Veganniversary

Nine years ago today, on my eighteenth Easter, I began the transition to a vegan diet. It’s always tough for me to know what to say when people ask me about when I became vegan. I probably wasn’t actually fully vegan until a couple of years later. More like a vegetarian, trying to make it to vegan. But I still want to give myself credit for those years I spent figuring things out. I’m not sure if other vegans count that transitional period as part of their vegan life or their pre-vegan life. I suppose some people might not have stumbled so much in the beginning like I did either.

My point is that I think intentions matter. I’m not trying to justify the support I gave to a monstrous industry out of personal weakness. I’m just saying that as an online community, vegans can be pretty ruthless to one another. I use to be one of these more ruthless vegans. I couldn’t help but lash out at vegetarians or vegans with “cheat days.” When it comes to such a serious and heart-rending issue as the lives and wellbeing of billions of animals, it’s only natural to get a little heated. However, it is also easy to turn a blind eye to our own past failings.

This post isn’t about calling out other vegans or myself. It’s about reminding myself and other long-time vegans out there not to forget where we came from. After nearly a decade adapting to this lifestyle, it can be easy to forget how impossible the change once seemed. Even though now it can be frustrating to hear people asking you the same ridiculous questions that they always have, keep answering them kindly. Keep being patient, even when you’d rather scream. A kind, thoughtful answer may not make the questioner go vegan, but a harsh response is guaranteed to turn them away from the idea entirely.

If you’ve read my other posts you may wonder why I even bother to care anymore. After all, I’ve said many times that I believe it’s too late to save the planet and life on earth as we know it. So why continue being vegan? Why do I care if other people go vegan or not? The simple answer to that question is suffering. I have always been sensitive to the idea of suffering. The mere existence of it is what caused me to lose my faith in a loving, all powerful god. And if there is no god to protect the innocent, I will. Or at the very least, I’ll do my best not to contribute to their suffering.

The crazy thing is that it doesn’t even feel like a conscious effort any more. I think one of the hard parts about going vegan is making that mental connection each time you decide what you’re going to eat or buy at the store. In the beginning making the right choice causes you pain because it makes you reflect on your impact in the world and the immense suffering and injustice that exists all around us. It is tempting to turn away, fall back into old habits, avoid thinking about it entirely. However, once veganism has become that comfortable, familiar habit, these painful feelings are reversed. The other day someone asked me if I would ever eat meat again. The idea alone left a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t even bring myself to look at the meat section in the grocery store. Those “foods” are a painful reminder of the atrocities humanity perpetrates on our innocent brethren. To eat a piece of meat is to eat a piece of flesh. It would be a willful decision to cast aside everything that I believe in in a way that it never was before going vegan. It would be simply impossible for me, painful even.

This drastic shift of consciousness that a vegan lifestyle elicits can make it hard for us to relate to the meat-eating masses. It’s tempting to try to forget that I was once one of them. When people ask me, I want to tell them that veganism was never a difficult choice to make, that it was always easy. But I am always honest instead. I tell them that it was hard for a long time. I tell them that I initially transitioned for selfish reasons, not out of a moral obligation to the animals I was eating. I tell them about the foods I miss eating and haven’t been able to replace. I let them know all of this. But I also let them know that despite all of that, becoming vegan was worth it. Becoming vegan was the best decision I ever made in my life. I would say I’m proud of that decision, but it just seems ridiculous to take pride in not harming others when that should be the default.

So if you are reading this post and you are not vegan, know that I don’t harbor any hatred or resentment towards you. I certainly don’t consider myself better than you, like a lot of people assume vegans do. What I hope you take with you from reading this is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Choosing a salad instead of a steak at a single meal is a reason to rejoice. Deciding not to add cheese or a creamy dip or adding a non-dairy creamer to your coffee or switching to a plant based milk at home, these are all wonderful, meaningful steps to take that make a difference. And I don’t mean make a difference for the world necessarily, I mean they make a difference for the animals. It may seem like an abstract statistic when we think about meat and dairy sales, simple facts and figures. An output two digits smaller than the year before may seem utterly insignificant, but just remember that those numbers are lives, sweet, precious babies, like the pets your have at home. And these small choices make a difference to them. So just do your best. Do whatever you can, no matter how small. If a mentally ill, eighteen-year-old can go vegan on Easter and still being going strong nine years later, anyone can do it.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

The New Year

Last year, I got blackout drunk on New Year’s Eve, slept with a random guy, which I only have vague flashes of memory about, and didn’t get home again until the afternoon. I felt sick and sad and, to be honest, it was a good harbinger of what was to come in 2020. A lot of poor decisions. A lot of regret. A lot of sickness, sadness, and anxiety. I can only hope the ways things went yesterday will be equally as prophetic.

