The Brain-Gut Connection

By now, most people know about the gut microbiome. Maybe not the term, but we have a vague understanding of things such as probiotics and antibiotics. It’s very trendy to drink kombucha and eat fermented foods like kimchi in an effort to nurture our gut bacteria. I mentioned in another post how wild it is to find out we are nearly equal parts human tissue cells and germ/bacteria cells. On my way to work this morning as I listened to a podcast episode all about the brain-gut connection, I found out some even more startling and fascinating information.

Every day science is learning more about the helpful bacteria in our digestive systems. It’s quite the complex subject, far more complicated than simply pro and anti biotics. I learned today that there are also things called prebiotics and postbiotics. Prebiotics are the fibrous material that the gut bacteria eats, and postbiotics are the waste materials that the bacteria excrete, which actually ends up being beneficial to our physical as well as our mental health.

I was shocked to discover what a huge role our gut microbiome plays in our mental health. Further research may even uncover that this is the root of all our mental illnesses. Of course, as a vegan, I was intrigued to learn what kind of a difference a plant based diet would have on all of this. I know that farmed animals are routinely given antibiotics to keep them “healthy” even in atrocious conditions. My initial instinct was to feel even more sorry for the animals themselves. Not only are they physically suffering, but god only know what those conditions, PLUS an obliterated gut biome is doing to them mentally. I hadn’t even considered the implications of this on human health. Not only does consuming meat fill us with carcinogens, growth and stress hormones, and cholesterol, it is also destroying our gut biome with the antibiotics absorbed in the flesh of the animals we consume.

Initially, I felt pretty smug about this. Just another reason veganism is the only healthy diet. However, I knew that my mental health, while much improved by a vegan diet, wasn’t completely cured by it. As the podcast continued on, it explained that while meat contains antibiotics, so do the fruit, vegetables, and grains that we eat. Apparently Raid was originally patented as an antibiotic! Raid is also something that, despite all the awful things we know about this poison, is still used on virtually all the crops commercially grown. I suppose organic crops may avoid this, but honestly I don’t know. Call me a skeptic, but I never believe things labeled as “organic” are actually grown organically.

Many of you may take away from this information that we need to balance out our antibiotic ridden diet with lots of healthy probiotics. However, it’s not so simple. Apparently probiotics, though still good for us, are not actually helpful in the ways we intend them to be. Instead, it’s more important for us to focus on consuming foods that are rich in prebiotics. This provides our gut bacteria with the fibers they need to flourish. These foods include things like chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, and bananas.

Perhaps even more interesting than all of that information is the link between the gut microbiome and hunger/cravings. Hunger seems pretty simple. When our stomachs are empty, this space sends a signal to the brain that we need to eat, right? Wrong. It’s actually the small friends (and foes) in our guts that are giving us these signals. In a study, subjects were told to fast for 14 days, only consuming water and a prebiotic solution. Despite consuming no actual food, the subjects reported having no hunger pains or cravings throughout the 14 day period. The gut bacteria was well-fed by the prebiotic solution, therefore no hunger signals were being sent to the brain.

In addition to this, what kinds of foods we crave can also be linked to our gut bacteria. Some bacteria like to eat very sugary, fatty foods. Rather than having anything to do with “willpower,” our ability to choose healthy foods has a lot to do with what types of bacteria we have in our gut. The good news is, that if we can manage to resist these impulses to eat sugary, processed foods for a few days, those pesky bacteria will die out, taking the cravings along with them.

I was so blown away by all of this information, that I’ve been sharing it with anyone who will listen. Of course that means I had to make a post about it. Considering I only heard about this stuff a few hours ago, I wouldn’t recommend you simply take my word for it. But I do encourage all of you to look into it for yourselves. I certainly plan to do lots more research on this topic myself. I may even order the book The Energy Paradox by Dr. Steven Grundy, who was the guest on the podcast I listened to today. I absolutely adore learning new, helpful information like this. The implications of this knowledge are potentially life-changing.

A scientist explores the mysteries of the gut-brain connection |

Vegans & Parties

This weekend I went to two different summer parties with the people I work with. One was with my coworkers from the Child Advocacy Center and one was with my yoga studio friends. It used to be a bigger deal to go out to restaurants and parties and other social events when I was first finding me vegan footing. Now I don’t really give it a second thought. I’m used to either ordering a garden salad or bringing my own party favors when I go out. What I did find interesting was the distinctly different experiences I had at these two parties this weekend.

