As of yesterday, I’ve been vegan for two months. That’s all. It’s not much, I know. To those who know me, it probably feels a bit longer because I started actively transitioning last summer, but it took those six months to fully understand what I needed to do. In some ways, this change seems abrupt, but ultimately, I think it was an inevitability – not a question of if, but when. As it turns out, when was January 26, 2014.
The seeds of veganism have been scattered throughout my life, but like most people who unknowingly subscribes to carnist ideology, I was too oblivious to properly nurture the seeds. For instance, I’ve enjoyed cooking since I was a kid, but I have always loathed touching raw meat. In retrospect, it’s hard to overlook the absurdity of feeling viscerally disgusted by flesh that I would then cook, and put in my mouth. Why would an otherwise insightful person put something that completely grossed them out into their mouth? I suppose I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling disgusted, not something wrong with buying, cooking, and eating parts of an animal. Carnist ideology makes for rather infertile soil.
Finally though, last July, the seeds began to sprout. I had the realization that there was something about veganism that resonated with me. I embarked on my journey, away from complicity and conflict, towards greater compassion and kindness. During those months, I learned, I listened, I reflected, and I was mostly vegan. However, in January, I came to the unavoidable conclusion that I needed to embrace and live my values in order to feel joy and peace. I committed to being vegan.
I started this blog because I needed a new dedicated outlet for sharing and exploring my experiences. So far, it’s been hard for me to find the words though, so I’ve mostly posted recipes. Delicious food is pretty concrete – ingredients, instructions, mediocre photo of the results (yes, I need to work on that). In contrast, my thoughts and emotions continuously vacillate, and more often than not, feel like a slippery blob that evades definition and description. There are moments when I feel liberated and so full of joy because my choices are more aligned with my values of nonviolence and compassion. I’m no longer just living in this world; I’m living with this world, making more conscious choices to foster this interconnection.
All the emotions and awareness that have been stifled for most of my life, that I had to deny and suppress in order to eat meat, are rising to the surface, like I’m living 40 years of emotions in just one breath. Now that I have the clarity that escaped me for so long, sometimes I feel overwhelmed with grief and hopelessness, imagining the suffering of animals, victims of the world’s ambivalence and apathy. It becomes a circular train of thought… I want to save them all. I can’t save them all. I can only save the ones I spare. I can encourage others to join me. So many people don’t want to change. So many animals suffer. I want to save them all. Optimism and hope tangle with sadness and loss. It drives me mad, but compels me forward.
In addition to trying to reconcile these thoughts and emotions, I’m also trying to reconcile the life I was living and who I was with the life I aspire to live and who I am becoming. Granted, we are always becoming new versions of ourselves – learning, integrating, changing – but going from carnist to vegan has been transformational. Needless to say, I’m still the same person, but I’m closer to the person I want to be. I have new priorities, and see many possibilities and directions ahead of me that weren’t apparent until I opened my eyes. When I finally looked, really looked, I saw that the familiar had become abhorrent, but I also saw that I was empowered to take action against the injustice I saw.
So, no, two months isn’t much, especially within the context of my 41 years, but it’s been a rich two months. I’ve learned about myself and our world, I’ve gained clarity on how to live according to my values, I’ve experienced joy from practicing compassion, I’ve eaten the most delicious food that has nourished my body and spirit, and I’ve lived in peace with the animals. Vegan for two months, vegan for life.