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Vegan-iversary | What I Learned During My First Year As A Vegan

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Today marks 365 days since I went fully vegan! As you may remember, after 14+ years as a strict vegetarian I decided to finally make the transition to vegan at the beginning of 2017. Thanks to a plant-based Whole30 that Matt and I decided to do last January, I was able to finally transition to the cruelty-free lifestyle I always claimed I would "one day" adhere to. During the (many, many) years prior to going totally plant-based, I always made excuses for why I couldn't go vegan quite yet. It's too hard socially. It will be so much more expensive. I'm a terrible cook. Blah, blah, blah. And on and on and on the lame excuses went, as more and more animals were suffering -- just so I could eat cheese. Looking back, as many fellow vegans I have since met have also said, it makes me sad to think I waited so long to go vegan. I was contributing to (and paying for) so much unnecessary torture of animals and degradation of our environment.

I figure there are probably plenty of partially vegan, vegetarian, kinda plant-based, and veg-curious people out there who are thinking of more ways to incorporate veganism into their lives in 2018. So in honor of my one year anniversary, I thought I would share some of what I have learned from my first full year of veganism. I hope you'll find it useful!

The social aspect has been tough, as I always thought it would be - but for a totally different reason than I expected.

I always used to think up these imaginary scenarios of me being at a dinner party and the host plopping down a plateful of buttery mashed potatoes in front of me. I couldn't get past the horror of trying to politely explain the difference between vegetarian and vegan to someone who was kind enough to cook me a meal, or trying to move the food around on the plate so no one would notice I wasn't eating it... I don't know why in my mind I thought I was all of a sudden going to start attending tons of dinner parties out of nowhere. Since going vegan, I have been to one dinner party. ONE. And upon being invited I simply explained my dietary restrictions and offered to would bring food that Matt and I could eat so the hostess wouldn't have to do any additional work. (I also made extra servings - and made sure they tasted delicious - just in case other people there wanted to try vegan food for themselves!) 

You can definitely find vegan options when you're out and about. You just have to be resourceful and a bit more flexible.

I used to think a difficult part of navigating veganism would be trying to find food to eat when I was not at home. How wrong I was. In my opinion, one of the easier aspects has actually been finding delicious food out on the road - totally opposite of what I always assumed it would be. (I mean, even Taco Bell can be made vegan - seriously. Check out what to order during road trips in the middle of nowhere right here.)

Being vegan in a world full of non-vegans can feel a little lonely at times.

If I am being brutally honest, the hardest part for me has been the feeling of isolation I have experienced. Once you know the full truth of the factory farm industry (no longer just meat, which was hard enough to stomach the thought of, but also dairy and eggs) and you choose to actually do something about it, it can be rough at times. (And not because of the lack of aged cheddar in one's life.) Now you probably never stop feeling the urge that you have to do something, anything, always to help these innocent souls. Now you have to deal with random flashes of how these animals are treated from the countless undercover investigation videos you’ve seen. And then somehow, it's not cravings for ice cream you're fighting off, but rather you're having to constantly battle the internal struggle of wanting to shake every person you know -- and pass on the street -- until they, too, wake up to the realities of the torture and suffering we have created for these poor beings. By far, the harshest reality I’ve realized in the last 365 days is trying to remain a “normal” and non-stereotypical vegan... in a world where you are considered an extremist for choosing not to pay a hit man to do the dirty work for a job you’d never do yourself.

Vegans are freaking NICE.

Having previously lived in Ohio, Florida, and Arizona, I hadn't met many vegans in my life. Thus, Internet trolls and memes had been most of my exposure; therefore, it suffices to say that my actual experiences were nearly nonexistent. I did, however, always look up to vegans. I always was in awe of how they were so selfless, often in the name of animal welfare and/or their love for our planet. Now that I live in Southern California and work alongside animal activists everyday, I can say with 100% certainty that every single interaction I've had with vegans has been nothing short of fantastic. Whenever I meet someone who is vegan, I feel an automatic camaraderie that I've never experienced with another stranger before. Maybe it's the fact that I know the struggles they face, assuming they too feel that same isolation at times. Maybe it's the fact that they probably love animals, which means I already like them (because, lets be honest here, animal people > non-animal people). Maybe it's that I subconsciously know they chose the less traveled and unorthodox path in life, all in the name of making the world a better place through their daily actions and choices.

I won't lie to you - just as the memes say, I do want to tell you I'm vegan within a few minutes of meeting you.

But it's not for the reason you may think. It's not make you feel guilty, or brag, or get up on my high horse. I want to tell you so you can see that we really are your everyday peeps. The Interwebs makes it out that all veg heads are radicals -- when in fact, all of my experiences have been quite the opposite of that (see above). The reason I want you to know is for the simple fact that I hope it'll open up a dialogue between us. I am not attempting to "convert" you, but rather just to open up to your mind to other possibilities. See for yourself that I'm not an extremist, or malnourished, or underweight, or overweight, or burning down slaughterhouses, or throwing red paint on anyone who dares to eat meat near me. I'm just a woman in her late 20s, who likes to watch Friends reruns on Netflix, spends too much time thinking about her cat, and just so happens to not consume or wear animal products. And another reason I am never afraid to say I'm vegan? I don't have any reason to be ashamed of my lifestyle. I'm proud of my decision to put the welfare and wellbeing of animals in front of my previous selfish desires for certain foods, and I'm not going to shy away from that passion.

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There ya have it. What I've learned during my first year of veganism - surely with many more lessons to come over a lifetime to go :)

Whether you are considering a more plant-based lifestyle or not, there are so many ways we all can help animals, the environment, and our own health. Even if you're not ready to jump fully into veganism (listen, I get it... it took me nearly 28 years to get to this point), everyday is a new possibility to vote with your dollar. Next time your shampoo bottle runs out? Spend the extra two minutes to Google a cruelty-free product replacement. (Try Pacifica. Look, I did the research for ya!) Craving spaghetti and meatballs for dinner? Make your standard pasta dish, but pick up some meat-free balls (ew. gross term. sorry.) instead. Your winter coat needs replacing? Look for a new one that doesn't contain wool, leather, or down feathers.

We all have the power to change this world. Individually, yes, we can make a difference -- but working together is where the real success is going to happen. Collectively we are going to create a better, more just, and more compassionate planet.

Wishing you the happiest 2018 💞

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