Since I began working at my new job, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how accepting and considerate of my veganism my coworkers have been. Despite the popular trope that vegans “love to tell you they’re vegan” I actually usually keep it hidden from new people I meet for as long as I can. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or anything. Talking about it just usually ends up turning into an invitation for all the age old vegan questions. “Where do you get your protein? What do you eat? Can you eat eggs? Do you eat fish?” Etc. etc. It’s quite exhausting. I quickly got tired of dispelling common myths and teaching everyone I met about my diet. But when my friends at work found out, they didn’t seem shocked and horrified like most people. They were great. They were respectful and a lot of them even told me how great it was that I was vegan.

At my work party, I came with a bag of food to eat and share, assuming I wouldn’t have much available there. It was a fondue party after all. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. There were two giants vegan dishes (pasta salad & a quinoa dish) as well as hummus. All were labeled very clearly too! It honestly nearly brought tears to my eyes. I had never felt so respected and well taken care of at a party before. (Plus I made chocolate chip cookies that everyone ate up immediately, not even noticing they were vegan.)

Now I must have gotten a little cocky after that party on Saturday. I didn’t really expect my veganism to even come up at the annual studio picnic I went to yesterday. I’ve known these people for years now and I thought we’d gotten past the question and answer stage. Unfortunately it was immediately brought up when I offered tabouli to everyone. To be fair I guess that’s not an ideal dish to offer since not many people even know what it is. I only know because I’m Greek and my grandmother used to make it, not because I’m vegan. Anyway, I digress, it seemed like quite a bit of my time there was just spend explaining veganism and nutrition to everyone. I got all the classics. “Where do you get your protein?” That one always kills me. I also had people acting upset that the impossible burger wasn’t “healthy.” Well yea, neither is a regular burger. It’s a junk food replacement, not a health food. Someone even told me, “It’s great being vegan works for your body. I don’t think it would work for my body.” What the hell does that even mean? Haven’t heard that excuse before.

I was so disappointed that my fellow yogis were the ones that made me spend my time at this party lecturing and justifying my lifestyle. They all seemed to be much more defensive than my work friends. It’s interesting to observe the way different people react to my veganism. It says a lot about a person. What I’ve seemed to notice is that the more in line with vegan principles someone already is, the more threatened they seem to be by me. Not always, but a lot. Ahimsa or non-harming is one of the main principles of a yogic lifestyle. Of course that can be interpreted different ways by different people, but obviously veganism is the way I interpret it. I think veganism is quite threatening to some people. They hear you saying you’re better than them even when you’re not. They feel attacked and become hostile towards you. It’s a visceral reaction brought on by the cognitive dissonance within their own minds. They see the value in veganism and know that it aligns with their beliefs, yet they aren’t ready to give up their current habits. The discomfort that creates is then a problem that the vegan catalyst is blamed for subconsciously.

Whatever you opinions of veganism are, I just want to point out that it’s not polite to put a vegan on the spot with endless questions, especially at a party. I went there to have fun, not to answer questions that are quite frankly boring and irritating to me at this point. I used to think that it was a great opportunity to educate people and even though I didn’t really enjoy doing so, I tried my best to answer everything adequately. After being vegan for nearly a decade now and hearing the same questions from the same people again and again, I see it a bit differently. I don’t think most people really care what your answers are. They are just asking questions to make conversation. If they truly had any interest in the answers to those questions, they could have just googled it and gotten a much more comprehensive and helpful explanation.

One of the questions I always get is: “what do you miss most?” They are expecting it to be a “food.” But honestly I miss fitting in better, being able to blend into the crowd. The social ostracizing it the hardest part. It’s practically the only difficulty that still has stayed with me after all these years as a vegan.

24 garden party ideas to transform your backyard for celebrations | Real  Homes

Vegan Jokes

After nearly a decade of being vegan, you get used to being the butt of the joke. My own father never misses an opportunity to make fun of me and my sister or wave meat in our faces at family gatherings. In my first years as a vegan this was far more infuriating, but after a while it becomes more boring and annoying instead. My boyfriend hasn’t been vegan quite as long as me though. Not to mention the jokes are a bit different when you’re a guy. Among the other things he’s not loving about his new job are the vegan jokes.

