Am I a Fake Minimalist?

Moving back into my father’s house, I was unpacking suitcase upon suitcase. It wasn’t an extreme amount of stuff, since it could fit in my car to make the journey home, but it was enough to take me over an hour to organize. It was too much.

After downsizing my life and trying time after time again to sell and responsibly ditch my possessions, I had too much.

Was I a fake minimalist?

What is a minimalist anyways?

You apparently must buy a very small number of things from the day you start bringing things into your life. I will be twenty this year and I am still drowning in possessions.

This is a warning to everyone: stop buying stuff. You don’t need even half of what you buy.

Re-evaluate why you bring things into your life. Do you feel better when you buy things? How long does it take for that feeling to fade? Then you’re stuck with less money and more junk. More things and less space in your home, and less time since you must spend some of your time organizing and tending to your possessions.

Your possessions will possess you.

It happened to me.

I went through an emotional process of purging myself of possessions, and I still have too much. I have repeatedly had to confess my sins: my past prioritization of possessions and my past purchases from unethical businesses. The businesses I paid to enslave other humans for my benefit.

I have been disgusted and disappointed with my former, ignorant self. And I have drastically transformed my habits. Now, I only buy what I need. I shop from responsible retailers, and I promote sustainable choices to others. I try to repent for my sins, but I still have the evidence of my former self.

I have realized nothing I do now can erase my past mistakes. I will be shedding these remains for years to come, as I learn, my style evolves, and I let go. I realize I am more myself, less stressed, and can travel more easily with less stuff. I can’t erase my past mistakes, but I can make better decisions today. Now, I am extremely hesitant to purchase anything that is not a necessity. Now, I stay woke about the movement for fair labor, and I stay active in pushing for this. But still, I can do more. I can write to companies asking for better. I can use my voice to speak to mainstream companies, rather than just opting for ethical alternatives (a boycott might not always be the best solution- more on this later).

I am less concerned about the “minimalist” label, and more concerned about the role I play in the overconsumption that swallows this country whole. Now when I stumble upon my mindless purchases, I can acknowledge where I was when I made the decision to bring that item into my life. I realize how far I have come, and how healthy it is for me to keep letting go of my old possessions. When I brought these things into my life, I was trying to fill a void. Now, when I let go, I can fill that void with something more meaningful: travel, introspective time, and exploring. The less I have, the freer I am.

Heed my warning now and save yourself some heartache: stop buying so much stuff.

 

To become more aware of the impact of your consumption, visit:

Slaveryfootprint.org

Coming Clean

I have struggled for many years- unable to combine a few sentences and break the silence on the emotional pain I deal with over food and obsessive exercise. Even writing this, I am questioning myself and dismissing myself, even though I know this has been heavy on my heart for far too long.

I would say it began around eighth grade- I got really really into exercise and healthy eating and so I became a super health nut and began to work out. I ran with friends, danced a lot, and basically did a ton of cardio but without purpose other than to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I quit everything unhealthy- anything with artificial colors or flavors, candy, soda, junk food like chips, etc. over night. Once I devoted myself to my health, I never looked back. I fell in love with the feeling I would get from working out, or the pride of having a strict code of foods I would and would not eat.

As the years went on, I became more and more obsessed with living a healthy lifestyle, especially because no one around me was the same. My family has never been that into health, nor my friends. Most of the people I know eat healthy on occasion and exercise in recreational ways, but I built my days upon a fitness regime. I started following workout plans and guides and ripping out the pages of Self and Shape with the little workout guides printed. I loved it, and as I continued to learn more and more about fitness, I pushed myself harder and harder. Around high school, I was working out with a more definitive goal in mind. It was also around this time I went vegan (senior year). By then, fitness was hardly just a part of my life- it was my life. It defined me. Going vegan is the best decision I have ever made, and it definitely helped boost my confidence in my healthy lifestyle, since a balanced vegan lifestyle is the healthiest way to live and eat. I could never look back on that decision, because I do feel that veganism helped my relationship with food.

