Every year on New Year’s day I take time to set my goals for the year. On January 1, 2011 as I started my planning, going vegan was not at all a part of my plan or even within my field of vision. Sometimes life just tends to take me to where I need to go in spite of my best efforts. Was it John Lennon that said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”? My plan was just to lose some weight. As part of that process I met someone (Jessica from The Domestic Vegan) who introduced me, very gently, to veganism and I have never looked back.
Going vegan wasn’t a straight line for me. I have never gone back to eating or using animal products but my views have changed over the year:
- I started the year believing that if someone raised and loved a cow or chicken it was ok to take its eggs or even its life for food. I no longer believe that even in the best of situations. All beings have a right to life and are not on this earth to fill the wants of others, just as I am not.
- I went back and forth over the year regarding animal welfare vs animal rights. At first I was completely in favor of animal welfare. I believed that making life for factory farmed animals more comfortable was an admirable goal. Then I started listening to and reading Gary Francione and was convinced that animal welfare efforts did more to distract from the real goal than help. However, today I’m kind of in the middle (which Francione would say makes me not an abolitionist). I don’t at all believe that an animal should ever be killed or used for human wants, ever. Yet, I do think that some of the work done to ease the suffering of those animals currently in captivity (slavery) is worthwhile. But again I’m torn because every step that eases the conscious of the consumer (such as the myth of “happy meat”) only delays and very possibly erodes efforts to truly end the suffering completely. So let’s leave this one as still a work in progress.
Another change for me was my identity as a vegan. At first I was very cautious about who I told I was vegan but at the same time, in some situations I was probably far too vocal.
- I hesitated to tell my new manager that I was vegan. Today everyone at work knows and they are without exception very supportive. I started making suggestions to our cafeteria about vegan options and thanking them for any vegan friendly effort they made. This year they offered 3 kinds of vegan cupcakes at Halloween. I love those guys.
- When I first went vegan I carried around pamphlets from Vegan Outreach just in case the opportunity came up to talk about why I’m vegan. I still do actually but I also started sponsoring a pig at a local sanctuary (Out to Pasture) and now I display the pictures I get of him every few months on my wall at work. It is a great conversation starter and for me more effective than handing out pamphlets.
How my family and friends respond to me begin vegan has also evolved. At first I was concerned that I would never be able to go out with friends or attend a family dinner that didn’t include some level of discomfort.
- At my first extended family dinner everyone had questions, jokes, and opinions that they expressed during dinner. However over the year they have come to accept and support my choice. This Christmas dinner, the only comment about my veganism was when my brother asked with genuine interest what I was eating. That was it. No recrimination about bringing my own dinner, no jokes, no horror stories about how vegans are unhealthy and no one trying to justify why they eat meat. It was just a wonderful family holiday.
- At first friends would either ask me if it was ok, or apologize when they ordered meat. Today no one even notices or cares what I eat or compares my food to what they are having.
When I went vegan I did not know another vegan or even a vegetarian. So I got involved and my life really opened up.
- I joined the local vegan group Northwest Veg and now go to the monthly pot lucks dinners. I took the vegan 101 series of classes they offered and I’m starting the Master’s program in a couple of weeks.
- The big event for me was attending a conference for vegan bloggers (Vida Vegan Con)! What a wonderful, amazing experience.
- But the way I stay connected is through vegan blogs. I cannot thank vegan bloggers enough. Sometime it can get lonely without other vegans in my life but the vegan blogs keep me going and I am deeply grateful.
One of the unexpected benefits during this first year of going vegan is how my health has improved. I feel better and look better than I have in years.
- I have lost 50 pounds without much effort
- I am no longer on cholesterol, high blood pressure, or acid reflux meds
- This year I ran in three 5k runs and am in training for my first 10k.
The best change over the year has been realizing how easy and effortless being vegan really is.
- At first I read every label in the store. I still read labels but I now know what to look for and can quickly determine if something is vegan or not. Shopping is no more of an effort than it was before going vegan. But it is far less expensive!
- A big fear in the beginning was that I would not be able to go out to eat. However, that has also turned out to not be an issue. I know what is available at my favorite places and before I go to a new place I just call ahead or check the web to make sure I know what I’m going to order. Even unplanned eating out with friends has not been any way near the effort I thought it would be.
Being vegan is now very much a part of who I am. The last year has been such a wonderful and enlightening time for me. Becoming comfortable with being vegan happened almost effortlessly and so much faster than I would have believed if someone had told me what to expect.
I didn’t plan the life I am now living but I am so happy that this is what life offered. So this year as I plan my goals for 2012 I’m not going spend much time worrying about how to make them happen. Life it seems tends to flow the way it should when I get out of the way and let it.
Happy New Year everyone and I hope this next year brings for you all the joy this last year of going vegan has given to me!