Coming up this November it will have been 7 years since I have eaten animal flesh. When I began it was a kind of challenge from my dad. He didn't think I could do it, and I sure as hell wasn't going to let him be right. I liked animals. I liked the idea that I wasn't the direct reason they got killed. And it was something that made me stand out. In my first year of high school I got new glasses. I asked people to call me Madeline instead of Maddie. I took German because everyone else took Spanish. And I stopped eating meat. I was okay with other people eating meat, because when it really came down to it, I was just trying to shape my personality, and being vegetarian in a tiny town that considers the first day of deer season an excused absence from school seemed like a good way to make a statement. When other people ate meat it only helped maintain my difference.
I tended to make highly symbolic statements. Unlike now, I was cautious to speak my mind. When my health teacher told us that she believed all gays should be lined up and shot, I was horrified; but I said nothing. It's hard for me to even remember being that person. You can sure as hell bet that now I would have said something to that teacher, even if it sent me to the office and gave me a month of detentions. But back then I had crippling self esteem (a post titled "Actually Love Thyself" to come addressing this issue). So becoming a vegetarian seemed a good way to separate myself from my peers without actually, like, throwing rabbit carcasses at them. It's not something I really did much research about or had much passion for.
The internet is full of a bunch of dickwads. Seriously. The intention of this blog is dickwad avoidance. And nothing taught me that better than seeing the backlash that Atheists and Rational Thinkers received for posting information about the effect of animal consumption and abuse as well as the benefits of a vegan diet. And I'd read the comment threads feeling complete disdain for the trolls that so easily made a joke of the hellish lives of animals treated as commodities. I was so consistently disappointed in humanity, and because I'm kind of a bitchy internet maven, I argued. Does it do anything? No. But it made me feel better. And I found myself arguing the vegan position. I found myself adding those vegans who suppored me as friends. And the hypocrisy hit me hard. The dairy industry is completely warped and contributes directly to the veal industry. I was a vegetarian still consuming dairy and was no less responsible for the slaughter of calves than someone who orders veal at their favorite restaurant. And I felt so shitty about myself.
Then Lent came. I don't consider myself religious by any means. But forty days and forty nights seemed like the shove I needed. It sounded like the perfect trial period--I could quit when it was done if I wanted, right? So I did it. And I felt healthier. I lost 5 pounds in the first two weeks. I sat hours in front of my computer reading about how to eat a healthy vegan diet. I was scared I was going to become anemic and die. Turns out I didn't really have anything to worry about. It's possible to be a junk food vegan, but it's so much harder. I had to cut so much crap from my diet, and I felt the change. But. The first thing I did on Easter was order a cheese pizza from Pizza Hut. And I felt like utter shit. I felt sick to my stomach. The grease made me nauseous. It felt like a lump in my stomach, and I couldn't stop thinking of the calf that was denied the love of its mother (mother cows form relationships with their babies similar to that of humans. When separated they call for each other and mourn the others' absence). And then I decided to stop consuming animals entirely.
And I did it! And it was awesome. I learned how to cook. I developed a taste for foods I'd never liked before. I was empowered with every meal. Three times a day I was making a difference in my own small way. And with all the stereotypes about vegans being protein deficient and weak, I knew I had to prove those nay-sayers wrong. I started running and biking. I thought about everything I put in my mouth. I parked in the farthest spot from the store. I took the stairs. I volunteered to walk the dogs. And it was awesome. So many people thought I would become unhealthy, and I became so much stronger and so much happier!
And as these things go, it rubbed off on those who were around me. They saw how happy I was and probably reluctantly let some of my stories of factory farms sink in and creep into their conscience. And my meat-eating friends started to eat less meat, then eventually cut it out altogether. Some of my vegetarian friends cut out dairy and gelatin. Small steps. But it made me feel like I was making a difference. I was empowered to start the Veggie Club at school (short for Vegetarian/Vegan Student Fellowship). I am never hostile towards omnivores until they're hostile towards me. I try not to be preachy, and rather live my life as happily as I can.
I wanted to be healthy in as many ways as possible in order to disprove the myth that vegans are weak. So I now make sure that I get at least seven hours of sleep, no matter what. I make sure that I rise two hours before my first class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I take a cycling class at 6:15 in the morning. When I tell people that, they think I'm nuts. I am the only college student I know that gets more than six hours of sleep regularly. I started to do this at the beginning of the semester. I start my whole day feeling like I've accomplished something, and that soaks into everything I do from class, to what I eat (I ain't eating back all those calories I burned), to my interactions with others. And everyone thinks I'm crazy. But every now and then I can drag a friend to Cycling with me.
|Same dress exactly one year apart.|
Positive Statement #3:
So why the hell would a college kid get up at 5:30 am? A college kid wakes up at 5:30 am because she went to bed at 10:30 pm. She gets seven hours of sleep because she wants to have the energy to care about her health. She gets up at 5:30 am to prove to the world that she can be vegan and strong at the same time. She wakes up at 5:30 am because she loves herself enough to do so.