Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, a doctor, a food scientist. I have no professional training in food, farming, or any similar fields. All of the thoughts below are crafted from my nine years as a vegetarian and six months with veganism. I have studied peer-reviewed articles regarding plant-based eating, I’ve seen multiple documentaries, I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are vegetarians and vegans, and I have a passion for this industry. Although I have included statistics below, my opinions are mine alone and are based on my experiences and personal beliefs about ethical living, the universe, and spirituality.
I have never been a big meat-eater.
I’ve never eaten fish—my parents weren’t raised eating it, having been from Colorado and Wisconsin. I’ve maybe had two hotdogs, half of a small steak, and a couple slices of bacon in my entire life. Growing up, I did enjoy hamburgers, lunch meat, and chicken, but it wasn’t frequent and it definitely wasn’t a main part of my diet.
I decided to go full vegetarian at the age of twelve, after learning about factory farming. I was volunteering with my Girl Scout troop at Von Hanson’s, a butcher shop from my hometown. That day, the concept of “meat” became a reality to me: meat is made from an animal that lost its life to feed me. I couldn’t come to peace with that idea. I have a memory of crying to my mom that cheese hurts cows, and her quick reassurance that, in fact, a cow did not die for that cheese.
The concept of “meat” became a reality to me: meat is made from an animal that lost its life to feed me.
Most of my close friends adhere to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but I do have some friends who do not, so I hear a lot of differing opinions. I am confronted with opposing opinions to be diet often. I have had nine years to cultivate an opinion about meat, to learn facts and truths, to study this lifestyle.
I believe that meat is an acceptable source of food for humans.
I don’t think the entire world should become vegan or even vegetarian.
However, I think that meat should be treated as a luxury food item. I think it should be consumed sparingly, such as desserts are also intended to be eaten sparingly. The ONLY necessary vitamin that is solely provided by meat is B12; the rest of the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain human life can be found in plant sources.
Most importantly, I think there should be an attitude of gratefulness, or intention: a sentient being died to feed your body. Recognize that as a beautiful fact. An important truth.
Meat is an important, integral part of many cultures and religions, and I think that the ancient practice of meat consumption in these groups of people should not be dismissed as barbaric or uneducated.
I think that factory farming is a disgusting, horrible affront to nature and it will come back to us tenfold.
I believe that statistics that show vegetarians have a higher life expectancy show that because most vegetarian lifestyles include an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, foods proven again and again to provide long-term health benefits.
In addition, I understand that a vegan lifestyle is not accessible for everyone. Food deserts exist. The time a vegan lifestyle requires for cooking and meal prep is not realistic for every body, for every family unit. While it is true that vegan food by itself is less expensive (i.e. $5 for rice and beans versus $10 for a chicken), it is also true that it takes more rice and beans to fill a stomach than chicken does, therefore requiring more food to be consumed.
So why do I practice veganism?
First, as I wrote at the opening of this post, I have never been an avid meat-eater, and I was not raised in a family of avid meat-eaters.
I have educated myself on the practice of factory farming with regard to meat, dairy, and eggs, and I refuse to participate in that. I refuse to give my money, time, and body to that disgusting practice. I learned about meat’s impact on the environment. I read about its adverse effects on our bodies. I trained myself how to live without it.
Third, for me, it’s an exercise in healthy eating. Without foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, I am forced to replace and supplement with other foods. It is a practice in adding more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into my diet. For many years, I struggled with problematic eating: obsessive calorie counting and exercising, horrible body image, and viewing food as the enemy. Veganism is a practice in learning how to fill my body with whole, true, necessary foods.
Finally, I like it! I like to cook. I like to go shopping for vegan products. I get so much satisfaction from cooking a healthy dish made from plants and plant by-products. It’s a true passion of mine, and I love to invest time, money, and space in my mind to this lifestyle. It’s a soul project: I feel more connected to the earth, and I feel my soul, heart, mind, and body becoming closer together. I simply love it!
The bottom line? Eat consciously. Appreciate your food. Be so thankful.
Preface: As I wrote this post, I was unsure where to begin. I began and rewrote and scratched out and deleted over and over again. The final post is much longer than typical posts, so stick with me to see my thoughts on these last two years of my life, some things I’ve learned, and where I’m going next.
First: hello! It’s been a few (intentional) months. I took some time away from this space to both reevaluate its place in my life and create a new vision for where I want it to go.
When I began this blog, I was about to make the biggest change in my life to date: I was moving from Minneapolis to Denver, a 900+ mile move, for college. I was going alone, with no real idea of what my life would look like in the coming months. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I would be forced to grow. To evolve. To question, to dream, to fight.
I am writing this piece at one of my favorite coffee shops in Denver, Backstage Coffee. I used to study here solo and with friends a few times a week–it’s on 14th Street, just two blocks off of the famous 16th Street, and it’s located at the heart of the Theatre District. I thought it poetic, almost, that I write about how much I have grown since moving here two and a half years ago in this treasured, old space of mine.
