You never forget your first anything; your first day at school, your first kiss, your first car, or even the first time you visited a foreign country.
And most vegans will never forget the day they successfully transitioned into veganism. It would have been an impactful moment for them. Something they were proud of (and should be proud of). For most vegans, it was a day they went from average Joe to pseudo-superhero; taking a stance and saving the world – and the beautiful, innocent living creatures on it. It’s a moral stance and a paradigm of righteousness.
My vegan catalysis began in 2009. A weakening relationship with my vegetarian ex came to a halt and I was left on my own – seeking not only a distraction from the lack of traction in my life, but I suppose, meaning. In those 9 months that we have dated, I had abstained from eating meat, out of respect for her – so you could say I was already on the right track. We remained friends and it was nice to have someone to share vegetarian recipes with. I then, en route to my inquisitive spiritual journey, encountered a Hindu guru whom I used to seek guidance from. I used to meet him bi-weekly at one of the Hindu temples near my house in Melbourne, and he patiently taught me some of his philosophies and meditation practices. One month into seeing him, we touched on the topic of nutrition. He was impressed that I’m vegetarian and suggested I cut ALL animal products out of my diet. It sounded ridiculous for me to have to give up cheese (my love for pizza was unmatched), so I asked him for his reasoning. He replied with the following:
“Everything in this world is energy. What you eat is energy. If you eat something that doesn’t belong to you, you’re consuming incongruent energies. Meat, dairy and eggs are dead energies. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes are live energies. When you cut out meat, you feel more alive.”
It sounded relatively convincing to me. Though, I did have an important question I couldn’t help but ask.
“What about protein?”, I inquired naively.
He gazed at me reassuringly and smiled.
“Gorillas eat plants and they are ten times stronger than humans. Just eat well and you will be fine”
Gorillas happen to be my favorite animals, so it was an ace in the hole! And thus, my vegan journey had begun.
Veganism should be fun.
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The first thing I did, was buzz my vegetarian ex to express my elation. I felt like I was doing the right thing and veganism would be my vehicle to spiritual ascendance. Upon sharing the good news with her, she didn’t seem as excited as I’d anticipated. Her tone was nonchalant and she responded with a mere “good for you”. Jealous? Perhaps. However, that didn’t faze me one iota.
Weeks later, my house's lease expired and I was forced to relocate. My brother and I found a cozy unit near the beach and things looked promising. I did eventually stop seeing the guru due to the distance being unbearable, and proceeded at my own pace. I suppose I was ready to grab my next branch. A new, prime location, together with my brother and best friend. And the best part? I was single! I was also excited about my new vegan journey. I was going to ascend to greater spiritual heights. My energy levels were going to soar and I was going to feel healthier than ever. After all, my guru was 80 years old and arguably in better shape than most 50-year-old men. Time for a fresh start!
Fast forward 6 months:
I was now 8 kilos lighter, 4 times weaker, 3 times poorer and twice as frustrated. Considering back then I couldn’t cook to save my life, nearly everything that I bought, ranging from lentils to chickpeas to fruit, was canned. I was eating a lot of bread because I was incompetent and lazy, and well, not very motivated. When my friends invited me to join them for dinner, they devoured their steaks, pizzas and lobsters, while I nibbled on the half-assed Greek salad – the only plant-based option on the menu – whilst absorbing their stupid vegan jokes with my forced, wooden smile. I felt like an outsider among my own people. Like a rooster among vultures – I wasn't myself.
I kept eating the same things daily: cereal and rice milk for breakfast, boiled sweet potatoes or pasta for lunch, either a soup or can of chickpeas, or carrots dipped in hummus for dinner. That’s it, really. The same sh*t every day. While my brother was demolishing lasagne, chicken parmigiana, steaks, cakes and ribs, I was eating my canned chickpeas with a fragile sense of pride.
Oh, and around that time, my basketball team dropped me because I was getting pushed around too much. I wasn’t my aggressive, feisty self and I lacked the energy required to perform.
I wasn’t happy. I was bored. I wasn’t seeing the results the guru had promised and truth is, I hardly understood why I was REALLY doing it. A few weeks later, I was walking down a famous shopping strip with my brother and he asked if we could stop by the butcher on the way to the car. As we stepped into the lifeless murder room, I could smell the kabana’s prominent aroma. It was as if the scent was saying “give up”.
And sadly, I complied. I gave in to the evil smell of the kabana and on that day, I retreated and slithered back into eating meat. And now, when I think of it, I can see why ‘old me’ gave up so easily. A mere 6 months of being vegan. That’s nothing. You can’t even have a baby in that time. But I know why. It all makes sense now. I had no purpose. I didn’t fully understand and appreciate the WHY. I just jumped straight into it without understanding veganism. It’s the equivalent of going to war without understanding who you’re fighting. Just grab a sword and jump into the battlefield. Of course, you’re going to die; you’re fighting with no purpose. On top of that, I was alone. I had no vegan friends. No vegan mentor I could call to ask a random question. No vegan Facebook groups to seek encouragement from – nothing. I was going to war without any ambition, devoid of purpose, AND all on my own. No plan of attack. No support crew or loyal comrade to have my back. I was doomed.
Fast forward to 2017:
As I’m writing this, I’m part of 10 vegan related Facebook groups, with which I interact regularly, and from whom I frequently seek guidance. 2 of my close friends and several other acquaintances are vegan, and half a dozen are vegetarian. Documentaries such as Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Earthlings have given me a renewed sense of purpose. Breakfast, lunch and dinner have become my favorite parts of the day (especially smashed Avocado for breakfast). My friends still throw cheeky remarks my way, but not as much, because I now laugh with them. Being Jewish, I have always understood the value of knowing how to take a joke and have learned to laugh at myself. Taking things personally and being angry is not how you live a fulfilling life. Words are meaningless. Some of my friends are now joining me to delicious vegan eateries (such as Matcha Mylkbar), asking questions about veganism, and even 'joking' about giving veganism a shot (hey, it’s a start). I now have structure and I’m happy with my life. Now, THAT is how you become vegan. And you know what? The plant-based world is only going to grow stronger. Not just for single vegans struggling in the vegan dating scene, but for all vegans – especially those merely seeking a supportive friend.
Vegr Contributor, Actor, Entrepreneur.
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