When I was telling a friend at work about Nate’s difficulties with that, she practically rolled her eyes and said, “they’re probably just busting his balls.” A nonsensical response to me. I often forget that I live in a different universe than meat-eaters. That is one of the reasons I gave up on getting mad about these kinds of jokes. It’s a lose lose situation. Most of these “jokes” are founded on a fundamental misunderstanding of veganism. If you get upset or try to educate the person making the joke, you are met with shock and more laughter. “We were just joking!” It’s pointless.

It reminds me of a transgender comedian that talked about transgender jokes. It’s not that certain subjects are necessarily off limits for comedy, but the jokes themselves must come from a place of understanding to actually be funny. Otherwise you are just being offensive. If you say something insensitive or offensive and upset someone, it’s not because they didn’t understand it was a “joke.” If you’re making fun of someone’s religion, for example, I don’t see how insisting you’re only joking makes it any better. We get that it’s a joke. It just isn’t funny.

The other aspect of “vegan jokes” that I find perplexing and fascinating is the way they have practically become their own genre of humor. Vegan jokes are everywhere. People post memes making fun of vegans out of the blue. People comment on a passionate vegan’s post about activism with, “Bacon, though.” Since when is making light of a serious issue someone is trying to raise awareness about funny? At a certain point the prevalence of these jokes starts to feel a bit pathological.

I do think there is some interesting psychological principal at play here. Perhaps it is some type of thinly veiled defense mechanism. Making light of vegans and veganism makes it easier to ignore the serious circumstances and reasoning behind the plant based movement. You don’t have to seriously confront what a vegan is saying when you can make a joke out of the person instead.

Like I said earlier, I’ve given up on getting angry or trying to make non vegan people in my life understand my point of view on the subject. If anything I just want this post to be a PSA for anyone reading this that may have vegan friends they like to “joke” with. We don’t like your jokes. We don’t find them cute or funny. And more than that, we find them painful. Not personally, make fun of me as an individual all you want. It’s painful because it’s a constant reminder that these serious, urgent issues are still just a joke to most people. It’s bad enough that friends and family won’t make the transition, but it’s gut wrenching to also have it thrown in our faces that something so important to us, so critical to who we are as a person, is just a joke to you.

Comics - Gemma Correll | Make me laugh, Funny illustration, Dinosaur funny

Conflicting Ideals

My office is somewhat out in the countryside. Most of the road there is lined with rolling fields with cows grazing. This morning as I was driving to work, I saw one of the cows wading chest deep into this little pond. It made me so happy. What a little goof, I thought to myself. I really enjoy watching them everyday when I’m commuting to and from the office or when we take walks during our lunch break. Sometimes there are even curious babies that approach the fence to watch us as we pass by.

Knowing that my friends at work also enjoy our cow neighbors, I was excited to talk about what I saw this morning. I was quite shocked and caught off guard by the reply I received though. Instead of smiling and laughing at what a silly cow I saw earlier, my friend sadly commented on how he thought the cows were starving. I asked him what he meant, since I hadn’t noticed them looking particularly unhealthy or anything. He told me that he could see their ribs. While this made me very sad, it also made me confused and curious. He seemed awfully upset and sad about it. I almost asked him why he cared.

Obviously I care, and I think it’s right and natural to care about other living beings. That’s why I’m a vegan and don’t include these sentient beings in my diet. But my friend at work is not a vegan or even a vegetarian. Therefore this strange disconnect always intrigues me. It’s amazing how rarely human beings follow their thoughts and beliefs to their logical conclusion. Clearly he cares for these cows and doesn’t want to see them suffer. Yet the suffering that he pays for and ingests at each and every meal is far more gruesome than merely going hungry. If underfed cows could cause him so much sadness, why does he perpetuate far greater abuses?

I’m not trying to blame him or even shame him for the way he lives his life. I am just fascinated by the psychology behind this common hypocrisy. Even though I was once a part of the exact same mindset (animal lover/animal eater) it still doesn’t make any sense to me. But I want to understand how I overcame that mental block. I want to find a way to get other people to make the same connection that I finally made nearly a decade ago.