By college, I was still in this mindset. I worked out almost every single day, often doing yoga plus a workout daily, after biking or walking to class, and sometimes running on the same day. Thankfully, we have free fitness classes in our residence halls at school, so I would attend those all the time, unless something legitimately important prevented me from going. I was definitely, definitely obsessed. I often skipped club meetings or other cool campus involvements just to go to fitness classes or work out on my own. I tracked all my food and activity on my Health app on my phone, and felt like I was in control of my life. I can definitely see now that there were some unhealthy aspects to my obsession. I still continue to struggle with this to date. There is an issue- I work so hard and I run my body like a machine, yet I still never feel like it is enough. I stopped loving my workouts and started simply doing them repetitively because my self-worth is directly correlated with how active and healthy my lifestyle is. It absolutely is. I was traveling for a week and a half recently, and I had no time to work out, although it was a very active trip in general, but I still felt so guilty and like my body was not fit enough. I have always struggled with this obsession to be the best and fittest I can possibly be, and it has left me scrambling to find time to work out on days it doesn’t even make sense and I end up making myself late for something, just so I don’t feel like a worthless human being later on.

I have dealt with this for so long. I decided I wanted to come clean, and tell my story to someone-anyone who would listen. Recently I was raw for two weeks. I was inspired to go raw by all the raw vegans I know. I felt great doing it and truly believed I had reached the pinnacle of perfect healthfulness. After doing some research though, I discovered that eating raw can be very dangerous, because it doesn’t include as many varieties of foods as it should. It is also very dangerous mentally, because the people who made the diet demonize ridiculous foods that no one should cut out from their life- like nuts, seeds, and avocado. While it may be right for some people, I don’t think it is for me. My mindset was out of control on a raw diet. I felt so incredibly healthy just eating raw fruits and veggies, and I will say my energy felt great and I was not bloated, but I do not believe I was getting adequate nutrition, and I too started demonizing anything that wasn’t a raw fruit or veggie. I didn’t eat bread for two weeks, and I wasn’t sure if I ever would again. (I have.) I do this a lot. I have been vegan a year and a half, and at this point, it’s almost too easy to find vegan treats anywhere. I got to the point where I felt I was consuming too many sweets, so I cut them out completely. I did a month without added sugar, and I have kept with it. While many of my behaviors are points of pride for me, I can also recognize that I am someone who can very, very easily fall into a trap with my healthy lifestyle- every time I think I have achieved perfection, but I somehow veer off that path, I lose my mind.

I love to talk about working out and healthy eating partly because I want people to admire my physique. I want all of my hard work to be noticed. I look in the mirror and I like what I see most of the time. I am notoriously obsessed with my abs, and when my stomach is bloated I get so distraught. I want to be toned and fit and trim, and I want to be known for being fit. I guess I have defined myself by my fitness for so long that I get offended when people are surprised I’m so into working out. Just because I don’t have giant guns doesn’t mean I am not incredibly strong and physically adept. I feel like when others (especially sexist jerks who think I can’t lift heavy objects) don’t notice my athleticism, it’s really a personal blow. I don’t know what I would do if I hadn’t worked hard to have a fit body. It really is a huge part of my life and my identity, and this is both a positive and a negative thing. It is positive because I know I will always be devoted to living a long, healthy, and happy life, but it is also negative because it has caused immense emotional pain when I feel I don’t live up to the standards I set for myself. Basically, fitness will always be a part of me, but I am just trying to not make it all of me.

After realizing I was dealing with emotional distress every time I felt I ate something I shouldn’t have or missed a chance to work out, I researched what I was going through. It turns out there is a name for it- orthorexia, obsession with healthy eating and exercise. I read the stories of many others who have struggled trying to balance the positive and negative sides to being obsessed with personal fitness, and I wanted to cry and shout from the rooftops. I felt like my pain was validated, like it was something real and tangible and mine to own. Now, I don’t like to go throwing around names of disorders just to gain sympathy; that is something I will never do, but I am so glad I was able to recognize within me something potentially dangerous. Orthorexia is closely linked to anorexia. I distinctly remember times in my life where I did purposefully starve myself, or feel so guilty from eating something that I so badly wanted to induce vomiting. My mother survived anorexia when she was around my age, and that is a treatment process I never want to have to go through. I probably do not have the worst case of orthorexia ever, but I am so glad I see the red flags now, which may have potentially saved me from a lifetime of even more pain and suffering.

