It’s A Beautiful Constraint, Being Vegan

It’s A Beautiful Constraint, Being Vegan

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The ever-expanding world of plants and the invisible boundaries we keep.

When I was 14 my mom took me to a steakhouse in Buffalo, New York. I remember the waiter bringing out that night's cuts of meat to our table. The beef, pork, and lamb were on a cutting board, wrapped in saran wrap, blood collecting at the bottom as the waiter held up the board for our review. That was the turning point for me. Never ate red meat or pork again and still today, I have zero interest.

It took another 30 years and then, all in one fell swoop, I cut every other animal product from my diet. One day I made the decision that I don’t want chicken anymore, I don’t need cheese or yogurt ever again, and I can live without fish—even though I like the taste. I had a calling of sorts, I don’t mean from Moses or some mystical Indian God, it was a calling from inside me. Enough is enough. 

"The animals need me, the planet needs me, the future generations need me."

I try to promote the vegan concept without being righteous, but also without holding back how I feel and what I know. I don’t push it on people, but I’m also not afraid to engage people in a meaningful dialogue, the same way I might if we supported different sports teams or political candidates. Why not, right? I approach the conversation with curiosity and compassion so I can also understand where they are coming from and hear their point of view.

It’s a beautiful constraint, being vegan. I have tight edges I don’t cross, but those edges are only on two sides of a rectangle, the other two edges, the ends, have no visible end. The world of plants just keeps expanding to me. It might take me five years until I really understand what I can do with just mushrooms and I’m really just learning how creative I can be with beans and other pulses (besides just using them as a side dish or dropping them on top of a salad).

The constraints I’ve put on myself have never limited  my options. Instead, they’ve actually expanded what’s out there.

It’s not always easy and sometimes I slip and eat something I know has butter in it, but I’m extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished. The thing I’m most surprised about is how I’ve impacted others, the non-vegans. I’ve influenced hundreds of people to eat less animal products and maybe a few to stop eating meat altogether. I’ve made a difference, and so when people ask me, “do you feel different since you became vegan? The answer is always, “yes. I feel like a better human being.”

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