People often look at others in small religious sects, cults, political parties, or those who subscribe to other ideologies in general and wonder how on earth they could believe the things they do. We tend to think there is just something wrong with those people. Unfortunately we are all susceptible to these oversights in judgement. I would even go so far as to say we all participate in actions that conflict with our personal beliefs. A lot of the time we can recognize these inconsistencies, but feel unable to reconcile them. But there are probably still quite a few that each of us have that we don’t even acknowledge. I, for one, am very concerned about the ones that may exist within my own mind.

I’d like to think I would be grateful if someone were to point these hypocritical behaviors to me so that I could work towards becoming a more consistent and principled person. Yet I don’t know how I would actually feel were I confronted in this way. Most people tend to just get angry and think you are a jerk. This is why, despite my feelings, I don’t bring these types of things up to people anymore. It never seems to help the situation, only hurt our relationship. The mind is truly a fascinating thing. I hope to someday understand it better so that I may use that understanding to help myself, my fellow humans, and the other beings that we brutalize every day.

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Five Years

It still feels surreal to me, but I officially have a boyfriend again after five years of being single. I feel ridiculous being so happy and giddy over something so commonplace, but I can’t help myself. I hadn’t even realized it had been five years until now. Time perception is such a wild and ever-changing thing. It’s crazy to think that when I was in school, a mere four years enveloped a huge, important chunk of my life (high school) and now the past five have just been a vague blur, hardly worth remembering. I suppose there were highlights within the past few years, but they don’t seem to stand out as much as similar things would have when I was younger. Maybe the structure of school just allowed for a more organized, and therefore more easily remembered, life.

Regardless of how long is seems, it has been five years. I’m 27 years old now, yet I definitely still feel 22 if not even younger when it comes to my emotional maturity. As someone who is quite proud of being more intelligent than most, it is quite a painful realization that my emotional intelligence is so stunted. It really has never been so obvious to me as it has in the last few weeks with my new partner. The littlest thing makes me tongue tied with embarrassment. Then that embarrassment is compounded again and again as I cringe at myself, embarrassed of being embarrassed. I’ve always felt that I am clueless and awkward when it comes to dating and romance, but it didn’t seem like that was all that uncommon for my age back when I met my first boyfriend. However, even though so much time has passed since then, I feel exactly the same as all those years ago. A far less acceptable place to be emotionally now that I’m no longer 16. Over a decade has passed with little to no progress in that arena.

I suppose I’m just being too hard on myself again though. I don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and affection. It’s okay to make mistakes and feel embarrassed. My new boyfriend doesn’t seem to be put off by it at least. I’m excited to learn and grow with someone by my side to support me again. Especially someone so considerate and kind as the one I’ve found. Although it does feel quite unfamiliar. I’m so used to being on my own now. It feels strange to tie myself to someone else, to not only have myself to consider or look out for anymore. Someone made a comment on one of my other posts about just waiting until I feel more emotionally developed or “ready” to start a relationship again. Definitely sounds like good advice. Unfortunately, I’ve already been doing that for half a decade! Remaining on my own seems to have only been making things worse, not better. Instead of growing as a person, I’ve remained in a stagnant cocoon, off in my own world. It’s only made it harder for me to be with others, not easier. Just like with most things, if you are waiting for the perfect moment, chances are you’ll be waiting forever.

This analytical, obsessive mind of mine just loves to get lost fixating on the details. I’m always stuck worrying about all of the unknowns ahead. For once I’d like to just enjoy the blissful happiness that I have in this moment. It’s time to let go of fear and to learn how to just trust, in myself, in my fellow humans, in this universe. All is well. I am healthy. I am happy. I am loved. I have found a beautiful, intelligent, kind, vegan boy who wants to be with me. And for the first time in a very long time, I desperately want to be with him as well.

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The Advocate and the Architect

If you’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test, I would highly recommend it. Although I’ve only been able to take the knock-off version that they have available for free online, it’s still definitely worth checking out. It’s almost terrifying how accurate and detailed the results are. I’ll often ask people if they know what their type is just so that I can read about them and come to understand them a bit better. I finally remembered to do this the other day with my new vegan guy.

I was delighted to see that he had already heard about this and knew his type. Most people I ask have never taken the test or even heard about it. He is an INFJ and I am an INTJ. Looks like we must be pretty similar right? Actually that one little letter apparently makes a lot of difference. I suppose it would, given that they F stands for feeling, while the T stands for thinking. On the bright side we do seem to compliment one another. Although I wasn’t able to sense it myself right away, it does seem like he will be able to help facilitate the emotional side of our connection.

