more so. This school was simply not a school by any stretch of the word. These kids were not being taught anything besides that everyone in public school was a Satanist and going to hell. This “school” was essentially a little cult. The worst part was that even though CPS reported our concerns to the state board of education, nothing has or will come of it. The school will not be investigated or shut down. The offending principle will not even be removed or prosecuted.

Ever since I met that poor, sweet girl that day, I’ve been thinking about that school. Thinking about it looming on a hillside in my very own town, brainwashing children, robbing them of an education. It makes me sick, but there is nothing that I can do. Even more disturbing, I know that this child’s story is not at all an isolated incident. How many other small private schools like this exist in the country? More than I’d like to know, I’m sure. But not only schools are using this religious excuse to shield them from the consequences they’d otherwise have to face for their atrocious actions.

The past few nights I’ve been watching Cults and Extreme Beliefs on Hulu. Even though I had heard about what goes on inside most of these organizations already, each episode exposed even more horrors I wasn’t aware of. From what I can tell, every single religious organization uses this status to get away with abusing children. Despite the majority of the country as well as local and federal authorities understanding the abuse taking place, nothing is being done about it.

I theorize that this is solely due to the government feeling hesitant to attack any religious sect. They fear negative publicity and the legal battleground that freedom of religion has created. The United States was founded on the idea that our citizens are free to practice any religion that they like. It seems obvious that it would only be a matter of time before people with nefarious motives would take advantage of that. What I once thought was an unfortunate side effect of isolated religious communities is now seeming more and more like the whole point behind them. The focus is child abuse, the method just happens to be through religion. Religion is an afterthought, cleverly used as a shroud to conceal these monsters from the law.

Not only am I becoming more and more informed about the way religion shields sexual predators, we see every day in the news how religion is also used as an excuse to endanger public health. Long before Covid-19 made it’s debut, churches were using their beliefs as a reason to not vaccinate their children. This has led to viruses once thought to have been totally eradicated in the developed world, to raise their ugly heads once again. Children are dying. They are being raped and beaten and brainwashed. All in the name of religious freedom.

At what point will the world start to realize that a parent’s rights cannot and should not overshadow the rights of their children? “Your personal liberty to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.” This has always been one of my favorite quotes. Yet it has never seemed to apply when it comes to children. Despite avowing to “protect our children,” in the eyes of the government, children still seem to be considered property. You’re allowed to hit them, you’re allowed to rob them of an education, and if you’re “religious” enough, you’re also allowed to rape them.

I understand the historical events that have created this fear of targeting different religions, but that fear cannot be allowed to result in religious organizations and leaders acting with impunity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t believe procreation is a “right.” Especially when you do not have the physical, mental, or emotional competence to raise and protect that child. How can it be your right to create a life of suffering for another who is helpless and at your mercy? I suppose I should be happy about how much progress we have made toward installing protections for children within the law. I realize in the past things were much worse. However, I cannot find any peace when I know that the progress we have made is not nearly enough, that children are still being subjected to unimaginable abuse each and every day.

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How to Help Even When It Hurts

Vegan activism is something I deeply admire. Not only because of the time and effort it takes, but because of the pain one must endure to keep fighting this hopeless battle. In the early years of my veganism, I had never felt more energized to fight for a cause. The urgency, the immensity, the horror of it all was always with me. The only thing that shielded me from the grief I harbored for these precious animals, was the white hot rage I felt toward the people who refused to look at them. I wanted to scream. I wanted to stop the world. I wanted to save these animals more than I wanted to live. If I could have sacrificed myself to do so, I would have. And most likely, still would if given the choice.

Within a few years, I was hopeless and burnt out. I simply couldn’t bear to continue being confronted with the selfishness, the ignorance, the self righteousness of humanity. Although I felt monstrous for doing so, I largely gave up. I laid down the torch I had been carrying for these animals. It felt like I, myself, had been on fire. My soul was that torch and it had all but been extinguished. I had to turn away, despite the shame I felt for doing so.

Of course I didn’t stop being vegan. Nothing could make me go back to being a willing participant and sponsor of the animal agriculture industry. I simply couldn’t see the point in trying to convince anyone else to join me, or even acknowledge the atrocities being committed everyday. To constantly be thinking about the horrendous conditions billions of animals are currently trapped in was destroying me, which would have been okay if it was actually making a difference.

Since then, I’ve started to think of different ways that I might contribute to the animal rights movement. It came to me today as I sat in court with a family torn apart by child abuse. I really felt like I was making a difference, that I was a part of helping these amazing kids. But what exactly had I done to help fight child abuse? I certainly wasn’t participating in protests, writing articles, lobbying the government, or hunting down pedophiles. No, I get to be on the other end of the issue completely. Rather than fighting against the monsters hurting these children, I fight for the children themselves. I get to be there for them through the process. I get to offer loving kindness and support to people who, sometimes, have never experienced that before.

