Growing up, the “Vegan Decision” is difficult for everyone. Wandering through the twisted path that eventually leads to adulthood is tricky and testing.
A child is forced to leave behind immaturity and foolishness and focus on what is really important. No longer a byproduct of their parents, but an individual, blossoming into their own character. Along with this development comes the ability to make decisions for themselves, based on what they believe. Depending on the parents, this transition can be difficult, frustrating, and sometimes it may seem like their child is heading down the wrong path. However, part of being an adequate parent is placing enough trust in a child to make their own decisions.
When I was 13, my best friend, Eva, and I found ourselves in my school’s cafeteria during lunch. I remember her telling me about her new diet, vegetarianism. This was the first time I had ever heard this term. As she explained what it meant, she placed her carrots and hummus neatly on the table.
A couple months later, Eva was still upholding her vegetarian diet, while munching on foreign objects like tofu-dogs and Garden Sausages. I began to do some research of my own at this time. I started by simply Googling terms like ‘vegetarian’ and ‘animal agriculture’ and discovered some alarming statistics; however, my adolescent brain still struggled to fathom what was really happening in our food industry. I saw vegetarianism as a trend, a fad, a way to comply with my friends and share something with them, while possibly maintaining a healthy diet. So, I joined Eva and began calling myself a vegetarian.
I told my parents soon after I decided to make this change. No one in my family had any sort of dietary restrictions, and to this day still do not; however, that didn’t deter me. I gave my parents my spiel, complete with my contentions (i.e. I was saving the planet and becoming immune to heart disease. Totally rational, right?).
I could tell my parents were trying to be supportive of me and my decision, yet I knew it was hard for them to be open-minded and take me seriously when they had been taught otherwise. My mom would say things like, “We’re supposed to eat meat to be healthy,” and “I only buy organic meat”; however, I stuck to my decision to steer clear from murder.
My father was concerned for me for many reasons, but mostly, he would constantly wonder how I could possibly obtain all the required vitamins, nutrients, and proteins necessary to simply survive. I was dragged to a nutritionist shortly thereafter and left the appointment with regurgitated knowledge from many websites I had read along with quite a few pamphlets.
About a year after becoming vegetarian, I began to consider veganism. A term I was familiar with, having been in the vegetarian atmosphere for quite some time. I realized I could cut out a couple more food products for the good of animals, my health, and the planet. It just made sense to make that sacrifice, so I did it. I left behind my vegetarian label and gained a new title as a vegan. It was then that my parents really became concerned with my outrageous decision-making. I was taken to a nutritionist for the second time to really make sure I wouldn’t keel over without consuming meat or dairy. I went in and left the appointment with confidence that I was doing the right thing, and that I could do it right. I was ready to start the next chapter of my life as a vegan.
Another year later, and veganism remains the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. Despite my parents’ subtle disapproval over the years, I know veganism is the right choice for me. This lifestyle has its challenges, no doubt. I was at a family dinner at my grandmother’s when she called me a nuisance for refusing to eat what she served me: steak. Sometimes, when I go to restaurants, and they mix up my order, my family tells me to just eat around the meat or just eat it this one time ‘cause it won’t hurt me. Yet it’s things like these that help me stay on track. I’m constantly reminded of how stubborn and stuck in our ways us humans are. Progress is achievable yet difficult, and change takes a long time. I mustn’t forget that people react to change in a variety of different ways, denial being one of them.
I knew when I became vegetarian that there would be challenges along the road, but that wouldn’t deter me from sticking with what I believe in and choosing to be kind and compassionate. One should never undermine themselves due to what others think or believe. It can be hard; in many ways and places, vegetarians and vegans are still pioneers.
Being bold and different is challenging, but it’s always best to stick with what you believe in and to choose to love.