Every day is different living with orthorexia. Typically, I keep a very strict eating schedule- one I have probably thought of the day before or hours earlier, and workout for up to two hours. Once I start working out, I don’t want to stop. I often do squats and ab exercises in the bathroom and shower just because any idle moment I have I feel obligated to use in my physical benefit. If I ever get fat, it will be my own fault. The saddest thing is I have allowed that to be my worst fear. Not starving, not throwing up, not fainting, not being infertile because my body has been in starvation mode for years. My worst fear has been getting fat. It is highly impossible to get fat with the way I eat and live, but I feel like even one day without working out is risking it. I often slap myself out of absurd ideas like this, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel guilty lying in bed at night. I constantly wrestle with my own mind- is it okay to not work out today? I need sleep- isn’t that important to my health too? I am trying so hard to not be superficially focused on the benefits to my outward appearance, and remember that my incredibly active lifestyle is keeping me alive longer. That should be the real goal. I want to meet my grandchildren. I want to be a thriving old woman, but this won’t happen if I don’t start treating my body like the temple it is.

I am not a machine. I cannot wake up and grind every single day without an ounce of passion. I need to bring the love and the fun back to my fitness regime. I need to be more proud of my ability to stick with something so crucial to life than my body. I need to stop becoming obsessed over gains in certain areas of the body, and I need to stop putting fitness first, meaning don’t turn down plans with someone just to work out. I need to love myself, truly, wholly, and unconditionally. No matter if I look in the mirror and my stomach is bloated because I ate some God forbid bread. I need to remember that healthy habits become unhealthy the second your mindset turns toxic. I can’t have this toxic mindset anymore. I need to cherish my life and my strong body and the blessing it is that I am a mobile person, and even have the ability to work out without abandon. I am unlearning bad behaviors and relearning new ones every day. I am learning not to beat myself up over eating a cookie or bread, or skipping a day of working out. I was incredibly tired today and did not work out. I went to work, I read, and I napped. I listened to what my body needed, and I fulfilled its wishes. And to me, that is worth a heck of a lot more than a workout I would have thrown only half of myself into. Whatever I do deserves the whole of me. I deserve the whole of me.

Orthorexia resources:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa

http://www.orthorexia.com/

 

Here’s to together, and here’s to apart

You are alive in me.

You are alive like a sparrow in the trees

Leaving me alone and taking all of my fertility for yourself

I cannot see the cypresses from here

I can only see your deep brown eyes

I can only see your chocolate skin

And imagine baking pies with your sugar

I can only imagine what real love feels like

I can only begin to suspect you have a natural inclination

To love me, and to love all things.

To love all things, without me.

I love all things

I stretch my arms and legs as far as they can go

And I have limbs in both hemispheres

You have limbs in both hemispheres

You begin to span the universe and galaxy ways

But I tell you to stop.

I drown in your eyes like you said you could in mine

I drown in your eyes and your smooth talk and your sweet skin

But when my teeth sink into your flesh it’s only bitter

It’s nothing like I imagined nothing is like I imagined

Nothing is like the world I was promised growing up

I drew a picture of the world and nothing was accurate

Not a single thing was accurate- I had no idea what I was doing

I dove into geography like I did this love

Instead of making a whole cake

I made a slice and thought we could split it

I thought we could split this love

I thought the earth was big enough for four footprints

I laughed at the notion of ever returning

I thought we could split this love into two even halves

I split this love I am responsible for the splinters

I am responsible for the crushing of this love

I am responsible for this I am responsible for the imprint my body makes on your bed

I am responsible for these stained sheets

I brought you here and offered you life

I offered you love

I gave you nothing more

Your stomach was empty and it always has been

You have always been empty

And I have never been able to open my mouth

And make noises when I need to

I have never been able to shake this guilt

I have never filled you up

All I ever did was remind you how you resent loneliness

And you cry when our palms unite

I cry when your hand leaves mine

I cry when you escape and I know you’ve been wanting to for a long while

I cry as you breathe in and out in and out faster and faster

And I feel every single heartbeat of yours and I know why it’s fast

And I brought this for you, please take it so your heartbeat slows

I don’t want to lose this flower

My plant is finally starting to flower

I don’t want it to burst before it becomes something beautiful

I don’t want to ruin it with my eyes

I don’t want to cut my tongue when I try to kiss its daggers

I don’t want to be tempted to harm myself on this plant

I don’t want life from this vegetation I have lived my whole life in isolation and you think I will stop now?

