The most generic question I get when people find out I’m a vegetarian is, “Why?” To which my favorite response to is, “Why not?” And I mean that in the least sarcastic way possible. It’s just the simplest answer to give when there are one too many reasons why I opted out. I also sometimes feel like I have to pick and choose who I can have an elaborate conversation with and who to keep it short and sweet with. I noticed it is a choice that some tend to take as a personal attack on their lifestyle, but my beliefs are my beliefs, and I’m not here to impose them on anyone else. So yes, you can eat meat around me. I am neither offended nor tempted.
I was about seventeen the first time I ever experimented with ‘vegetarianism’, all the while not fully knowing what it was. All I knew was I couldn’t eat Mcdonald’s anymore. Needless to say, that only lasted like a week. Flash forward to early 2016, someone close to me became sick, and after countless days and nights spent in that hospital waiting room, I became obsessed with health. I researched day and night preventative foods, diets, recipes, anything I could find that would give me hope. Plant-based or vegan articles kept coming up and that was the first time I cared to research what exactly that lifestyle entailed.
I had heard the term vegan before, and knew the general, stereotypical definition to be ‘extreme vegetarian.’ Initially I thought it was wild, impossibly hard and I’ll admit boring, but that is why they say never judge a book by it’s cover. After doing extensive research on the subject, I was convinced it was the lifestyle I wanted to live. The idea of it made me feel whole and purposeful. It was something I never felt before but at the same time it just felt like my calling. It felt right, you know?
My transition from omnivore to herbivore was gradual. I made a full 365 days completely meat free in August 2018. I initially wanted to make the transition overnight, and I did but I kept having setbacks. While the setbacks did discourage me at first, I eventually realized it just meant that for me this journey would take a while longer. Everyone is different, some people can go full on plant based overnight and never look back. However, for me I am still working on that. Within the past year, I was able to sustain a 100% plant-based lifestyle for about five months, but have since digressed with occasional dairy. I now know though, that it isn’t hard, impossible or boring especially if you really want it. Also, who knew cooking could be so much fun.
What I have learned throughout my journey so far is that vegetarianism and/or veganism is not something you get until you get it. The biggest difference for me now, and the reason why I am not tempted when meat eaters cut into a steak in front of me is because where they see food, I see the animal. I don’t blame people for not seeing things the way I see it. I think the majority of people don’t make this connection because many of us grew up always looking at bacon, fish, chicken and steak as food. It’s only later when we are older that we realize bacon actually comes from pigs, chicken comes from, well, chickens and steak comes from cows; all living, heart beating, breathing creatures. It’s hard to make the distinction between what is on your plate, and what the animal is when you were taught not to see it. There is also people like my parents who grew up with these animals literally in their backyard. Not only were they a way to make ends-meet, they were end’s meat.
Although this journey started out as a health-conscious strategy, I stayed because it later became more than that. The more involved and educated you become the more reasons you find to want to stay. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to educate myself and to have the freedom to choose a different lifestyle than the one I grew up with.