INFJs are called the Advocates. Kind of ironic given that’s actually my job title. They are very sensitive, emotionally aware people. Advocates are always looking out for the best interests and feelings of others. Unfortunately this can often lead them to place their own feelings and needs in the background. I was delighted to read that INFJs are generally very committed to their romantic partners and are looking for serious, long-term relationships. Knowing that has greatly helped to remove any lingering doubt about his intentions.

After reading through the details of an INFJ, I decided to reread my own page to refresh my memory. I was immediately amazed and embarrassed. I had forgotten how incredibly accurate this personality type description was for me. I almost regretted bringing it up. Knowing he would read about me, I felt so exposed. I was horrified at what he might think about me. Especially when it came to the “relationships” section of the webpage. While INFJs were lauded for their affinity for emotional intimacy and commitment to their partners, the INTJ’s corresponding page was not so flattering.

A lot of the things I was considering autistic traits, may actually just be traits of my personality type. One of the things that continued to be emphasized was INTJ’s disregard and cluelessness towards social conventions. We don’t like small talk at all, don’t even really know how to have small talk. We aren’t very in tune with our emotions or the emotions of others. We can even offend or hurt someone without realizing it. In my opinion, the relationship section particularly was almost scathing. Paragraph after paragraph explained just how inept INTJs tend to be when it comes to romance and intimacy. We feel awkward and confused by dating, unable to tap into our emotional selves, preferring to look at the world in an utterly rational and analytical fashion. One particular line that struck me what when it said that INTJs often wonder if dating and social interaction are even worth the trouble. I’ve definitely found myself wondering that on more than one occasion.

Even after reading all about my humiliating shortcomings, my vegan guy still came over and hung out with me yesterday. I felt much more relaxed with him this time. We had a lovely cozy day in, just talking and watching movies. He brought me more flowers like a true gentleman. I showed him some yoga poses. We went and picked up a few groceries and cooked a delicious vegan dinner together while listening to one of our favorite bands. Overall it was an absolutely lovely day. He even opened up to me about the details of his past relationships. Even though I struggled, I did the same. I feel very awkward being vulnerable like that with someone, but I feel as though it was necessary.

Unfortunately he also showed me pictures of the new apartment he’s already signed a one-year lease for. I truly am happy for him about his new job, but it still pains me to know he’ll be living five hours away from me by the end of this month. At least I feel reassured about his commitment to maintaining a relationship with me now. Part of me hopes the distance will be good for us. Perhaps it will allow me the time I need to get more comfortable with him before I feel any more pressure to be physically intimate. We are planning on writing letters to one another once he’s moved. That’s one thing I am actually extremely excited about. He seems to be too. He told me he’s been planning out a few things for our letters. I’m not sure what exactly he means, but I’m so excited to find out.

We’ll probably only be able to hang out one or two more times before he moves. I really want to make an effort to be in the moment with him on those days. I don’t need to worry about what will be said or done. I just have to breathe and enjoy his company and trust that I’ll know the right thing to say or do as the day unfolds. No matter what happens, I am still grateful for the wonderful experiences we’ve already shared.

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Torn

Each time I start a romantic relationship with someone, I am reminded of just how immature I actually am. I am 27-years-old, but still I seem to be unable to speak my mind or verbalize my more complex feelings. I’m not sure why that is though. I certainly don’t lack the vocabulary to do so. More I lack the nerve. I am too afraid of the idea of being honest and vulnerable with someone. I want to avoid awkwardness at any cost.

Yesterday I had my fourth date with my vegan guy. Even though he’ll be moving away for his new job, we decided to try to spend as much time together as we can before that. We had a wonderful day that he planned out for us. I got to meet his dogs and see his house. We went to a beautiful conservatory and examined flowers together. Then we went and saw some more tourist-y parts of the city that I had never seen before. He took us to an amazing vegan restaurant. We got our food to go and took it to a park nearby to people watch as we ate. We even took cute little pictures together. Overall it was one of the most lovely days I’ve had in a while.

