VegFest 2021

Today was my first time going to a local vegan festival called VegFest. Even though I’ve been vegan for nearly a decade now, I somehow never managed to make it out there. I’m so glad I finally went though. It was so much busier than I could have ever anticipated. There had to be thousands of people crammed into the span of a few blocks. There were over 40 local vendors selling all kinds of things from plants and art to baked goods and bourbon. I don’t even want to calculate how much money I spent. There were a lot of things I wasn’t even able to try because the lines were too long or they sold out before I had a chance to stop.

I highly recommend attending any vegan festivities in your area. New vegans could definitely benefit from discovering what type of vegan options there are in their area. Experienced vegans can benefit from the uplifting atmosphere of being surrounded by like-minded people and seeing just how much support the vegan movement actually has. Even in more vegan-friendly areas, it can feel like a lost cause at times. There is nothing more inspiring than gathering together with your community to celebrate.

It’s really crazy for me to think about how far veganism has come in just my small area. There used to be hardly any options for me in the grocery stores or at restaurants. If I wanted to eat a dish that was even moderately tasty I had to put in all the time and effort to make it myself. Now being vegan is easier than ever.

I used to get it when I was first transitioning if people told me veganism was just too difficult for them. It was a big adjustment in a society that catered to carnism alone. Now I’m shocked that anyone can still use that excuse. With the Impossible Burger at Burger King, dozens of different vegan ice creams in the supermarket, and hundreds if not thousands of other perfectly incredible replacements for anything you could possibly desire, how could you still ask a vegan, “so what do you eat?” or “I could never give up x or y.” Hell, even the dinky little road side ice cream shop in the middle of nowhere has nondairy options now!

Even though I can no longer hold out hope that veganism will save the earth, it can still save the animals from enduring unnecessary suffering in the short time that we have left here with them. I am so grateful to be have been reminded today that there are so many other people in this world that are fighting to end that senseless pain.

Meeting Someone New

Living with crippling social anxiety for most of my life, it is such a strange feeling to not be nervous about meeting someone new. I have a date with a vegan guy I met online this Saturday. It will be the first time we’ve seen one another in person. I think this is an example of a scenario where most people would feel at least a little nervous. But surprisingly even these types of encounters don’t phase me anymore. However, now there are other mental obstacles I face when meeting someone new.

For the longest time, I had basically given up on everyone. It seemed like it had been ages since I met anyone that was even remotely interesting, let alone funny. I began to think that I had just been lucky early on to meet so many wonderful people that have since slowly trickled out of my life. I had little to no hope of finding more people that were able to live up to my expectations. But now I’m starting to challenge that way of thinking. This last year and a half at my new job working with so many hilarious, fascinating, and intelligent people has reawakened my hope in humanity. Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, our minds subconsciously confirm what we already believe, even when it’s something we would really rather not be true. I wonder if perhaps at least some of the people I’ve written off in the past few years could have actually been perfectly nice if I’d given them more of a chance.

As I try to mentally prepare for meeting this person a few days from now, I have a very narrow line to walk. I am learning how to keep myself from expecting too much from someone while also not assuming they have nothing to offer me. Normally I have a tendency to do one or the other. When I expect too much from someone, I begin to get irritated when they don’t meet those expectations. Not only am I disappointed, but I actually feel bitter and resentful towards them at times. On the other hand, when I decide that someone will probably just be another boring waste of time, my mind tends to notice only the details of our encounters that support that predetermined idea.

It is hard for me to allow a new person enough time and space to show me who they really are. It can be hard for me to stick around long enough to get to know someone fully before making my ultimate judgement. That is partly because I feel like I am leading them on or wasting their time if I’m not feeling all in right away. I’m worried I am giving them a false impression of how invested I am in the relationship. It’s also difficult for me to stick around because sometimes it just feels like I am trying to force something that isn’t right. I guess I just feel pressured to make up my mind about people after only a few dates. Sometimes I even keep seeing someone because I feel like by doing so I’m giving them a chance, even when deep down my heart and mind have already been made up.

My intuition is something that I question a lot. It seems like I am usually able to tell right away when someone is a really good personality match for me whether it be a friendly or romantic relationship. But there have been times that unexpected people have become essential parts of my life. I never know when I should trust my intuition or when I should challenge it. Or even whether or not it matters. Maybe my intuition and initial impressions are going to influence me either way.

