Goals, on the other hand, are about end results, and there is nothing more satisfying than returning to a list of goals and crossing off the accomplishments you set out to do.”
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
This chapter has a series of questions for the reader to answer before diving into the challenge. I reflect on each of these questions: before I started the vegan journey, my experience during the first six months, and how I would answer the question now.
Here is the first question, with my thoughts. I went on longer than I expected.
How do I feel now – before I start the 30 Day Vegan challenge?
Before: In the lead up to my decision to go vegan for a year (I now have NO intention of ever going back) I was not good physically, having only just started to recover from a medical issue. Even before that I was not doing well – tired, putting on weight, lacking motivation, everything feeling like an effort, eating badly, being physically inactive, getting depressed over Winter. Despite this, my decision to go vegan, at least on the surface, was not related to my physical health.
Transition: My physical health has definitely improved over the past six months, but the process of getting better had started three or four months before starting the vegan journey. (Several high-dose courses of hormones had stopped the chronic bleeding.) The situation is now back to normal. I was also taking a lot of iron (like a drunk near the end of happy hour). How much of my feeling better is directly related to a healthier vegan diet is hard to determine, but my changes in diet can only be helping,
Now: I am feeling better than I have in a long time. It’s only when I think back to this time last year I realise just how bad I was. Now, I am sleeping properly. I wake up ready to get out of bed. I can get through a day at work without feeling exhausted. I have extra energy to do things – I even feel like doing things! I have lost some weight and feeling lighter makes life easier. I’m even getting in more walking, something that makes both me and dog happier. I am also mentally sharper – though my eyesight isn’t!
Again, I don’t know how much of that to attribute to a healthier vegan diet or just simply not being iron deficient, getting enough sleep and cutting out caffeine and alcohol, and being a bit more active. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Physically, I am light years ahead of where I was this time last year.
Before: I think I was basically too exhausted and brain fogged to have emotions. I know that in the preceding three months I was starting to feel ‘more like myself’ and to take an interest in daily life again.
Transition: The first few months of going vegan were emotionally tough – something I never expected. As I started to learn more, the more upset and angrier I got. I was feeling disgusted with myself for four decades of ignorance. I like to think of myself as a ‘good’ person.
While I get that social and commercial institutions pour enormous amounts of effort and money into keeping me ignorant, I have to take some responsibility. I was complicit. I didn’t want to know. In the past, a nagging questioning shadow would creep over my awareness, but just as quickly and deliberately I would push it away. I could feel it in the supermarket as my hand hovered over the ‘free-range eggs’. “How do you know?”, the shadow would whisper. Still I would pick up the eggs. I looked up the company website. There was a picture of a chicken pecking in a field. It was enough to momentarily beat back the shadow.
For a while, I felt like I might be going crazy. I had finally pulled the right string and the whole carefully constructed façade of carnism unravelled. All the connections, thoughts and emotions I had kept so carefully segregated were suddenly allowed to communicate and freely interact with all the new information I was getting. Now, my efforts were going into finding out what was real, not trying to hide from knowing. This is not the first time I have had a life altering shift in awarenesses, but at 46 I had assumed I was done!
One of the hardest things to deal with was the continued use of animals as food within my own home. I came home one day to the smell of roasting flesh. I was hit by a wave of nausea. A few months prior, I would have found the same smell comforting, connecting me subconsciously to associations of home, of someone I love being home, to the nostalgia for something enjoyed in childhood. Now, it was connected to death and the awareness that someone who wanted to live was slaughtered, skinned and hacked into pieces and the smell of their burning corpse was now invading my home. Was there no where I could escape from the onslaught – not even in my own home?
Now: I am now feeling emotionally much, much calmer. I still get washed over with sadness sometimes; I knew the world could be a shitty place, and it is even shittier than I ever imagined. Yet, I also feel at peace with myself. The changes I am making put me more in touch with the kinder, better, more empathetic parts of myself. I am living more consciously, My psyche can relax and allow me to look at things – all things – with greater honesty. I am much more aware of when I am trying to resist knowing things I might not want to know. Where I feel the resistance and urge to turn away or get defensive is where I need to look..
Being vegan is a truer reflection of who I am and what I value.
I also find myself unable to be as judgemental of others. By consuming animals I have participated in terrible, terrible things. I am in no position to make statements about anyone else. I don’t know how I will feel in the future, or where this will take me, but right now I have this weird contradiction of feeling more at peace and in touch with myself (happier), yet an intense sadness for all the violence and perhaps irreparable destruction of our planet’s fragile ecosystem as it clings for life on an insignificant rock suspended in the cold, inhospitable vastness of space.
Before: I am not a religious person.
Transition: Nope, still not a religious person.
Now: And again, still not a religious person.