Realizing this inspired me to try again to add my voice to the vegan community. Instead of focusing on shining a light on the unimaginable conditions these animals face, why not shine a light on the joys of living as a vegan? By now I’ve realized that someone isn’t going to go vegan because of facts and data. You can’t force someone to make the connection, no matter how hard you try. All that I can do is support the people who are ready to make that change, the people standing on the edge, afraid to jump. I can offer advice. I can share all I’ve learned through my own experiences. I can help guide them on their journey.

I don’t believe that the world will ever go vegan. Perhaps if we had more time, but unfortunately we simply do not. What I do believe is that each individual animal matters enough to keep fighting anyway. If I can help even one person to become vegan, thousands of lives will be spared. It is estimated that the average person will kill and eat 7,000 animals during their lifetime. If I can save even one of those animals from suffering, all of my efforts will have been worth it. So from now on, I am going to try harder to keep up with this blog’s original purpose. I’m going to be posting more content to help people go and stay vegan.

Cast Your Vote

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Ever since I was very young, I was taught the importance of voting. In school we learn about how hard our country fought for individual freedoms and the ability to choose those who govern them. We’re taught that even though we are only one person, our say matters and can lead to change. These values are the heart and soul of the United States.

However, it seems that this principle applies in many other areas of life outside of politics, but continues to go unnoticed by many. What else has history taught us? That money makes the world go ’round. Therefore, as individuals and as a society, we need to pay attention to and be cautious of what we spend our money on.

For each item that you buy, you are casting your vote that you would like to see more of this product and everything that went into making it and getting it to your local stores. In this way, becoming a vegan can make a practical influence on the world. This is the connection I think many people are failing to make. It may be easy to love animals, yet still find it easy to eat meat because there is such a large distance between the practices of factory farms, the act of killing an animal and seeing its pain and suffering.

Sadly, ignoring the harsh realities behind the steak on your dinner plate will not make them cease to exist. Each time you stop at McDonald’s, buy deli meat, or pick up some bacon for your breakfast the next morning, you are casting your vote as a citizen of this society. You are saying you approve and support the product and its means. We can never expect these horrible atrocities and business practices to stop if we continue to finance them. We need to stand up and make an effort to produce the change we want to see in the world.

Don’t vote for violence. ❤

Wellbeing Crafted Through Mindfulness and Meditaion

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For the past few years, I had been tempted to begin practicing meditation. I would meditate periodically, but found it hard to remain consistent due to my underlying skepticism about it’s effectiveness. Just recently, however, I found myself experiencing a lot of suffering and self-doubt. Through the haze of this emptiness I turned towards yoga and meditation. I desperately desired to find peace and felt that looking inward was really my only option at this point in my life.

I began setting aside a moment of time, either in the morning or after returning from the gym in the afternoon, to take a breath and relax for merely a half an hour through yoga and meditation. After doing this routinely for perhaps three weeks now, I am already noticing incredible changes in my daily mood and awareness. I’ve noticed myself feeling excited about the day before me when I wake up each morning. I feel eager for the future and what I know that I can do. I used to wake up each morning feeling desolate, feeling each activity of the day to be a burden and a chore.

Little annoyances and small misfortunes no longer seem to get under my skin the way they used to. These daily encounters roll off of my skin like beads of water. I find myself focusing much more on the encounters I share from day to day with loved ones and the joy of knowing my darling kitten, Lucy, will be there to greet me with affection when I return home each day. I feel refreshed. I no longer feel so heavy and tired. Instead, there is an underlying sense of calm and serenity in my mind. I feel capable of catching myself even if I should fall.

It has been a wonderful and uplifting transformation! I am most certainly going to continue my daily meditation. I cannot wait to discover the person I can become. I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in meditation to give it a try as well. Your mind is the most powerful and influential thing in your universe. Get to know yourself and search for peace within. Your consciousness contains everything that you are searching for and more.

Stay mindful, dear ones. 

One Week Down

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Overall, I would have to say that my first week back at college this semester went pretty well. I made some new friends and managed to break out of my shell more than I ever had in my past years on campus. I hope that the rest of the year continues to go this smoothly. I know that I haven’t posted much this week, but I will try to manage my time better in the weeks to come so I will be able to post more. Hope you all had a good week as well. ^_^

Stay positive, dears.

Branch Out

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Hello dears! Today was my first day back at college for the fall semester. So, as I usually seem to do, I set some new goals for myself this year in West Liberty. I want to make new friends. This may seem like something that wouldn’t need to be a goal, but as I have stated in one of my previous posts, until recently I suffered from a lot of social anxiety. Getting to know people was a terrifyingly and taxing affair.

However, I have been taking the anti-anxiety medication Paxil for almost a year now and am feeling very differently about things. I had been noticing myself getting bored with my life for the past few years, but only after quieting my anxieties have I been able to figure out why that is. I miss knowing people. All of this time I have been getting lost inside my own head. I forgot the joy of the moments like the one pictured above. This is a photo my closest friend for over twelve years took the other night of us talking. This photo really represents to me all of the wonderful and heartfelt conversations that we have had in those twelve years.