Last night I managed to only have a few drinks. I was sober enough to drive home around 11, and I did. I didn’t embarrass myself. I didn’t sleep with anyone. I just had a lovely dinner with my friends, smoked and drank a reasonable amount, then went home to my babies and slept in my own bed. I even managed to wake up at a decent hour. Part of me was kind of sad to leave so early, before the New Year had even truly arrived. It made me feel old and unfun. But in the end, I’d take being old to being a drunken embarrassment any day of the year.

I hope that even though I’m still feeling pretty hungover this morning, that today can provide that shifted perspective that I’ve been needing. I still have this desire for today to be the first day of a new life. I always get so scared when the time finally comes to actually sit down and figure out exactly what that means though. I don’t know what I am so afraid of. I guess I’m afraid of taking a hard look at myself. I’m afraid of what I’ll see, of what I’ll have to face in order to change.

I know I can do it though. I won’t look away this time. I’ll be here for myself no matter what I find. Plus now that it’s finally January, I can call a psychologist’s office on Monday and make myself an appointment. Then I can have another person to support me in this journey as well. Hopefully they’ll have some more helpful strategies than what I’ve been able to come up with.

Even though nothing is really different this morning that yesterday morning or tomorrow morning, I still enjoy this illusion of having a fresh start. I plan to have fun with it, to make the best of it. It’s exciting, not scary. I have everything I need to start living the life I want to. All I need to do is decide what life that will be.

Photo by Tairon Fernandez on Pexels.com

Making Plans

There are only a handful of weeks left to us in the hellacious, year of our lord 2020. It is around this time I feel it’s appropriate to start making plans for the new year to come. I know most “New Year Resolutions” fall to the wayside and are forgotten after a few weeks at most. But there is something deliciously invigorating about the illusion of a fresh start, a clean slate. It may not ultimately help you follow through with or achieve your goals, but it does make it a hell of a lot easier to feel inspired enough to a least make a plan for yourself. And that is worthwhile and important in it’s own right.

I personally am in desperate need of a plan for myself. I have been drifting listlessly for what seems like a very long time now. Every time I think of making a change, it just feels hopeless. Why bother? However, knowing I’ll have a few months to mentally prepare myself makes it seem more manageable. (Not to mention still getting to enjoy a hedonistic holiday season.) Don’t get me wrong, it’ll still feel daunting when the day finally arises at my doorstep, but I’ll at least hopefully feel more ready. Having a clear plan in mind is always helpful.

So what kinds of things do you want to change in 2021? Start a new habit? Kick an old one? Spend some of this waning time in 2020 to get a clear idea of what you would like to do and how precisely you plan to do it. Having a detailed plan is key. Vague goals are the most slippery. Much too hard to actualize.

Maybe even more important than making your plan specific is making it incremental. Don’t expect yourself to wake up on January 1st 2021 and lead an entirely different life. That isn’t going to happen. I’ve always been afraid of being “too easy on myself.” I worry that if I’m not strict and rigid, I’ll fail. But perhaps that is exactly the reason I have already failed so many times in the past. I think it’s more important to be kind to yourself along the way. You will mess up. You will have days, maybe even weeks, when you feel like you’ve given up, that you’ve failed. But there are no rules to follow in this life. There are no disqualifiers. Keep playing. Start again as many times as you need to.

There is no shame in what we perceive as failure. Only an opportunity to rest. To collect ourselves. To be gentle with ourselves. And begin again with new strength, new determination, new wisdom. So make your plans. Make the small improvements something to take pride in. Expect to mess up. Expect to start again many times. But remember one thing above all else. These are your goals. You are the only one invested in the outcome. And do you know why? Because beneath it all, it is your self-love that moves you. The belief you have in yourself. The deep desire for you to be happy, healthy, prosperous. You’re doing this for you. Inspired by pure love. So don’t forget. Be kind to yourself. As you would be to a child that you only want the best for. Comfort yourself when you fall, and help yourself back up again.

It is time for another transition. It is time for change.