Do you think now is a good time to cut the rope?

Do you think I can drop you down this mountain and your eyes won’t shut forever?

Do you think you could open your eyes one more time

Just one more time

One more time for me

Let me know that you were once a living breathing organism

You have windows on your face and they are so reflective I can see myself

I can see myself and I hate it because I look like a disaster

I look like I came to seek revenge for all the hope you filled me with

For those wicked seeds you made me plant

You made me garden because you thought I believed in growth over sustenance

You thought I was okay with starving for a few months

You thought I could survive off of your nutrients

You thought sucking you through a straw was everything but a bitter delusion

You never saw the truth you never saw anything but your own round flat nose that mushes against my face

You never felt anything but a fierce grip you never gripped anything but my daggers

You never hid them from me you kept everything in plain sight

You wanted me to know if one of us dies it’s only our own damn fault

It’s only your own damn fault no one told you to climb Mount Everest

No one told you to become anything but ordinary

You rented these cemetery plots you knew we would die you knew I was dying

At a faster rate than the slow rate of everyone else

You thought I was dying and you were right

You thought I was dying because I kept losing my hair and sleep because every time I tried to close my eyes all I could see was your face lost in mine looking to me for guidance like a map of the world but the only continent I ever truly understood was myself. I made a key so you could navigate my poles more easily but you couldn’t read. You couldn’t read because your mama never taught you and my mama taught me way too much about this house and not enough about this world. And not enough about love and what to do when your lover is a panther and you feel estranged while making love. And you feel like you need another soft body next to yours and you feel like this might not be the body you need you might just need two of you. You might just need two of you you might just need to work on yourself for a while and come back to this place and kiss your memories and laugh infinitely and laugh and cry and never stop laughing because the hearts of two lovers don’t stop beating.

Once they establish the same rhythm they don’t stop beating they don’t stop beating they never stop beating

They only open one of their eyes every once in a while to make sure the other one is still breathing they only open their arms out wide so they can make love to the clouds and fall asleep happy and dead and happy and alive and never wake up because we are stuck in this dream together we are stuck in this dream and I’m not sure I ever want to get out if it means I have to spend less time loving myself and worshipping the body god gave me and realizing my soul was intricately and lovingly made for me and it fits me like a warm winter sweater it fits me like the ocean around the world I fit myself but I don’t know if I fit you

I don’t know if I’m ready for this but you are always ready

So I bury my head and bow to the both of us I bow to the both of me

In our love there are two of me and none of you and I resent the pain I will cause us but for now let’s savor our independence

Let’s savor everything about love we ever hated.

Let’s savor everything the galaxies have left behind for us that we can use to build a fort against the others and the screaming, crawling world that always seems to wait on our heels to pounce.

What I Learned from Wearing a Hijab for a Week

As an Honors freshman at Central Michigan University, I have to complete a Personal Development Project which includes ten events I completed that were a meaningful stretch for me. One of the events we are lucky to have the program arrange for us is Hijab Week. I jumped at the chance to do something so unique and hopefully learn a lot. This is my experience with Hijab Week at CMU.