Growth has always been an important part of my life. I try to stare doubts in the face and laugh–without growth, we rot. We stay stagnant.
I refuse to rot.
I refuse to rot.
And of course, growth is hard.
We like to believe that our lives have constants: whether that be relationships, places, routines, jobs, beliefs…. Essentially, we assume that our lives are constant, unless we make the conscious choice to change those constants.
But our constants can always fall away. One of the foundational beliefs of Buddhism is that suffering exists because we assume our lives to be constant–we get our happiness from these constants, but in reality, these things can all change in a matter of seconds.
Accidents happen. We get laid off. Relationships end. These things happen unexpectedly, and our world is absolutely rocked to the core.
And that’s when the growth happens.
I experienced that kind of soul-shaking a number of times when I lived in Denver, and it caught me completely off-guard every time. It was an intensely difficult time of growth for me, and it brought me to a very uncomfortable conclusion, and consequently, a question:
Everything I assume is constant, truly, is not. This brought me to Are there any true constants we can rely on?
I still don’t know the answer to that question.
It is a dreadfully uncomfortable realization, isn’t it? Routines, beliefs, relationships, hobbies, jobs, habits, and similar comforts are so easy to rely on. The things we hold true might not always be that way for us. Even things such as the choices we make for our wardrobes are comforting, let alone practices such as a religion.
So then, what defines us, if not for these things? How do we find value in ourselves, in others?
I don’t have these answers. But I have learned to find comfort in being a wandering soul, if you will. I have grown to find comfort in the knowledge that I am not a constant being. I am a fluid, sacred, nomadic soul, as are you.
I am a fluid, sacred, nomadic soul, as are you.
Take me, for example. Two and a half years ago, I moved to Denver with the intent to graduate in the spring of 2019 with a degree in International Studies. Live in Denver. Get married, have kids, and work a job that makes me (hopefully) happy.
Last year, I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, with the intent to graduate in the spring of 2019 from a different university with a degree in Social Work. Get married. Travel. Maybe have kids. Work a job that will make me happy.
Six months ago, I finally realized that maybe I am not meant to live a typical life with a four-year Bachelor’s degree, a 9-5 job, two kids, and a yard for our dog. In fact, I shudder when I think of these things. I have wondered for many years if there might be another path for me, but it’s so fucking scary to take those steps and actually do something different.
We are so quick to assign life paths for ourselves, aren’t we? We are not taught to challenge the progression of K-12, college, work, marriage, and kids. Have you ever wondered if there are parts of this that shouldn’t apply to you? I remember the first time I realized I could choose to not have kids during my freshman year of college–which is an obvious notion, but it was not until college that it actually occurred to me I could just… not be a mother someday.
And it’s all nice to talk about and say, yes! I agree with that! Not everyone must attain a college degree and have children! but how do we react when people actually choose other routes? Oftentimes, there’s the idea that they won’t reach their full potential. That they maybe weren’t academically successful. They probably won’t make a lot of money, and will probably be unhappy and regret their young decisions.
When I completed my second year of college at my second university, I didn’t recognize myself. I was kind of a shell of a person, just kind of going through the motions that were expected of me. I was, at the most basic level, unhappy with my life.
So, I decided to do what I knew in my heart of hearts I should do:
I took a gap year (or more?) to reevaluate. To travel. To search for myself again.
And I have done these things. I am still doing these things! I traveled to India and taught in a slum school. I swam in the ocean on the southern California coast with a friend from Denver. I attended the homecoming football game at Stanford with a friend from India. I drove to Iowa and Wisconsin. I visited Denver for the first time since moving away. Next month, I am spending two days with my mom in New York City before embarking on my three-month solo backpacking trip through Europe. This fall, I found a love of yoga (yes, really). I embraced a fully vegan lifestyle. I purchased a new D-SLR camera that I’m learning how to use. I did not settle for a job I felt stuck in, and instead switched to a fulfilling job with coworkers I love. I spent a lot of time alone.
As for this blog, I will be writing twice a week, on topics that I’ve found a passion for. I am focusing specifically on ethical/conscious living, including topics such as minimalism, intentional eating, conscious fashion choices, emotional and mental health, spiritual fulfillment, and the like.
I don’t know what I will be doing in the fall. Perhaps I will return to school. Maybe I’ll just stay in Europe. Maybe I’ll audition for Disneyland in Paris or Anaheim, or maybe I’ll become a certified doula. There are a million possibilities, and my encouragement to you is to take a moment and listen to your body. I did that, and I have not regretted it for one second.
Ask yourself these questions:
Are you surrounded by people who make a positive influence in your life?
Are you where you want to be? Are you where you’d thought you’d be?
Are you where you want to be physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually?
Are you happy?
If not, why?
As cliche as it is, we really do only have this one life (that we know of). We have a sacred obligation to serve ourselves and others in the truest, best way we know how.