But even acknowledging all of that, something still feels amiss inside of me. Part of me really likes him. On paper he’s absolutely perfect. Even our dates have been more than ideal. Yet my heart is unreadable. I want to like him. I want to imagine us being together for a long time. But something inside of me hesitates. I’m not only bad at expressing my emotions to others, but I can also be quite bad at just understanding them myself. I’ve found myself in this position many times before unfortunately.

I don’t have that immediate easy connection with him that I’ve had with some people in my past. But does that mean we shouldn’t be together? Perhaps sometimes it just takes a little longer to fully get to know someone before feeling that. After years of basing my social cues on television and movies, I worry that not feeling that “spark” means we shouldn’t be together. Then again, I can’t be sure what that “spark” is even referring to. I am too inexperienced to know when to keep trying and when to move on. I feel guilty for not being sure.

Dating in this day and age is so confusing. I have to keep reminding myself that we’ve only met four times now. In that context, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable to me that I still haven’t fully decided who he is or how I feel about him. What gives me pause is that he already seems so sure he likes me. It seems like the guys I’ve met always do. I feel like that puts me in an even more awkward position. I don’t know how to keep trying to get to know them without leading them on and giving them the wrong impression about my feelings. I can never tell if I just need more time or if I really should be able to know how I feel by now.

I don’t have that nervous, giddy, excitement I’ve felt in the past. I don’t know what that means though. Perhaps I’m just older now, maybe it’s my medication dulling my emotional responses again, maybe I do need more time to get to know him. I really have no idea. It could be so many different things. I just want to have faith in myself for once rather than becoming lost in all this uncertainty. Surely it can’t be so wrong to want to know someone for longer/spend more time with them before making an important judgment. I don’t know why I feel so pressured to make up my mind quickly. I’ve just got to keep reassuring myself. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to need a long time to get to know someone. It’s okay to tell that person I still need more time. It’s okay to take as much time as I need. And it’s also okay if that person decides they don’t want to give me that time and leaves. There is nothing to be done about that. It’s far more important that I be honest with myself.

Seaspiracy

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There is a new documentary on Netflix that you need to watch. From the same people that made Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy is a similar film about the devastation that humanity is currently inflicting upon the world’s oceans and sea life. While I thought I already knew the extent to which we are decimating our ocean ecosystems through fishing and various forms of pollution, sadly it is even more dire than I thought.

One of the things I find most alarming is that these plummeting numbers of fish populations seems to have only really started to accelerate within the past 50 years or so. Yet across the board, 90% of the life we have been tracking in the oceans since then are now gone. Everyone always shows so much concern for endangered species, but it has come to the point were all life in the ocean is critically endangered. And once these beings are completely gone from our planet, we won’t be able to survive here any longer either.

Ecosystems are very complex and fragile things. I am in disbelief that we have even been able to cause this mass scale destruction for so long with as few consequences as we have. However, our carelessness, stupidity, and greed are finally coming to a head. After watching Seaspiracy, I feel as though life on earth as we now know it could end at any moment. If I wasn’t already certain that I would see the end of the world in my lifetime, I am after watching this documentary. Frankly, I don’t see how we aren’t already dead. I guess once that tipping point comes (and it’s coming very, very soon) it will be a RAPID decline into oblivion.

I really don’t know how to take all of this new information about the world’s impending demise. I’m afraid. I’m really afraid. While I am certain the end is coming, the logistics of what exactly will occur seem unimaginable. I just hope that it will be quick, but I highly doubt that will be possible. It seems inevitable that there will be chaos and mass panic before the end. That is one of the things I fear the most.

It makes me feel sick and almost dizzy to know that right now, as I’m writing this, these unbelievably detrimental fishing practices are still going on all around the world. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of fish are being slaughtered at this very moment. And most of them not even for food (as if that would be a justification anyway), but as by-catch. These are the fish, sea turtles, sea birds, etc. that are caught “accidentally” by fishing nets. These poor animals are tossed right back into the ocean like garbage, dead and discarded. Every minute is an absolute massacre. The thought is simply too much to bear.

One of the saddest parts of this documentary was the “hopeful” ending. There were inspiring words about how we can still save ourselves and the planet, how there is still time to change. I just don’t know how anyone that knows and understands this information can truly believe that. We have already nearly obliterated the ocean’s ecosystems. I’m not confident that even if everyone stopped fishing this minute and a piece of plastic was never put into the ocean again that we would be able to come back from the damage that we have already caused. Perhaps we would just slow our descent towards our dooms.