From November 2nd to November 8th, I took part in Hijab Week, meaning I wore the traditionally Muslim headscarf as well as modest clothing when in front of men, which basically meant I never left my room without the hijab on. A group of twenty to thirty female Honors students participated, so it wasn’t too unusual to see hijabs around north campus during the week, but in other areas people were oblivious to the activity, which made it more interesting. I chose this activity because I know how anti-Islam sentiment is a pretty significant issue in our country, and as an accepting, open-minded individual I wanted to immerse myself in a part of Islamic culture in order to foster a better understanding for myself and for those around me.
The week began with an information session, in which a Muslim professor named Duha explained the significance of wearing the hijab and some of the rules associated with it. A really important point she touched on was that it is not offensive to try the hijab. Many students, including myself, were nervous with doing anything that could be considered cultural appropriation. Duha explained that as long as we were wearing the hijab with respect and expressing our motives to engage in cultural understanding, the Muslim community would welcome our trying of the hijab. I thought this was really important to touch on, because, as a white female student with privileges like never being questioned or discriminated against because of how I express myself culturally, I am quite detached from other cultures, especially ones with such a complex history in this country. She lent us some scarves and helped us learn how to tie them, and off we went. The first day I really didn’t plan ahead enough, as I didn’t realize I still had no idea how to put on a hijab. I had difficulty with my pins, but when I borrowed some safety pins from a friend I was able to secure the scarf on my head and focus my concerns on the cultural experience.

I acknowledge it is a little difficult to get the full experience without following the other behaviors of Muslim women, but I took the point as focusing on understanding the reasoning behind wearing a hijab in an effort to de-stigmatize it. I tried to keep this in mind, and I hoped each day that no one would take offense to me, without knowing why an obviously white girl was wearing a hijab. The first few days I was definitely hyper-aware that I was wearing it. I can laugh thinking about that Monday when I walked into my 10AM and noticed people glancing at me and practically immediately started to sweat and get uncomfortable from their probably natural but seemingly never-ending looks at me. Over the course of the week only one person knew about the Honors activity, and not a single other student asked me about it. Whether this was out of their intimidation, discomfort, or neglect to care, I don’t know, but either way I would’ve rather had people ask me so I could express my passion for acceptance. Even though I wasn’t very vocal about why I was doing it to anyone besides my friends and family, I think the message was still communicated and the point of acceptance was made. It’s hard to not loosen up to the sight of a hijab when someone you know is not Muslim is wearing it with ease. I hope that my privilege doesn’t detach me from any progress in this sense.
My main struggles of the week were just finding something to wear that was not too tight (I ended up wearing skinny jeans with a long cardigan because I had no other options) and managing in the random heatwave Michigan decided to throw at us. I have no major complaints, though, about my week. I actually enjoyed wearing it, and I felt it just become a natural part of my ensemble each day, and it was awesome not having to worry about what my hair looked like. After the week was over, on Sunday, we had a reflection session and I got to hear many students’ points of view on the week. Many of them had complaints and confessed to not wearing it the whole time. I have to admit I was a little disappointed at how many of them seemed to miss the meaning of wearing the hijab, and continued to view the practice through a Westernized point of view, something so outside of the social norm that they couldn’t even relate to the principle behind it. Then again, I’m sure many of them were touched like I was, but just didn’t vocalize it.
I got a lot more out of this activity than I thought I would. Western women see the hijab as a way Muslim men control women, yet Muslims see the sexualized female norm this way, since we are pressured to look good to impress men and other women. I have a greater appreciation for the values behind the hijab having worn it for a week. I found myself less self-conscious wearing it. As a fashion student, I am always concerned about the way my outfit looks, but with the hijab I found myself more concerned with expressing who I was rather than what my body looked like. It is eye-opening to realize Western beauty standards are very different from other cultures, and often we allow these standards to unnecessarily control our body image, mindset, and behaviors. The hijab is typically empowering to the women who wear it, and it is a way of declaring that the woman’s husband is the only one who deserves to know her intimately. I find this to be beautiful. Most Americans view other cultures with a strong bias, and due to a long history of foreign affairs their view and treatment of Islam is filled with even more contempt than for other cultures. We would all benefit and our nation would progress if we took the initiative to understand other cultures, and realize cultural differences are cause for celebration, not separation. Although I can understand the wearing of the hijab, it is not something I would personally follow. I am not a religious person in general so I don’t follow any set of guidelines for behavior. I will definitely always remember my experience with Islam, though, and remember that my confidence should stem from the beautiful person that I am and to not put such a focus on an ideal appearance. These are values that we can all benefit from. We all benefit from living in such a diverse society, and we do not necessarily have to participate in something like Hijab Week to gain better recognition and empathy for others’ cultural experiences- we just need to take it upon ourselves to be educated.
It is so valuable to recognize how diverse the cultures in this world are in order to foster a more welcoming and cooperative society. I am so proud to have taken part in this activity that helps advocate for social justice and shown myself and others that there is no reason to view other cultures with a sense of fear or distance. We also cannot generalize the things that we learn about others. Not all Muslims wear the hijab, and this shows the wide diversity that exists even within a single group. We need to realize the world is so much larger than just ourselves and our experiences, and recognize the privileges we have that have allowed us to live with a sense of belonging in our communities, and extend this to everyone. When we realize others do not have the same privileges, we can help them achieve the equality of protected rights and happiness that they deserve and help foster a safe environment for self expression and cultural practice. This was one of my favorite activities I did for my project and I am glad I am offered such enlightening experiences, because in no other situation would I ever think to wear a hijab for a week and discover my capacity to empathize with others. I learned even more how to put my accepting beliefs into practice: to be unbiased, to educate myself, and to be open to new experiences and types of people. By doing this, we can only grow as individuals, thus better enabling ourselves to connect to the global society around us and contribute to its social progress in a way that benefits all of its members.

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What I Learned from Going without Social Media for a Month

For the month of October I decided to go without social media. I am not the biggest social media fiend so for me this meant not using Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, or Tumblr. I only use Facebook for my work with PETA, so that was allowed. I decided to do this because I noticed in the months that I had been at college I was getting prone to looking at these sites, and using this as a way to fill the time in between doing other things. While I didn’t think it was extremely harmful, I recognized that there were more constructive things I could be doing, and one I wanted to do was to introduce myself to more people and connect with those around me more. One cannot make friends with their face in a screen. I saw many other ways to spend my time, and I wanted to test my theory.

I have to be honest and say going without social media for a month was not the biggest challenge for me, or the biggest life-change. This isn’t one of those stories where my time away from technology transformed me into a better, more enlightened self with unlimited time to devote to enjoying myself in solace. I am still a college student who has work every day, and often uses technology as a tool to get it done. The month started slow. I thought I had chosen the wrong month-long project, because I didn’t notice any changes in my behaviors or my attitudes, besides the fact that I was eager to Snapchat my best friend back home again. I was a little bitter for cutting out the things that allow me to catch up with the people that mean the world to me, but I was willing to see what would happen if all the other mindless factors were cut out too. It wasn’t until a few weeks in that I started to realize there were a lot of things missing from my life, things I had habitually done before moving to school, but had fallen out of habit recently. I took some time to think about this, and determine who it is I want to be- this, of course, determined by the things that I do on a regular basis, because action shows character, right? I started to think of myself again as someone with many hobbies and much enjoyment for the world, and not the version of myself people see on social media, or the version people at school perceive of me. I am so much more than that. I had to refocus my goals and realize while there aren’t so many things I want to remove from my life, there are quite a few I want to bring back. I’ve vowed to get back into meditation by meditating every day for thirty days to see how it will improve my well-being. I am getting back into writing poetry, doing yoga on my own, reading, and making art. I never want to get so wrapped up in mundane daily routine that I forget to do the things that make me enjoy life. Social media is not one of those things. Its role in my life is minimal, and I will remember to only use it in a positive way, and not abuse it to the point that it negatively impacts my well-being. It is an extra, not a necessity and I must make sure my mind and body are in a good place and those needs are satisfied before I seek other outlets. I don’t want to waste my energy or time on things that have no importance to me; that doesn’t even make sense!

I did end up talking to more people and doing more constructive things, but could I have also done this while still occasionally using social media? Of course. Yes, there are quite a few downsides to using it often, but blaming social media for sucking up your time and keeping you away from important things is just escaping from your personal responsibility to carve out a life you love. I realized this. I am in control of my life, and I determine the level of enjoyment I get out of it, by choosing the things I do. It’s only an illusion- that when you have these things in your life like social media that they are “distractions.” Nothing is distracting you from your goals and passions but yourself. I came to realize this. I can balance it all. I don’t need to take vows from things I do- I just need to spend the most time doing the things that add the most meaning to my existence. We need not deprive ourselves of any pleasure, if our hearts and efforts lie with the deepest ones. While part of me admires anyone that swears off social media or technology, another part of me says why can’t we have it all? We are modern, multitasking humans in this ever-changing world and I think it is alright for us to find joy in silly things, so long as we can put those things to the side and tackle the important issues in this world. No one should be all work, all the time. So maybe a part of us needs these “distractions” in our lives. When we acknowledge them, then we can center ourselves and get some incredible things done. It is also important to recognize ourselves as multi-faceted human beings. Don’t forget the things you do well and the things that make you feel at peace. I see less importance in defining ourselves, but rather listening to our heartbeats, taking note of our existence, and satisfying its demands in the healthiest possible way.

