I’m 43 years old, and I have been mostly vegetarian since age 18. At age 36, I finally decided to go vegan. It’s not that I pondered going vegan for 18 years before committing, it’s just that it wasn’t really on my radar. In 2010, seeking answers to health problems, I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. After reading those two books, I finally understood the advantage, and the choice to be vegan became a no-brainer.
I naively thought that once other people heard the same message, they would have the same epiphany. That my friends & family would start asking me lots of questions, like how I was suddenly able to run back to back endurance races without injury or fatigue, or why my skin looked so clear, or how I looked so fit. Instead, they looked at me with concern.
I suspect that many of my friends quietly thought my eating was extreme or disordered, or that I was restricting my food choices because of low self esteem. Quite the opposite, I felt so positive, that I started valuing myself, and didn’t consider the standard American diet worthy of my body anymore. I was addicted to feeling good, and hopeful to spread the message to others whose lives I touched.
But what evolved was more like isolation, like being stranded on a vegan island. (Not that I would complain…I think a fruit farm in Hawaii sounds amazing). I invited a friend to join me at the Woodstock Fruit Festival, an idea which she quickly rejected as the worst idea of a vacation ever. I cooked vegan meals at home, about which my family openly complained. At age 43, countless races & blog posts later, I can honestly say that still none of my close friends are vegan (that I know of).
And neither is my local neighborhood. A quick search of the Happy Cow app reveals that the closest vegan restaurants are not in my zip code. In order to buy groceries, I still have to spend my money at markets carrying meat and animal products. Even my produce delivery service has expanded to offer meat & dairy.
It can feel lonely being vegan, but I encourage you to keep seeking out community. For me, that started online, and eventually led to a visit to the Stanford Inn, a vegan eco-resort in Northern California. I cannot express how positive it felt to hang out with some vegan people for literally the first time in my life, and to not be in the minority. I physically felt that long-held tension melt away, like my insides were finally untwisting and relaxing.
Since that visit, my soul has changed. There is no more wavering in my commitment, no more hiding my dietary preferences from friends, no more bending at social functions, so as to not make waves. I am unabashedly vegan now. I’ve come out of the vegan closet. I’m wearing green more often, in case someone should happen to ask. No, I’m not an angry vegan, I’m still full of vegan love, and I’m ready to be friends with you.