When I set my mind to something, I set my mind to it–period. Most of my important decisions thus far in my life, I’ve made completely on a whim. This is not to say that I’m impulsive, because I certainly find my life lacking in the spontaneity department. But, this doesn’t change the fact that I’ve made some pretty hefty decisions in .0000008 of a second.
College: I almost didn’t go at all. I was dating someone at the time who was older and not enrolled in school, and for some stupid reason I thought I could get by without a higher education. While I may have been able to get by, and this is in no way a monologue on the American education system being not-fucked up, the point is: I am where I am because I went to school. Many kids I went to high school with researched potential colleges, visited the campuses with their parents, and made firm, and difficult, decisions. Not I. I decided one day, hey, maybe I should go to college, applied to two schools–one in my price range and one way out of it–and settled for the state school. Done and done.
And now for a relevant example: vegetarianism. As a high school freshman, while on a roadtrip-style vacation to Florida with my parents, we stopped at a Waffle House or some similarly awful all-night breakfast chain to eat pancakes at 11:00 pm and I sat down at the table and said, hey guys, eggs are kind of gross, right? As they were all eating eggs, they naturally shushed me. Upon arriving home from our vacation, I decided to cut out all meats and (most) eggs. It wasn’t until I was in college that I caved and started eating eggs again. Of course, I still ate eggs when they were baked into something (if a tree falls in the woods…that tree doesn’t have eggs mixed into the batter, right?) but by and large, eggs were something that disgusted me. As did milk. It’s just cheese that I couldn’t give up, so veganism wasn’t something I could wrap my adolescent head around. I was already doing vegetarianism wrong as it was. My immune system was shit and I was never eating nutrient-rich foods.
Fast forward a bit and I made a series of bad life choices and also started eating meat again in college. I hated myself for it. My senior year, I was sitting at Chipotle with my boyfriend with a vegetarian burrito bowl in front of me and I said, hey James, I think I’m going to give up meat again. And I did.
Now I have this new world of veganism staring into my soul. A few days ago I decided to challenge myself and go a day without eating any animal products at all. I succeeded and it felt great. Someone once told me that, by nature, we all grow a little bit more dairy-intolerant as we age–but possibly not to the point where we’d really notice that it’s the dairy that makes us feel sluggish. A vegan coworker told me that if I tried to not eat any dairy for a few days, I’d really notice a difference. Weirdly, I did–but that could just be because I wanted to. The seed was already planted in my brain after all.
The issue I’m having with this is the fear of failure. I hate to fail. Just like I hate when I order food at a restaurant and can taste that there is chickenstock in the rice–it makes me feel like a bad vegetarian, so imagine if I couldn’t live up to my vegan potential. Everywhere you turn, there are vegan police. There are police of just about anything, not just veganism, but the point is–can I live with myself if I let myself down and everybody knows it? I’ve known several vegans who slip into dairy binges and feel awful about themselves, but I wonder if they feel worse because of what they ate, or worse because everyone they tell has something to hold over their heads?
I suppose the point of all of this is that nobody should be afraid to try something new because of failure or rejection. I shouldn’t fear “failing” at veganism. But it’s the thought of “failing” that keeps me from commiting to this and most everything else I have a hard time committing to. This is a flaw in my personality, most certainly, but part of my 2012 is to try to overcome my own high expectations and live fearlessly.
I don’t think I’m going to be labeling myself “vegan” any time soon, but I think this is a theme I’m going to keep coming back to. I want to make better, healthier choices for myself. I need to stop talking and start doing.