Its 7pm and by now I’m sick of it. The charming newsreader announces for what seems like the umpteenth time that today is affectionately known as “Blue Monday.” Scientists have calculated that the post holiday buzz has well and truly faded and our resolutions have fallen by the wayside. The combination of short, dark days and winter weather here in the northern hemisphere is getting us down. The bills have begun to roll in and the next payday is just a shade beyond our comfort zone. All of this combines to make us a scientifically proven miserable lot.
I don’t think any of this is helpful for our collective mindset or entirely true. In response I’ve decided to go against the media perception of how I should be feeling today. I’ve decided to view it as an opportunity to launch into a new, labour intensive project and daily commitment. What could possibly go wrong?
My idea is to jump on the daily challenges bandwagon and begin The Vegan 365. A way to document each day in the life of a regular vegan. Today seems like an apt place to start as it roughly marks my 2 year veganniversary. I don’t have an official birthday for my awakening to veganism. My transition from omnivore to vegan whilst quicker than I ever expected was not instantaneous and I’m ok with that. Truth be told it was decades in the making. Fools it seems. don’t always rush in.
I’ve been asked many times over the last few years why I made the decision to go vegan. I pretty much have a standard go to answer that I pull out like a bobbly, well-worn comfort blanket. A barrier if you will that I can safely retreat into if the conversation descends into “bacon though.” madness, which fortunately in my experience it rarely does.
The root of my veganism cannot really be explained in what passes for polite interaction or feigned interest. It’s always been there, deep in my core. A knowing that I cannot articulate. Unaware this feeling had a name, or what there was to be done about it. I never imagined it as a movement, a trend or a lifestyle choice. It was simply a wrongness in the pit of my stomach.
From refusing my daily milk since infant school, to the nausea stirred by the scent of a dippy egg. Saturdays spent racing up the aisle of the indoor market that ran parallel to butchers row. Meeting my mother at the far end and feeling obliged to offer to carry the heavy bag, often bearing a bloody fingerprint or two. Recoiling at the feel of cold, clammy dead flesh through the thin plastic as it stuck against my bare leg. Learning to avoid it by holding it away from body at just the right angle.
I loved any and all animals fiercely and would spend hours watching nature documentaries, reading stories and pencil drawing animals of all shapes and sizes. I regularly cried at episodes of black beauty and lassie when it seemed like the hero would not get their happy ending and despaired at page after page of the extinct creatures that existed only in the dusty pages of my favourite picture encyclopedia.
Futile summers spent in the never-ending cycle of burying tiny blind featherless baby sparrows that plummeted from their precarious nests in the eaves to meet their demise on the paving below.
As the years passed my love of animals never waned but somewhere along the way I forgot for a while to feel what I knew to be my truth. Seduced by the novelty of making my own decisions about what I was buying and eating I valued convenience and thrift over quality. Searching for a sense of belonging and swept along by all that was normal. It never occurred to me to draw attention to the ideas in my head or to question routine and tradition.
Decades later I had long since learned self-love and acceptance. Independence and making my own way in the world were my goals. Ambition and new priorities meant that I wasn’t afraid anymore to speak out or live anyway I saw fit. I began to share my life and home with my soul mate and dance through all the variations of discovering how we fit together. We experimented with ways of shopping and cooking and eating until we found our groove and once again, new traditions began and compromises were made to create equilibrium.
My inner voice stayed muted all the while, waiting for the opportunity to speak up and finally be heard. I’m ashamed to say it took me until the age of 36 to start to listen and take action. I’ve made my peace with the meandering path it took to get here. I’ve made the commitment, I’ve seen the light and now there’s no turning away, there’s no such thing as unseeing.
I can’t conceive of ever again quieting my truth. I’m fortunate enough to have the unconditional love and support of those closest to me. Those willing to accept me as I come full circle. Those willing to give me the space I need to morph back into the child who knew all those years ago that there had to be a better way. She was right all along and wise beyond her years. There is a better way.
The way is vegan. A 6 year old child told me so. Thirty years ago.