Still I am going to keep doing what I can, living by example, and urgently spreading this information to everyone that will listen. Even though I believe it’s already hopeless, there is nothing else I can do, and maybe (hopefully) I’m wrong and we can still salvage some life on this planet. Other than that, I am just going to try to be grateful for each and every moment that I have on this beautiful earth. I am going to keep my loved ones close and make sure they know how much they mean to me. I am going to try to enjoy and make the most of whatever time we’ve got left.

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2nd Date

What a strange sensation. To feel so happy and eager to see what the future holds. I can’t even remember the last time I felt like this. I’m really trying not to get my hopes up. I know that just because I am feeling good now doesn’t mean that things will work out in the end, but even so I can’t help myself. I’ve never been very good at stopping myself from getting carried away by the possibility of happy times to come. Today has been the best day I’ve had in such a long time.

Today I went on a second date with my new vegan friend. Once again, considering the pandemic, we opted for another hike, this time at a local state park. We even planned to have a little picnic with some wine. I am still in disbelief about how cute it was. The weather was absolutely perfect. I got to wear shorts for the first time since last summer. We spent an hour or so exploring the woods together, stopping to examine different wildflowers as we went. We have so many things in common and so much to talk about. It never feels like we have enough time to say all that we want to say.

Once we were finished with our hike, we found a picnic bench under the shade of some tall pine trees to have our lunch. He had prepared everything for us so nicely. He had a cooler and a picnic blanket for us to spread out over the pine needle covered wooden table. I brought some apples and snap pea crisps for us. He brought some fresh berries, hummus, veggies to dip in it, and of course a lovely bottle of red wine. In addition to all of this (as if it wasn’t perfect and adorable enough already) he handed me a bouquet of tulips! In the past, I haven’t really been a fan of being given flowers for holidays and whatnot, but as a spontaneous surprise, it was just too precious to resist. I don’t know if anything like that has ever happened to me on a date before today.

It was so nice to see him relax more and more as we sipped on our glasses of wine. This was the first time I really got to look at him while we talked, given that until now we had only really talked in person while walking. I really enjoyed looking into his pretty blue eyes and examining the details of his handsome face. He even has one of my favorite male haircuts. I really wanted to kiss him when we parted ways this time, but unfortunately did not. It’s awfully strange to date during a pandemic. I’m never sure if he doesn’t want to kiss me or he’s just being respectful and considerate. On my somewhat long drive back home, I kept kicking myself, fearful that it was the former.

I have been on so many dates in the past that ended up being the last I heard from the person. Now that I had decided I really liked him, I was so afraid this would be another one of those instances. But just like after our first date, he messaged me as soon as I got back home telling me what a lovely time he had. Past disappointments have made me so wary of romantic optimism, but I just can’t restrain my excitement. I really like him a lot. I feel so lucky to have met such a wonderful, vegan man. Especially given that he is from the city. It’s a mystery to me why he would even have any interest in seeing me, given that I live an hour away in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure there are plenty of lovely vegan women closer to him that would be more convenient to date. Nothing against him, but I doubt I would make the same effort if my area wasn’t such a veritable vegan desert.

Maybe it’s just the wine, but my heart feels so soft and gooey right now. I can’t help contemplating all of the fun activities we could do together this summer. I already have so many more interesting date ideas that I can’t wait to try. There are so many things I want to tell him and share with him about my life. There are so many questions I want to ask him about his own. I’m so interested to learn all there is to learn about him. He was reading a freaking book while he waited for me to meet him at the park for crying out loud!!! It’s all just too much for me. I’m swooning.

I had nearly forgotten what it feels like to have a crush on someone. For years now, I was only able to associate romantic feelings with regret, sadness, frustration, confusion, and pain. Even writing this post right now gives me a nostalgic feeling of being a love-struck teenager again. It’s so similar to when I used to gush about boys in my diary. I genuinely never thought I would feel that way again. After all, it has been nearly a decade since I have.

I know it’s still an extremely new relationship and that there is still plenty of potential to get hurt, but for the first time in a long time it feels like it’s worth the risk. And even if things don’t end up turning out well for us, I want to have this post to look back on and remember to be grateful for these feelings and this moment that I have right now. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how things are moving along. Hopefully after our next date, I’ll finally get that coveted first kiss.

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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.

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