I’ve noticed that it is often easier for me to get a feel for who someone is when I am able to spend time with them in a relaxed, group setting rather than one on one. This way I am able to observe them. I can see the way they interact and react to other people instead of just me. I’ve always felt it was easier to get to know someone when they are around their friends. This is one of the many reasons that online dating is especially hard for me. It doesn’t seem to work well for me to try to get to know someone in a vacuum. But I don’t know what I can do about that. As an adult I’ve found it exceptionally hard to meet new people, especially people that have the same interests and values that I do. I was hoping once I found a partner that was vegan everything else would come easily. Sadly, however, that hasn’t been the case. To my surprise, a lot of vegans still manage to be terrible people.

So as Saturday draws near, I am trying not to worry about what will come of it in the end. I am trying to stay curious, to stay open-minded. I want to allow myself to just have fun with whatever happens. I want to go into it with a light-hearted, playful mindset. With only the intention of discovering what this new person is all about. Perhaps it will be my soulmate, perhaps we’ll become good friends, or maybe it will just be a one time adventure exploring the local trails on a warm sunny day in spring. I am keeping my heart open to whatever the day may hold.

Photo by Tobi on Pexels.com

Vegan Grocery Haul

There is a common misconception that veganism is expensive. In this post I wanted to address that myth. It is certainly true that veganism can be expensive, but so can any type of diet. People seem to have a hard time imagining what vegans eat. Many think that their diets mainly consist of tofu and faux meats and cheeses which are usually quite pricey. Not many people realize that the staple foods in an average vegans diet are some of the cheapest foods you can buy: rice, beans, potatoes, and fresh or frozen fruits and veggies.

Just in case anyone is curious, I decided to show you all what a normal trip to the grocery store results in for an average low-income vegan like myself. All of the food in the photo to follow was under $45 at my local Kroger grocery store. I didn’t actually buy rice this time, but that’s because I always have that. The spices to season all of your delicious vegetable dishes can be a bit expensive in the beginning, but they are only a rare purchase as they last for a long time.

food

In case you can’t make it out in the photo, here is a list of everything pictured:

  1. Watermelon
  2. Pineapple (x20
  3. Potato (x20
  4. Green onion bunch (x2)
  5. Cucumber
  6. Celery hearts
  7. Dark brown sugar
  8. Blueberries (1lb)
  9. Zucchini
  10. Avocado
  11. Red pepper
  12. Green pepper
  13. Radishes (3 bags)
  14. Frozen corn
  15. Broccoli (2 crowns)
  16. Tomatoes (3 Roma)
  17. Sugar snap peas
  18. Spinach
  19. Cilantro
  20. Kale
  21. Veggie stir-fry kit
  22. Dried apricots
  23. Cabbage
  24. Tamari
  25. Beet and ginger bean dip
  26. Mediterranean pickles
  27. Garbanzo Beans
  28. Kidney Beans
  29. Vegetarian refried beans
  30. Kombucha

That’s 30 wonderful plant-based foods for less than $45! I want to help spread the message that veganism can be easy, accessible and affordable. It takes a little practice. You learn how to shop with the season and benefit from bargain bins. But there is no reason that someone should hold themselves back from living a more compassionate and healthy lifestyle because of their income.

I hope that this can be an inspiring example to some of you out there that have held onto the false notion that veganism is simply too expensive to consider. If a 24-year-old, single, social worker can do it, so can you!

 

Atheist Easter & Vegan Deviled Eggs

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Even though I’ve been an atheist for over a decade now, I still love, love, LOVE “Christian” holidays. (They are actually kinda Pagan holidays, but I digress.) I view them as an excellent time to enjoy delicious fattening foods without guilt and spread lots of love to my friends and family. In addition to the unorthodox way I already celebrate, my past six years of veganism have made my holidays even more controversial and strange. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

This year my grandmother that usually makes deviled eggs for my family’s Easter dinner was no longer with us. She passed away a few weeks after the new year began. In loving memory of her and her delicious addition, I decided to make my own version of these delights. I used to absolutely adore deviled eggs and eggs in general. Until now, I was under the assumption that a lot of egg dishes were simply impossible to recreate realistically in a vegan way. However, I recently went to a vegan restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA called The Onion Maiden where they serve vegan deviled eggs! I was overjoyed when I ordered them and discovered they were almost identical to the real deal.

After a quick Google search, I found that the secret ingredients to make a firm egg-like substance were Agar Powder and Black Salt. I was easily able to order both of these on Amazon for less than $10. Once I received these ingredients I was eager to taste the black salt because I had never heard of it before and I was very skeptical that these few ingredients that were called for would be able to produce something as egg-y as what I had sampled at The Onion Maiden. To my surprise, black salt is basically egg as a seasoning. Even by itself, it tastes exactly like a salted boiled egg!!! I am so blown away by this and the fact that I hadn’t known this as a vegan for all these years that I may make a separate post just about this incredible find. All vegans need to be aware of this!

