A thought sprung into my head the other day while I was chopping up vegetables for dinner. I hadn’t really seen it through to a complete conclusion before I blurted it out, but I chose to engaged in a conversation anyway, which is not my usual way of processing. I’m currently working on getting the thoughts from inside my head to outside without always having to write them down first. That being said, let me tell you all about it with textual communication.
“I think I have figured out a reason why I am so quiet,” I started, immediately stepping in with a defensive, “but I haven’t really thought this through yet, so my ability to communicate it verbally might not be fully formed.”
“That’s fine, just work through it.” I love how supportive my friends are.
I can’t remember the exact words I said out loud, because the swirling vortex that is my brain kind of smushes my inner and outer monologues together (although I can usually remember if I had a conversation out loud of if I just had the conversation in my own head). When you get right down to it, what I have felt, and what has probably had a lot to do with keeping me quiet, is that I fear being ridiculed.
Looking back at my life, this notion would seem so silly to the teenager I used to be. I was never one of the cool kids, and I was perfectly fine with that. I dressed in whatever random clothing I found at the thrift store, or Liquidation World, or from the costume sales of local theatre groups. I have always been an introvert, and was quiet then as well, but I never did it to hid from people. However, somewhere along the way, I guess I got bogged down, starting taking things too seriously, and now I worry about being ridiculed. What is worse is the route of that fear of ridicule is being afraid that other people will realize that I’m not perfect. The worst part of all – I don’t find myself perfect, just the way I am.
The example I brought to light while I was trying to articulate this reason for silence (of which I am sure I have many) was my veganism. I only tend to talk about it when other people are making choices in what to feed me; I will talk about it if asked, but I don’t make a point of talking about it unless someone else has opened up the subject. Earlier this year, I decided I did not agree with how animals are treated, and decided to stop eating them. Since I am allergic to milk, I decided that I would skip being vegetarian and go straight to being vegan. I don’t miss meat at all, and I don’t miss eating eats or cheese (at the time I was still indulging in dairy products occasionally by taking a pill called Lactease, as the allergy was still sort of new and I wasn’t ready to “give up” cheese). I make a controversial exception (at least to vegans) in that I do still eat honey, as we do not torture bees to obtain it, and eat it from ethical sources who treat their bees well. I’m not alone in this view point, and have felt this way since the day I decided I was done with eating animals.
Outside of consideration for their general health, I don’t care what my friends eat. If you want bacon, eat the bacon. I will not be the person to stop other people from eating pancakes. Eat whatever you want, and if I cannot have it, that is fine with me. I’ve had friends be appalled with themselves that they have forgotten that I am now vegan and offered me a slice of their meat-lovers pizza; I didn’t mind at all. I declined, but saw the gesture of politeness and care behind the offer, not a slight against my beliefs. This is my choice, and it should not stop other people from enjoying their eating choices.
The part where my perfectionism comes in an messes everything up is that I do, on occasion, eat items that contain eggs.
The thought of eating an egg – just cracking it into a pan, frying it and having it for breakfast (or breakfast for dinner, which is always a fun treat) – does not appeal to me. However, when the egg is hidden in whatever I am eating (such as the free bagels I was given at work to taste test), I don’t have as strong of a negative reaction when it comes to me eating that item. My mother also makes a fantastic dairy-free Irish Creme for me when I visit in the colder months, but that also has egg. Is this something I am willing to give up? No. I still don’t agree with how eggs are obtained, but when it comes down to it – there is a hell of a lot I cannot eat: besides being vegan, which covers my allergies to cow’s milk, goat’s milk and shrimp, I am also allergic to grapefruit, nitrates (a string of preservatives found in many “fake meat” products on the market, such as veggie ground round) and onions. One of my worst nightmares is starving when my only food options come from a convenience store – just try to find something healthy, vegan and free from my allergens in a 7/11!
There comes a point while I am trying to decide what to eat, and trying to be mindful that my choices are hindered by a huge onslaught of allergies, where I am exhausted and just want to be able to eat what is readily available to me. I will not reject a meal made for me with love when someone cooks me pasta, but when I buy pasta, I do purchase an egg-free version that is quite good. When I am a guest, I am grateful for what is shared with me, and eat what I am given unless it is meat or will make me sick.
When my life is getting especially tiring, such as when I am really busy or I get sick, my capacity to take care of myself declines, and with it goes my resolve to not eat hidden egg. So there is a truth of mine. One reason I don’t bring up my veganism is because I am not a perfect vegan. Sure, I do what I can to certain extents, but I know I am not perfect, and I hate advertising that fact. I fear being branded a hypocrite because I am not completely perfect. I also hate when people take stands and condemn others for not conforming to their own chosen life style – and I mean this in terms much more broad than just the vocal section of the vegan crowd who have occasionally been quite judgmental of omnivores. I didn’t become vegan because I thought it would be easy, but because it felt right for me. I don’t want to make my choice more difficult by opening myself up to other people ridiculing my eating habits. Absolutely no person’s eating habits, no matter what classification they subscribe to, are perfect. Nourishment intake is one of the most widely talked about subjects in our culture, with people wanting quick fixes and magical foods to banish all problems – just be good to yourself, do what you can, and realize that “failing” to be perfect does not make you a failure.
I don’t like the thought of having to justify myself. I should not have to justify my choices that do not affect other people. I don’t relish the thought of arguing with anyone over statistics on my choice to be vegan (or anything else). I just want to keep doing what I am doing because I believe that is what I want to do. I don’t want to be worn down by someone else’s need to change my view point, which is another reason I don’t speak up about this particular topic (or any controversial subject, now that I think about it); if someone is interested in a change, let them work through it. I will help them if they ask, but I will not lecture without being invited. I didn’t just choose my life on a whim. I did my research, and I made my choice. I welcome constructive talk on the subject, but shy away from any communication that makes me feel like I should feel shame because what I am doing is wrong, and I don’t want to be forced into a situation where I have to proclaim that I am right.