3 Things I've Learned Since Going Vegan
1. The food is not the hard part
When you first start the transition to veganism, it may be difficult to believe that the food isn't going to be a struggle. It will take a while to get used to a huge food change, but you can do it! Once you nourish your body with real foods, that's what it will begin to crave, and that will help with the transition. It took me maybe a month to change my taste buds and get into the swing of eating and cooking vegan foods. For me, veganism became more than just what I ate. It became a lifestyle that consciously considers each action and each purchase and how it will affect other lives and the earth that God created. That's when I knew that learning how to eat tacos without cheese wasn't going to be the hard part...
Melanie Joy once said "Being aware of the atrocity of what's happening to the animals in the world is a heavy burden to carry." and I have never heard anything more true. The hardest part is finally being awake and aware of what's happening and having to admit that to yourself.
You know how much your heart hurts when you see things about the Chinese Dog Festival once a year on Facebook? That's how it feels to be a vegan, x10000, every single day.
I have seen and read things that I wish that I could forget. Sometimes I will have nightmares and the weight of those dreams don't go away when I wake up. The worst part is knowing that when the sun comes up, I wake up from those nightmares, but the animals don't because that's their real life.
It's an odd level of awareness and empathy that I've never experienced before, but I wouldn't go back. It's an important part of what keeps me going and fighting. But it's also important to learn when it becomes too much. Sometimes I have to stop reading the book, and maybe never finish it, and that's okay. Sometimes I have to stop scrolling through Facebook and sometimes I have to unfollow that vegan account on Instagram. That's okay too.
"Today you saved: 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forest, 20 pounds of co2, 1 animal life" is what's written on the chalkboard by my bed. The estimated numbers that come from just one day of living vegan. A daily reminder that although I will never singlehandedly be able to save all the animals and all the earth that needs to be saved, I'm doing the best that I can right now to make a difference. And it's a pretty big one if you ask me.
Being vegan is a heavy weight to carry and I didn't understand that until I actually felt it myself. Veganism as a lifestyle isn't easy, but that's how I know it's right.
2. Your empathy, compassion, and heart will grow....IMMENSELY.
I hope what I wrote above doesn't scare you or turn you away from veganism. I don't mean to write that to scare you, but I just want to be completely honest with my experiences. I'm happy to tell you that the burden does not come without benefits.
Not only did becoming vegan completely change my health, my consciousness, my awareness, and my impact on this planet, but it completely changed my heart.
I will be honest, before I became vegan, I thought I had compassion. I thought I had empathy. I thought I was living in kindness. I thought I was living in peace. Little did I know that those were just thoughts that I never lived out.
As a Christian I wasn't completely blind to the idea that my purpose here was to be helping others, but what was I actually doing about that?
The moment that my actions finally began to line up with my beliefs is the moment my heart changed. Not only did my love and compassion for animals grow but my love and compassion for all lives that are broken, hurting, and vulnerable grew. The desire to help people no longer came from the fact that I have to, but because I finally wanted to.
My respect for God's creations has grown, my heart has grown, and my faith has grown. Veganism has woken me up to the realization that this life is not about me, and there's something that I can be doing about the hurt in the world.
The connection that was made happened not only in my mind but also in my heart.
3. All you can do is plant the seed
I'm trying my best to learn how to be the vegan I want to be. Not judgmental but not silent. Not preachy but standing firm for what I believe in.
People do not want to hear about veganism. They just don't. I rolled my eyes at vegans for so many years. I'm pretty sure I've tweeted "WHY WOULD ANYONE BE VEGAN" about 3 or 4 times. Looking back now, I don't think it was the actual vegans that were rubbing me so wrong, it was the way they talked about it.
I can't pinpoint the exact method that finally helped me make the connection, but I know the main one was time.
I can see now that for YEARS the seeds were being planted. Slowly but surely my heart became softer towards vegans and their reasonings.
July 1, 2012 I posted a photo with cows with the caption "cowz are frandz not food" and yet I continued to eat cows for 5 more years. Would I eat these cows that I was standing next to? Absolutely not. Because I met them and I was able to see how intelligent and beautiful and alive they were. But would I eat a cow that was raised and killed for me? Absolutely. I didn't have to think about the life lost because I didn't have to take it. I loved animals but the connection just wasn't there yet.
July 1, 2016 I tweeted "I wish I could be vegan because I want to support the animals who deserve kindness just as much as any other animals." But I continued to eat animal products for a full year after that. But the seed was there. It was planted and it was growing. It took me longer than I'd like to get here, but I've made it.
July 1, 2017 was the day I watched What The Health and July 4, 2017 was my last animal product that intentionally went into my mouth.
I find it to be absolutely no coincidence that all of these things happened on July 1st of different years. I see that purely as evidence of God moving and His visible work.
I know we can all get here too. I'm still learning and I'm absolutely not perfect. I'm trying to come from a place of discernment instead of judgement. Although yes, I stopped eating animal products overnight, the entire process of getting to that point was NOT overnight. It wasn't as easy as watching Earthlings and having the connection being made. As you can see, it took years for my heart to soften and to actually understand.
I've learned that people don't want to hear it, but I won't stop talking about it. Nothing feels more empowering than finally taking back our compassion and empathy that has been buried for years. I want everyone to experience that. But all I can do is plant the seed. God will do the watering.
Thanks for reading friends. I hope to continue to keep you updated with my journey through this!