I feel the warmth and significance of those encounters and the way we have helped and watched each other grow. I realize now that these moments with other people are one of the most precious things in this life. To discuss abstract concepts and ideologies and really consider and discover the way another person sees the world is a magnificent thing.

Now that I am no longer so nervous around people, I would really like to work on forming more close relationships and seeing the world from some new perspectives. I am tired of living inside my own head and I am curios. I am curious to see if there are any other minds out there as beautiful as my dear friend Valarie’s. 

So let’s all try to be a little more open to new people and new encounters this year. Who knows who you will meet?

Stay peaceful, friends. 

A Daily Dose of Play

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Most people understand that for their animals to remain healthy and happy that they must make sure they get enough exercise. Whether it be going for a walk, playing fetch, or chasing a string, animals need physical exertion to be a part of their day to day routine.

What many people don’t seem to understand though, is that we are also animals. I believe that this means we also need to get a fair amount of exercise. For the past few years I have been running close to nine miles everyday. Granted, that may be a bit excessive for most people, but it has completely transformed my life. 

I feel more alert, stronger, and happier. Daily exercise is almost a form of meditation in a way. The hours I spend at the gym, listening to my favorite music, helps me to clear my mind and burn off all of the stresses of my day. My body and mind feel refreshed and renewed. Now instead of a lethargic and tired, my body feels awake. It is a high-functioning, synchronized machine. Daily exercise has allowed me to be more positive and optimistic than ever before. Also, after 20 years, I can finally say that I love my body.

So, let your inner animal out! Give yourself at least an hour of some type of physical activity every day. I promise you will not regret it!

Stay active, dear ones.

 

The Affiliation Affliction

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In the past few years I have been noticing more and more cars on the road with some type of coal mining pride sticker. They say something along the lines of “proud/girlfriend wife of a coal miner” or some such nonsense. Now, this may seem offensive to some people, but I just cannot understand why you would be proud of that. Coal mining is not a difficult job to acquire. You don’t need a degree or any certain set of special skills. Anyone can become a coal miner. It is a highly dangerous, time-consuming career. Not only that, but it is also destroying our environment. I could understand having a “proud wife/girlfriend of a doctor”, but not a coal miner.

After contemplating this baffling concept for months, I think that I have finally come to a realization. It seems to me that a lot of people think that if they are affiliated with something, then that makes it the best. This irrational point of view can be seen in many aspects of life such as thinking America is the best country simply because you are an American or the undying loyalty to a favorite sports team even after many consecutive losses and change of players/coaches.

This mindset, I believe, is part of the reason why our species cannot seem to move forward towards a more clean and efficient future. I think that these people are feeling threatened by the changes that we so desperately need. They view these things, such as eating meat, as part of who they are. If they admit that any of those things are less than ideal, then they feel that they are a bad person or less than they were. So, thanks to cognitive dissonance, they hold firm to their old ways of thinking and acting.

I just wanted to bring this theory I have been mulling over to light, and to let everyone out there that feels this way know that they are mistaken. No one is perfect. We all tend to be affiliated with something that we later discover was wrong from time to time. This does not make you a bad person. We all have been blessed with beautiful minds that are capable of reason and contemplation. Don’t feel personally threatened by new ways of thinking or new developments in our industries. Some things that we feel a part of (such as coal mining) must collapse in order for us to build a better world. What would our world be today if Thomas Edison had not forsaken his candle making business in order to create the light bulb? Let us all move forward together. There is room for all of us to grow.

Grow with me, my darlings. ❤ 

Vegan on the Go

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Sometimes, when you are on the go or in a hurry, veganism is not the most convenient diet. It is hard enough to find vegan options in a restaurant, let alone a fast food place. There is always the option of ordering a salad without meat or cheese, but in my experience, a good percentage of the time you will be thoroughly ignored and receive the salad with no alterations whatsoever. Then there are some who may consider just an order of french fries. However, many fast food restaurants fry these in meat greases. Also, french fries are not very nutritious or filling. Even the veggie burgers that are served by Burger King contain egg ingredients.

The struggle to find vegan options from fast food restaurants can be a blessing and a curse. It does prevent you from eating poorly when you could be eating something a little better for you. However, sometimes a quick bite of food is necessary. So, after years of irritation, I have finally found an option that has worked for me, and it is my hope that it can work for all of you other vegans out there as well. 

When I need a cheap morsel of food in a hurry, I will occasionally go to Taco Bell. For merely two dollars you can get a delicious and moderately healthy little meal! On their menu they offer a very yummy black bean burrito. It does come with cheese on it, but you can ask them to exclude that part. (I have yet to get one that still had cheese as I have with salads.) I also ask them to add guacamole, which is a wonderful replacement. 

Mexican fast food can be a delightful option for vegans trying to get a quick meal. There are only Taco Bell’s near my hometown, but I am sure any such fast food restaurant would have similar options. I hope that this can help some of you out. Now instead of greasy fries or a limp, unappetizing fast food salad, you can get a delicious, nutritious bean burrito!

Enjoy, my vegan darlings. ❤