I have been a vegetarian since my Junior year of high school. Being that I am now a third-year in college, that’s about four years of going meat and fish free. That feels a lot longer when I actually type it out. For many people, becoming a vegetarian is a stepping stone they use on their way to going vegan, and because I have been on this stepping stone for so long, I decided to jump off of it with my New Year’s resolution. Before January 1 of this year, I considered myself a “vegan in training” because I already didn’t eat eggs most of the time and never drank dairy milk (which I think is pretty good of me in my vegan training wheels).
I did, however, eat ice cream that was made from dairy milk and ate cheese. How is a girl just supposed to give those up cold turkey?
I took off my vegan training wheels on January 1 and have been (mostly) vegan ever since. I allow myself one cheat day a week where I can eat something that is non-vegan, and on that day I usually go to In-N-Out and get a grilled cheese and occasionally splurge on a strawberry milkshake. Old habits die hard, right? My point is that it’s okay to be a “bad vegan” a la Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist.
Nobody’s perfect, and just because you try and make it a little bit easier on yourself by having cheat days or meals doesn’t mean that you’re not vegan. For example, instead of calling myself a “vegan in training,” I’m now using the word “veganish,” and that feels right to me. I think it’s important for anyone with a New Year’s resolution (or any type of resolution for that matter) to try and continue with it through the year like they originally planned at the start of January. Don’t let a few grilled cheeses here and there stop you! It takes a while to get adjusted to things, and it’s okay to take that time of adjusting to figure out how you can keep the goal you set for yourself.
For me, the hardest thing about being a vegan in college is grocery shopping. I feel like no matter what I get, there is always something else I should have gotten, or would have liked more or that would have been more useful. Then again, I’m pretty sure I felt that way when I was grocery shopping before my resolution *insert complaints about how adulting is hard.* I’m slowly but surely getting the hang of things, though, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten better at shopping for my needs if I dropped my NY resolution over one milkshake.
Stick with it, people. Even if it’s messy, it’s still something. And there’s always room for improvement! I also think that Pinterest is a good tool to use for vegan grocery shopping lists, because WOW there are so many variations on there, and a bunch of recipes for when you buy the products. My point is, that there are apps and websites that you can use to help you along on your NY resolution journey.
There’s also people! Friends and family that may want to take up the resolution with you, a roommate, co-worker, etc. I think that the encouragement we get from those around us play a huge role in whether or not a person keeps a resolution, and that goes both ways! Be the person that applauds someone for keeping their resolution in any way at all, encourages them to keep going and joins in so they don’t have to do it by themselves. Don’t be the person that criticizes someone for messing up on their resolution, points out all of the other times that they have messed up, makes them feel like their resolution is unrealistic, or says “I told ya so” if they decide to quit.
Almost every vegan person I have met was a vegetarian first, and I personally think that the community is very inviting. Whenever I’m ordering food and ask if there are vegetarian options, or say that I don’t want cheese, nine times out of 10, someone working there will ask me if I’m vegan/vegetarian. I now explain my “veganish” resolution to them, because my time as a “vegan in training” is over, and they always offer me words of encouragement to keep making that final push, or to continue on as the way I have been, because it’s enough and worked for me.
Have you ever had someone tell you exactly what you needed to hear? Some small encouragement or validation that made you feel secure in your choices? Because that’s exactly what I think everybody with a new goal for themselves needs, and mainly deserves, for deciding to make a change in their lives for the betterment of themselves. My “veganish” resolution has stayed afloat because of the help and support from many others, and I’m determined to keep it up — grilled cheeses be damned!
Photo courtesy of Shezereh Hussain