Making the Connection
My roommate had become bored with the vegetarian meals we ate. I tend to just stick to the same things over and over, but I went online is search of some new recipes. I started on YouTube, searching for vegan recipes. I chose vegan as my search term so I could make sure to not get fish recipes. I assume those people still exist, so it seemed safest — or at least more efficient — to find vegan recipes and add cheese to whatever I found. I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I started with recipes, went into grocery hauls, “what I ate” vlogs, and personal stories about going vegetarian or vegan. I had found a community of people who made sense to me. These were nonjudgmental souls who seemed to strongly care about life. They cared about other beings, about the planet, and about what they chose to put in their bodies. The pieces of the puzzle started coming together. I went further than I expected and chose to watch a few activism videos. I wasn’t able to ignore what I was watching.
Being vegan, as was learning from these folks, was not as hard or restrictive as I had believed. It seemed downright easy, and close to what I was already doing. I had been one of those vegetarians who would defend myself by saying “at least I’m not a vegan,” a statement that did not really make sense. I find the anger directed at vegans interesting and unfounded. I’m not sure where it comes from, but maybe its insecurity. Non-vegans may feel like they could be doing things wrong. How is it extreme to not eat animals?
There is a fair amount of misunderstanding about vegetarianism and veganism. I’ve already spent a lot of time explaining to people how I get my protein, if I properly combine my foods, and why I don’t like bacon. I deal with the innocent taunts by family members who think its cute to wave meats at me or tell me I just don’t get how delicious it is. They don’t get it. They might never understand what I’m trying to do for myself, but in the case of the kids I just have to tolerate it until I believe they are old enough to process my reasons. I was letting my family know that I had decided to go to a plant-based diet, a more palatable term, when my nephew said “as long as you haven’t gone vegan.” I had, and said as much. But I’m bothered by the implication. He meant no harm, of course. He is old enough to understand my arguments, and I may go into them at some point, but what bothered me is the acceptance of a plant-based lifestyle in one moment, and a dismissal of the same lifestyle once it had been termed as vegan. It never wasn’t.
There exists this image of vegans as unkempt vagabonds whose privileged childhoods allowed them to explore themselves to their own detriment. This person has spent time in the peace corps, not for altruistic reasons, has spent time panhandling in Amsterdam, and has taken on the spiritualism of multiple cultures, none of which they understand. They have given up body care products, which they claim to no longer need in spite of that odor they seem to have. And they have to gall to tell those around them everything nobody asked about the food they are eating or the clothes they are wearing. These are the vegans who will always find fault with one thing or another, the milk or caffeine or leather… They will explain to you that you should eat organic, raw, local, fair-trade, and GMO-free. They will understand none of these things. They will point out how the company that made the shoes you are wearing also makes leather shoes and so should be boycotted. These people are poor by choice — Mom, Dad, and the trust fund are only a phone call away. They are obnoxious, self-righteous, and hypocritical. And they are not typical of vegans, in spite of the stereotype. They make veganism feel like such a struggle.
Only it’s not.
I am evolving because I have chosen to turn off the criticism I receive, real or perceived. I’ve allowed myself to accept the education I had ignored before. I have watched the documentaries, read the blogs, been horrified by what I’ve seen. Ignorance was wonderfully happy, but it allowed me to excuse things I knew in my heart to be wrong. Education is so important to furthering oneself as a human being.
I’m going to slip up. I’m going to do things and eat things that others would not. I’m going to feel weakened by the arguments of those I love and fail to keep up with what I’ve chosen for myself. I know these things. But as time passes, I know I’ll be able to stand my ground and develop my arguments more fully. I’ve never been great with debate, but I’m going to need to find tools to help stay myself. And I’m going to share what I’ve learned with others. I fully believe that your convictions and beliefs should be challenged often. If your mind is changed, then your values were not what you thought them to be. If, in the face of the information I share, people do not feel compelled to change, then I will have done what I can. It isn’t for me to force compassionate living.
December 27, 2006 I became a vegetarian. July 27, 2016 I became a vegan. I’m so excited about where this will take me.