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I used the recipe from BakedIn.com that was simple and took less than an hour. I have included the link to the recipe and a photo of everything I used above. (I didn’t want to buy more almond milk, so I just used what I had even though it was vanilla instead of plain. It didn’t seem to make a huge difference, but I’ll definitely use plain in my next batch.) I was quite pleased with the result. Even my non-vegan family members and friends were surprised at how similar my vegan version was to actual deviled eggs. These are definitely going to be a staple holiday food for me from now on. Let me know if you try them yourselves and what you think. Also THANK THE VEGAN GODS FOR BLACK SALT.

Hope you all had a lovely, cruelty-free holiday. ♥

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Cultivating Self-Love

Look, I know I’m quite terrible at making consistent posts and not vanishing for months (or years) at a time, but I have some incredible news to share with you all: I love myself!

That’s right, I’ve finally stopped feeding the wolf of self-doubt and harsh criticism in my head. Surprisingly enough, this transformation began after what most would view as a devastating blow in anyone’s life. This past fall I had finally managed to find myself a polyamorous relationship with two incredible vegans in my area. There were definitely some ups and downs but overall I was thrilled to finally be living my truth I thought I would never be able to.

Then my life decided to take an even more surprising turn.  My ex-boyfriend reemerged on all of his previously inactive social media accounts and began liking my posts. I felt like my heart was ignited. With nervous anticipation I decided to message him, and he replied! It felt as though no time had passed at all. I felt like an old friend had been brought back from the dead. We made plans to get together and for what may have been the first time in my life I actually wept with joy. I found myself thanking breathlessly a god that I no longer believe in. The feeling that took hold of me that day remains poignant in my heart.

With some reluctance, I began to distance myself for my polyamorous pair. Although my ex said he didn’t mind, a part of me knew that he would only stick around for so long if I continued my polyamourous lifestyle. Within a few days, we were living together. It felt like a dream to finally have my own home and someone to share it with. We were really soul mates it seems. The kind I never believed in. He had come back to me after all those years apart, and I had never been more sure of anything than I was of my love for him.

However, to my shock and chagrin, a few days after New Year’s he decided to leave. When he first told me I genuinely thought that he was joking. But as I glanced around the room I noticed that all of his things were already missing. I felt myself implode and remained silent and tearfully motionless for nearly an hour before finding the strength to speak. I knew I could not change this. I cradled it in my heart like a red giant about to burst into a black hole.

After all the times I had felt as if my world were crumbling at my sides, this was somehow different. I truly felt like there was no avoiding it this time. I fearfully began to lean into it, and somehow I found myself there with open arms and boundless love. I was so tired of being afraid I would never be loved. So suddenly the thought of loving myself didn’t seem so pathetic (or maybe it still did, but I just didn’t care). It was such a comfort to know that I could be there for myself, that that could be enough.

I decided that I really didn’t want to hurt anymore. I didn’t want to sit indefinitely in my sadness. I decided to instead be thankful, thankful that I got that time with someone I truly loved, thankful that the regret I once harbored for leaving him years ago could finally dissolve, thankful that I had been lucky enough to know love at all. I decided to take care of myself. I decided I deserved that much.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I cried A LOT. I still do from time to time when I think of those few months. But ultimately what I took away from those dark days is that I am all that I will ever truly have control of and that I will never leave me. It taught me that altering the connections the neurons create in my brain really is possible. I saw how much my lonely years of meditation and yoga had already helped me without me even realizing it. These practices had carried me to another heartbreak and gave me the power to step away from the pain this time and choose something different. How strange that something so heartbreaking would transform into something unimaginably empowering.

Since that day he left, things have only gotten better and better. I have been focusing my energy on bettering myself but not for other people like I used to. Now my progress is gentle and enjoyable because it is an act of love for myself. Each day, no matter how structurally similar to the last, holds worthwhile experiences and possibilities, and I am no longer waiting for something or someone to save me, for my life to change. I can’t help but smile when I realize all those corny quotes the depressed, dramatic teen in me was so quick to dismiss were always true. You do have to love yourself before you can love someone else. Happiness is a conscious choice to be made, not a state to acquire through external means. It just takes some practice, and I hope this will give some the courage to keep trying. Our mind, our disposition, is ours to create. Craft it with love.

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