At the onset of 2019, I made the goal to go vegetarian for the month of January. I was intrigued by the idea of veganism, but was too timid to jump right into it. However, it didn’t take long at all before I decided to throw apprehension to the wind. I don’t know the exact day that I went vegan, but I can narrow it down to early January of 2019. To be completely honest, I never would’ve guessed that this lifestyle change would be as easy as it’s been.
Not so long ago, my brother-in-law asked me what was the hardest thing for me to give up. The funniest thing happened: I struggled to come up with an answer. In the moment, I figured I was just drawing a blank and the obvious answers would come flooding into me at a later time. To my surprise, that never really happened. I eventually gave him the only answer the came to mind, and that was that I missed not having to check labels all the time. As I sit here now, reflecting on the past year of my life, I can honestly say I don’t particularly miss any of the non-vegan foods I enjoyed before. I’ve by and large been quite satisfied with the vegan alternatives available to me. Even cheese, which is definitely the weakest link of all the vegan alternatives I’ve tried, has no hold over me. Not to say it’ll never happen, but as of right now, I don’t crave it.
Not to say this past year has been perfect, it hasn’t. Some accidental purchases were made, some consumed, some not. This is not something I’ve allowed myself to stress over. Accidents happen and dwelling on them isn’t going to undo what’s already been done. All you can do is learn from your mistakes and do better in the future. It’s important to keep perspective and remember that one mistake does not undo all the consistent choices we continue to make every day.
The biggest thing I’ve learned in regards to veganism this first year is to not be overly confident about anything. There is a lot of misinformation in the world and while we may try our best to sift through all the lies, it can be hard to really know for sure if we’re successful or not. I’ve tried to find sources of information that are trustworthy, but even so, it’s important to question everything. I’ve definitely been guilty of parroting things that ‘sounded’ like a legitimate point without taking the time to really analyze it from all sides.
For example: Perhaps you’re familiar with the influx of alternatives to plastic straws to Save the Turtles or Save the Sea Life! etc. I heard someone make the observation that people were willing to stop using plastic to save the fish, but wouldn’t stop eating fish to save the fish. It’s seemingly just another example of, what? Hypocrisy? Irony? Point being, it was something that I’ve said because it sounded like a poignant observation at the time. However, now, I strongly disagree with that sentiment. It’s not technically wrong, but I think the point of it is to shame people who want to do a good thing, but aren’t willing to go far enough with it in the eyes of veteran vegans, environmentalists, etc. I now see this mentality as extremely damaging. It tells people that small changes are pointless and that there’s no point in doing anything if you aren’t willing to do everything. Otherwise, you’re a hypocrite, you’re stupid, selfish, whatever. It’s unreasonable to expect everyone to be passionate and educated on the same exact subjects that you are. It’s absurd to expect everyone who is interested in those subjects to be in the same place in their journey as you. We evolve over time. Regardless of how educated or informed you are on a subject, your perspectives on certain things will likely change over the years. So, how arrogant we are to sit in judgement of someone else not meeting our standards of where we happen to be currently.
For me, one year in, living a vegan lifestyle hasn’t been a struggle. I’ve never considered myself a particularly egocentric person, but there is a struggle in humbling yourself. It’s hard to remember it’s not about you being right when someone else says something you know is wrong. The world is better off with 50% of the population trying to do good than 5% of the population being ‘perfect’. I personally believe, knowing when to show restraint, when to listen, and when to speak up, is the bigger part of the journey.