One Year Vegan: My Story
Dedicated to E.H. on her birthday
I've been vegan for over one year now, and taking that leap remains one of the best decisions I've ever made. My memory of the moment I decided is vivid. A vegan friend had come out to visit me over the weekend, and we went to a brunch on Easter Sunday. Much of the food was vegan, but deviled eggs and cheesy quiches dotted the spread. I was a vegetarian at the time but had been eating vegan with my friend for the past three days for convenience's sake. Deciding to indulge in cheese, which I ate often back then, I helped myself to the vegetarian dishes. Within an hour, I developed a horrible stomachache. Rather than happily satisfied, as one should feel after a delicious meal, I felt bloated and uncomfortable. Walking home sluggishly after the brunch, I wondered aloud to my friend if I should finally try going vegan. My body had adjusted so quickly to plant foods that reintroducing animal products after a mere three-day break prompted a physical rebellion. Moreover, I had been curious about veganism for a long time. As an ethical vegetarian, I was always dogged by a sneaking suspicion that dairy and eggs weren't much better than meat and seafood.
My friend, a longtime vegan, asked me why I hadn't tried veganism yet. The truth was that I was afraid to fail. I have a history of an eating disorder, and being mentally healthy enough to go vegetarian two years prior without engaging in anorexic behaviors was already a massive victory for me. I was worried that the added limitations of veganism would trigger my eating disorder, which is why I deliberately shielded myself from information about dairy and eggs, fearing that I would feel compelled to cut them out for good. I explained my fears to her. Unfailingly kind, she gently suggested I allow myself a two-week trial period. Give yourself permission to fail, she said, and you can go back to being vegetarian if veganism is too restrictive. It was the perfect solution to my fears.
That evening, after my friend departed on her long drive home, I cleaned out my fridge and pantry. Half a dozen eggs went to one roommate, a wedge of cheese to the other, and leftovers to the trash. I don't do things by halves. Once I made the decision, I was determined to rid myself of the stuff that night. My roommate asked if I wanted to hang on to the eggs, since they'd probably keep for another two weeks, but I declined. A strange and pleasant sense of calm washed over me as I sorted through my food, and I felt a distinct sense of unburdening. If this goes well, I told her, I won't want them after two weeks.
I made myself a dinner of rice, beans, and wilted kale. I needed to go grocery shopping. I was happier with that dinner than I had been with any meal in recent memory, though, and I snuggled up to watch Cowspiracy on Netflix. Within the first two days, I felt like I flipped a lightswitch on inside my soul. Within a week, I knew there was no going back, and the feeling thrilled me. I devoured the information from which I'd so carefully protected myself. Like many new vegans, I tore through documentaries, articles, YouTube videos, blogs, books, and podcasts; no resource was safe from my hungry hands. I underwent each of the common phases we experience when we stop eating animals: voracious consumption of information; guilt and remorse; "coming out" to others as a vegan; evangelizing; and sorrow and anger. The later stages of community-seeking, communication development, and expansion of awareness and skills happened throughout my first year as a vegan. Now in the final stages, I am really hitting my stride in the realms of advocacy and integration. Being vegan is part of my identity and my activism.
That, friends, is the story of how I became vegan. I'll write a second post this week on the benefits I've discovered on my vegan journey, but I first wanted you to know how it all started. Sometimes the tiniest seed, when planted and watered by the right friend, can bloom into an entirely new life.