Over the years, I have basically heard it all from everyone and their mother. From the confusion to the ignorant comments, to the lack of understanding to finally just accepting I am not going to conform to the norm. It was not a secret growing up I struggled internally with eating meat. Every single-family event and gatherings included meat. They literally still do. The only vegetarian in my huge family was my mother. When everyone else in your family eats meat, you think it’s okay, because they are family. From society, I heard it over and over again, that meat is good for you because that’s where you get your protein and all your other nutrients from.
Well, I was 16 when I finally decided enough is enough.
In the beginning, it was definitely tough. I used to get my lunch from school, but then I couldn’t because there was nothing for me to eat there besides pizza on Fridays. I remember buying my first Vera Bradly item that year. It was a lunch bag. I started to pack my lunch and continued to pack my lunch for the next two years in high school. To this day I still have that bag, even though it’s been through so much I just refuse to part ways with it. It just holds such significance to me because it was my way of finally taking action and saying, okay I want to be a vegetarian, so taking lunch to school every day is how I am going to start.
It was especially hard at 16 when it was not as common to be vegetarian, and it got even worse in college because of the lack of options. The options ranging from a salad to a veggie sandwich at Quiznos every other day. The first two years I lived on campus and I had a dining plan, which allowed me to eat anywhere on campus. So, I made it into a game to find where and what I can eat. This past year and a half have been a lot easier since I live off-campus now and cook my own meals. It’s always fun telling new friends I am vegetarian, and then playing 20 questions with them. Especially out here in west Texas, where beef is life.
You would think as I got older the questions would decrease, especially from close friends and family members, but no. I still get asked, "Don't you miss it?" No.
"Isn't it expensive to eat as a vegetarian?"Actually it's cheaper
"What's the point?" Why don't you tell me whats the point of eating meat?
"Don't you miss bacon?" Haha no. Do you know how its made and where it comes from?
And the list goes on.
I am not even joking when I say, I had a cousin ask me this past month, “oh you’re still a vegetarian?” Yeah, buddy I still am. What did you think that I was going to stop after one year, three years, SIX YEARS? Being a vegetarian is NOT A PHASE. It’s a lifestyle. I think that people have a hard time grasping that. Just like you choose to eat meat, I choose not to eat it. It is literally as simple as that. I didn’t do this because I wanted to try out a new fade or a diet. I did not do it to lose weight, to gain popularity, to be like my mom, etc. I did it for ME, and I did it for my love of animals and this earth. I hated stuffing my face with chicken and then crying about how much I love animals. There are days when I have come home hungry because there was nothing to eat at a party, family event, restaurant, etc. So, you know what I did, I started to eat before I went to any social event. I have learned it to be one of the easiest ways to combat that issue instead of causing a scene. There are times when my extended family or friends will say well we can’t go to that burger joint because Gabby can’t eat there. No buddy Y'all can go, and I will sit there and eat my fries and milkshake. My way of living is not supposed to be a burden to anyone. You make it into a burden because YOU decided it is one. I can go to any restaurant and order at least one thing off the menu if not more.
So, stop using me as your scapegoat.
My Mom. I do not think I could have dealt with all the questions, the hate, the misunderstanding, the constant pressure of friends and family telling me how "easy" my life would be if I started eating meat again. The constant strain from my extended family, who would make me feel like I am an outcast for making this choice. For not being like them. For not being "normal". I do not how I would have made it all these years, especially as a young 16-year-old if it wasn't for my Mom. So Mom, Thank you.
All that being said, I absolutely without a doubt love being a vegetarian, and my goal in life is to become a full-fledged vegan. I do not regret my choice for a minute. I like a good challenge, and being a vegetarian in a world where everyone thinks eating meat is the only way to get bloody protein is one of the best, and yet hardest challenges I face every single day.
PS: this not an article shaming meat-eaters. It shaming every single person who refuses to accept another human being living a different lifestyle from theirs(: