This summer marks eight years since I read Skinny Bitch. It would be another year and half before I gave up cheese, but my awakening to a more compassionate lifestyle began that afternoon in a Barnes & Noble store.
Maybe that’s not quite true. I think I had already started to awaken, in some ways. I was still several months away from turning thirty, but I had already taken some steps towards living a more conscious life. This quote from June 2008 probably says more than I meant it to when I wrote it:
Maybe I’m starting to value myself enough to not want to negatively affect the Earth, or the animals, or my body, or whatever, and that’s why I’m paying attention to the numbers on the bottom of plastic bottles, crying about cows in slaughterhouses, and watching Suze Orman every weekend.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world around us. It’s no wonder that acts of violence towards other beings – both human and non-human – desensitize so many of us. Have you been party to a conversation where someone, faced with staggering facts and statistics about oppression or mistreatment, simply throws their hands up and says, “I don’t want to hear it”? I have. And while that reaction disappoints and frustrates me, I know that even a decade ago, it could have, would have, been me.
We all have potential
Our role as compassionate people is to recognize that feeling of desensitization and to try to break through it. We’re all trying to survive our turn on this planet; though I am a cynic at heart, there are moments when I remember that assuming the worst of people isn’t going to evoke the very-needed change we’re looking for. Each of us has that value I talked about in my above-referenced, late-twentysomething rambling about paying attention and Suze Orman. Who am I to sweep that value, that potential, under the rug if a person hasn’t come to the same conclusions I have? Who am I to take that chance away from them?
Wiser people than me have said you are not responsible for or in control of other people’s emotions or actions. All you can do is plant seeds, and take lessons where they present themselves. I believe it’s important that we take it a step further, and maybe this becomes my latest “a ha moment” – plant seeds, but don’t do anything to prevent them from growing.
I don’t mean you shouldn’t be passionate about your cause (especially when your cause is saving animals), or that you should feign enthusiasm for a baby step you don’t believe in. But if there’s another person out there who thinks like I did as my twenties came to an end, who is starting to value themselves enough to shift towards a compassionate philosophy, I don’t want to turn them off the path by criticizing them for eating cheese while they’re still working towards that vegan lifestyle. That being said, it doesn’t sit well with me when I hear someone say they “wanted to be vegan, but you’re all so [fill in the blank].” I believe that’s a cop out answer.
Still seeking answers
The summer of 2008 has somehow faded into the rearview mirror, and I am now eight years down the road. As you’ve probably surmised, I don’t have all the answers, and I’m still somewhat conflicted about the very real conversations around becoming and being vegan.
One thing I haven’t been conflicted about in all that time? Animals deserve for those conversations to continue. They deserve our careful thought, our considerate choices, and our compassion.