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The Truth About Being Vegan

I’ve been vegan for about four months now, which sounds really weird to say, since it feels like I’ve been this way forever. I’ve become so ingrained in my new behaviors and I can’t believe I was ever any different. It really is a lifestyle and a commitment, not a diet or fad. I’m going strong and I think I’m well past the point of my friends and family realizing I’m in this for the long run. AKA they’ve realized they’re either going to have to accept their annoyance with me is permanent or just stop caring. And while I mostly deflect criticisms, I’ve realized being a vegan isn’t all pita chips and hummus. There are some obstacles to face, but at the end of the day I am 150% satisfied with my decision and beyond ecstatic for my future in animal rights activism. My life is at all times filled with chaos, and veganism has given me this great sense of stability, an anchor to my principles, the center to my ever-growing life. It has only expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to both the harsh realities of our society as well as the glorious compassion of humankind. I now have this wonderful connection to so many others who share my beliefs, and I definitely feel more connected to the earth and all of its creations. I enjoy having so many diverse interests in life, but it’s comforting to have this one cause I can call my passion. And it’s helped me to discover all of these capabilities I never knew I had! I recently started cooking and have switched to an almost all raw diet (more to come on my cooking adventures later). I’ve discovered animal rights groups in my area, and I’m stoked to reach out, volunteer, and get more involved in the community. I can honestly say becoming a vegan is the best decision I’ve ever made, and all the divine benefits that have come from it are proof. It is now one of my life goals to inspire others to swear off animal products and join me in the light of a cruelty-free life. I encourage everyone to do their research and seriously consider this way of life. First and foremost I want to be honest with any prospective vegans out there. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the issues vegans face, complete with the solutions.

