It’s your journey

I started No Meat March with an inspiration to blog every day, to support the hundreds of people who took the pledge to give meat for 31 days for the first time. If you all were challenging yourselves, I wanted to join in with a challenge of my own.

This is Day 31, but it’s only blog post #9 😦

Why, oh why did I not meet my goal? How could I let down these dedicated individuals that were able to keep their promise to go meat free?

I’ve pondered, and I realize it reflects my own journey to becoming vegan. Pea Pods may naturally be vegan, consuming only sunshine, water and nutrients from the soil, but the woman behind the costume took a long and unexpected path.

I remember wanting to be vegetarian as a teenager, but thinking it an impossible goal for my age. In college I encountered PETA activists on campus several times a year and I looked at the pictures of animals being killed for food, but it wasn’t particularly striking to me. I knew they were killed, duh. I wasn’t yet able to fully comprehend that the suffering was morally wrong. The only fact I learned that unsettled me was how all the baby male chicks are simply thrown away in garbage bags and left to suffocate. At that time I was unconscious enough to set the knowledge aside and make no changes in my life.

In 2008 I started reading books again. I hadn’t read any books for pleasure (besides Harry Potter of course) ever since I worked in the public library as a teenager and became sick of looking at them. For some reason something awakened in me in 2008 and I became a reader. One of the first was Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”, he referred to John Robbin’s “Diet for a New America”, and then I watched the documentary “Food, Inc”, and then I became…. a semi-vegetarian.

As a semi-vegetarian for the first time in my life I was able to get out of eating a lot of disgusting food. Nasty burnt burgers and cheap hot dogs at someone’s lame cook-out? “Oh, no thank you, I’m semi-vegetarian.” Dry flavorless chicken breast at catered events? “I’ll have the vegetarian option, please.” It felt like I was being less wasteful and more respectful of the animals that had to die. My definition of being semi-vegetarian was that I would only eat meat that tasted good, and I was surprised that it cut my meat consumption in half. You don’t realize how much tasteless garbage you’re eating until you give it up and feel unexpected freedom.

Fast forward to 2011, and I’m finally at the point where I want to try being a “real” vegetarian. I was looking for a cookbook or something to give me the right boost, and after seeing Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet” in the store several times, I finally brought it home. I had bought it mainly for the recipes, but as I carefully read the first half of her book it felt like a certain truth was being slowly unveiled to me. On page one I scoffed at going vegan, I thought I was only ready to be vegetarian, but by the last page I knew a decision had been made deep within. For whatever reason, that book spoke to me on a spiritual level about my food choices. I wanted to explore my spirituality and I now knew that consuming animal products deadens that part in all of us.

I joined the Vegetarian Society of El Paso, where I was living at the time, and after telling the founder my experience of reading that book she nodded, smiled and took my hand and said, “When the student is ready, the Master will come.” She was quoting the Buddha, and I understood her meaning. “The Kind Diet” was a catalyst for me, and for whatever reason, Alicia Silverstone, star of Clueless, was my master.

Although initially I was 100% vegan for two months, because I didn’t have the support of any friends or family who were vegan, I did slide backward more than once. I had trouble explaining to people why suddenly all of my food choices had changed, and without the physical presence of others by my side I became afraid that I was developing an eating disorder. I felt very restricted and I didn’t have much knowledge about preparing food and all of the wonderful bountiful options that are out there. I relaxed to a 90% vegan diet and it eased my stress enough to allow me to continue my personal learning process. Alicia Silverstone admits in her book to nibbling on a little block of cheese occasionally at cocktail parties, and describes the physical effects of getting a headache or upset stomach. Maybe some of us just need reminders sometimes, and I think that’s okay.

When I moved to Jacksonville and found The Girls Gone Green, I finally had enough support through the friendships I’ve made here to feel great about eating a vegan diet. I hope during No Meat March you have come out to some events and been able to make new connections to the veg-friendly community in Jax. I hope our emails, blog posts, mentorship, and events have been there for you and helped you along your journey. Many people go vegan overnight, and many take the slow winding path like I did. Wherever you are is where you are supposed to be. Just keep at it, and transition at the pace that feels right for you.

I thought I could become dedicated to trying something new overnight by writing 31 blog posts in 31 days. It was a great goal, but I should have known myself better, but I shouldn’t have spent the past two weeks beating myself up over it either. I’m going to keep at it for ya’ll though, posting inspirational info for new vegetarians all year long. By next year I may be prolific and efficient enough to produce 31 posts, but hey even if I only write 10 at least it will be an improvement 🙂

Chicks at CJ Acres