Two days ago, I celebrated my 1 year vegan anniversary. It is a cliche, but it is hard to believe that a whole year has gone by already. However, reflecting upon where I started makes me realize how far I have come. So below are a few things I learned during my first year as a vegan.
You can’t be perfect.
During my first week vegan, I remember accidentally eating sauce that contained oyster extract. I felt so discouraged and upset with myself for letting it slip under the radar. Now I know that obsessing over the small stuff will simply burn you out. Your best is always the best you can do.
You can’t change the world all at once.
It is sad, and seems defeated to say, but because there is such a huge wall between consumers and where their food comes from, ignorance is something we must learn to live with it. There is not much you can do to stop a stranger at the grocery store from buying that jug of milk, and you would lose your mind if you got upset every time you saw someone eating meat. Simply put, you can’t change everyone. Striking a balance between understanding the cruel reality while at the same time working to make the world a better place is key to maintaining your strength to keep fighting.
Don’t be annoying.
I must confess that I went through a stage where I was an annoying vegan. I felt that if I didn’t speak up whenever I saw someone consuming animal products, I would be letting the animals down. But looking back, I was doing more harm than good. Criticizing your friends’ meal choices won’t make them want to go vegan. Who would respond favorably to someone who constantly picks on them? By showing the world we are accepting and understanding, we can make being vegan much more inviting.
Living with non-vegan friends and family can be challenging.
Friends and family are the most difficult people to change. Talking to them about veganism can be awkward, and friends and family are more likely to take arguments and disagreements personally. For the sake of peace among comrades, I choose to simply avoid confrontation and tolerate their choices to consume animal products. In fact, not being judgmental makes friends and family more likely to show interest in talking to you about veganism.
Keep an open mind.
As a vegan with strongly-held ethical beliefs, it is easy to go into every conversation with my mind already made up. But I find it does more harm than good to come off as someone who is unwilling to listen and consider opposing viewpoints. How can we expect others to consider our message if we won’t consider theirs? Ask questions and listen to others, even if they disagree with you. You will find common ground if you listen to their side.
Let’s be real: confronting some of the most twisted, terrible, and cruel sides of humanity can be a burden sometimes. But it is always important to stay positive. Being vegan is a joy. Our attitude and outlook on the world should reflect that. Smile. Be lighthearted. Watch happy animal videos. Take a time out to de-stress. Making the world a more positive place begins with you.
Here’s to the start of the second year of my vegan journey! I can’t wait to see where this year takes me.