  1. Haters gonna hate. Don’t be surprised if everyone around you starts acting like they have a degree in nutrition. Your family will ask if you think you were adopted. Your friends will groan when you try to influence where you’re all going for dinner. Random strangers will question your motives. Heck, even a customer you’re ringing up might (oblivious to your choice) obnoxiously declare “I HATE vegetarians!!” while ordering his food. (OK, maybe this one is just me.. #PaneraProbs). People will share their opinions without you ever asking. Just remember, your principles are stronger than this. Vegans can often come off as attention-seeking just because we call for different menus at events. As long as you don’t superfluously announce you are a vegan when it isn’t relevant in the situation, you are doing nothing wrong! Don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking you’re not a majestic animal rights god/ goddess. Others’ ignorance should never get in the way of your ethical bliss.  Being confident in your personal decision will leave you unscathed by others’ criticism.
  2. Operation: Locate food. There’s definitely work involved to being a vegan. Sadly, we can’t all have gardens in our backyard and eliminate the chore of grocery shopping. If you’re already a health nut, it’s become routine to read every ingredient label before buying a food. You’re going to have to do this to ensure you’re buying vegan products. Luckily, veganism is so much on the rise (whoooo!!) that many grocers have specific labels “V for vegan” on their foods and specific areas of the store designated for natural foods. And it’s easy to check if a product has animal products by the allergen labels in bold lettering on the back of a food. When I first became a vegan, I was too intimidated by cooking that I took the lazy approach and bought pre-made vegan dinners and packaged foods. While I did buy organic foods, I’ve realized it is much cheaper and healthier to cook my own meals! This also eliminates any worry of animal ingredients being in your food. It’s actually fun to cook and I feel a sense of accomplishment when my result is delicious. I advise to always make a list before you grocery shop, so you stay on track with the ingredients you need to cook your own meals. Also, find out the best deals for natural foods in your area. I’ve recently fell in love with Trader Joe’s, which is a bit of a hike from where I live, but is totally worth it for the selection. My other favorites? The farmer’s market always has fresh produce for cheap, and Aldi’s prices are unbeatable. Restaurants are another issue. I’ve learned that Applebee’s does not have a single dish without meat, pancakes are almost never vegan (sigh, Denny’s, SIGH), and most dishes are slathered with some sort of buttery spread. You have to be in the know when you dine out. Look up the menu beforehand, ask the servers questions, and don’t feel pressured to order something that seems a little shady. After grad parties abound where my only option to eat was fruit, I’ve realized I have to be self-sufficient on these things. Unfortunately not everyone will cater to all dietary ways, and you either have to bring your own dish or eat beforehand. This is only a small obstacle in the great big world of eating vegan, though. There are so many vegan restaurants now and all it takes is a little research to find cool places near you. Remember, no one is going to completely cater to you. Be independent, and be patient with having to go out of your way a little to get what you deserve.
  3. You’re going to be the weird one. Veganism is becoming more and more popular every year and I’m confident the future will have a lot more of us, but until then, you’re going to realize you’re in the minority. In my friend group, I have 3 vegetarian/ vegans and in my family, none. (I hope to help change that!) At most restaurants and social events, you will probably be the only vegan. I have come to accept this. At times it can be socially isolating. People feel weird inviting you to barbecues and steakhouses. You’re left out of fun times like eating birthday cake and getting ice cream. No matter how much I’m excluded though, I’ve learned to not let it affect me. I am proud to live cruelty-free and there’s nothing I miss being a part of enough to ever curse my beliefs. I’ll accept being the “weird” one, so long as my loved ones accept me, which they do (for the most part). If you think of any social revolutionary in history, they were deemed the weird one when they were first living out their ideals. Thankfully, vegans are moving on up in the world and there’s quite a growing community out there if you search a little. Never forget the undeniable good you’re doing and revel in your uniqueness; it’s your chance to share with others your world-saving ways!
  4. The ugly truth will be revealed. Motives to become a vegan include the moral, the health, and the environmental. As you research your cause more and more, you will discover the ugliness of the animal industry, including factory farming, animal testing, and animal breeding. There is so much cruelty to unveil it is overwhelming. I probably don’t even know half of the evil practices that are in effect right now. While this can cause cynicism and emotional woes, recognize it provides our boundless opportunity to change. Leonardo da Vinci once said “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.” You are not going to be able to single-highhandedly take down the animal industry, but by banding together as a community and taking action with petitions, protests, and education we all can take this on. Be active and share your voice. I have so much hope for the future, and we owe it to our fellow animals to be proactive for the cause.
  5. Other adjustments will be necessary. As a vegan, you commit to not just a dietary choice, but a lifestyle choice. I have learned the sad reality of animal exploitation. There are so many beauty and home products that are made with animal products and/or tested on animals. Animal testing is a serious issue in our society today, and we must boycott companies that use it in order to eliminate it. You’ll also be avoiding leather and wool, and even boycotting the circus and zoo. (I’m on the fence about the zoo, but horse races and the circus are absolutely horrific!) Living vegan means so much more than not eating meat and dairy. It’s truly about not supporting anything that uses animals for our benefit. It’s like a whole new world compared to the ways of the majority of society. But it feels absolutely wonderful. You will realize that if you’re capable of abandoning the ideas and ways you’ve been taught to obey, you are capable of so much more as well. Your strong beliefs and passion put you well on the track to becoming an activist, and making the world a better place. In fact, each day you live as a vegan you are making the world a better place! You are saving lives, discouraging deforestation, and fighting world hunger. You are doing so much good for yourself and the world, and it won’t take long to come into your new kickass, planet-saving self. So if you’ve joined me in my plant-eating, smoothie-making, animal-loving ways, Welcome! I wish you luck on your journey and I will be here for you every step of the way. The truth about being vegan? It is SO undoubtedly worth it.keep_calm_and_veg_on_posters-r0f536b2c9a9e4e5bbc71b8eae7f67dc9_f6amb_8byvr_512