It has officially been four years (and a few days) since the day my friend challenged me to become vegan, and I nervously shook on it while chomping on a mouthful of M&M’s. Four years ago, I was the person who said “I could never be vegan,” and sincerely believed it. Today, I am celebrating; not with a cake or a party, but by reflecting on where that fork in my life’s road has lead me. I’m taking a look at what I’ve gained and what I’ve lost because of that day’s decision. Believe it or not, I’m not celebrating this four-year milestone as an accomplishment. I’m celebrating it as my re-birth-day.
I feel as fortunate to be vegan as I do to be in love. At the end of April, 2006, I was filled with trepidation at the thought of living without animal products. Today, I have only gratitude for my friend Andrew, who singled me out as the person who would make the change along with him. Becoming vegan has been the most liberating action (or rather, series of actions) of my life. I thought it would be a restriction, and a great act of noble sacrifice on my part. To my surprise, it ended up setting me free.
Veganism has freed me from disease, from unwanted weight, from fatigue, from narrow-mindedness, from guilt and karmic suffering, from feeling disconnected from my own body, from careless consumerism, and from helplessness.
Veganism has given me compassion, limitless energy, connection to others, awareness of my part in the web of the world, delicious new foods, patience, courage, a heightened sense of taste, spiritual growth, new friendships with inspirational people, a healthy body, improved cooking skills, respect for life, the ability to listen to and trust my own body, and the ability to live in a way that is more consistent with my morals. Becoming vegan has given me an inner peace I hardly imagined was possible. Living feels light and simple now.
I struggled at first with veganism. Like anything worth doing, it took effort. But if I’d only known how incredibly rewarding and joyful it would be, I might not have gone into the transition with a grimace. I might have done it years earlier, back in high school, when I first met a vegan.
Now that I do know, I want to tell everyone. You don’t have to worry about raw meat on your cutting board. You don’t have to justify serving dead animals to your children. You don’t have to feel guilty about food, or wonder which dietary fads to believe. You and your family don’t have to live with Type 2 diabetes, or heart disease. You don’t have to contribute to the number one cause of pollution in the world, and the brutality of an ongoing holocaust of certain species. You don’t have to close yourself off from nature and the animals you encounter. You can live with kindness and sympathy and openness. You can get your tastebuds, your intuition, and your health back. You can look and feel younger and more alive.
To paraphrase my online friend from veganhope.com, being vegan isn’t hard. What’s hard is that struggle to live and eat with the burdens of disease and guilt every day. I wish I’d allowed veganism to set me free years ago. Four years in, estimates put the number of animals I’ve saved by going vegan at four hundred. But honestly, going vegan saved me.
Now if you don’t mind, there’s a friend I have to call up and thank. Maybe we’ll have some cake after all.