With a complete circumnavigation of the globe upon my return to the US, I feel in other ways I have also come full circle, returning back to the place I was before, but with a different lens. Many of the things that used to frustrate me before I left no longer do. Politics for instance. I remember writing opinion columns during my college years about the Bush administration in a very conservative part of the mid-west. I thought I was a sane voice amongst the disenfranchised. I no longer care so much, or feel the desire to get into political arguments. Open discussions are one thing, but most of the political climate is still rooted in the polarizing, simplifying, and misrepresenting of very complex issues. So I keep my mouth shut.
The other largest change in my lifestyle has been my introduction to being a vegan in the US. My change to a vegetarian diet was largely based on the lack of meat in the village where I was living, as well as a moral issue with slaughtering. I watched friends take the goat out back, and cut away without a blink. It catapulted me back to when I was 10 years old, fly-fishing in the mountains with my family, and not wanting to kill or clean my own fish. Or in college during my developmental biology lab when my professor handed out live, jumping frogs on the table in front of us, with a handout that described how we would be in charge of taking it's life. The process of pithing a frog involves first cutting off the top of the head, with a scissors going in the mouth, and cutting away up to the eyeballs. Next we were told to insert a long needle between the atlas and axis of the vertebral column, entering the brain stem, breaking up the brain tissue, and getting the frog ready for a dissection. I had a crisis in that lab. I couldn't bring myself to take it's life. And, amongst my fellow lab mates, I tried to contain it for fear of looking like a wimp. Guess I have a problem playing God. The other defining moment was in my first year as a Peace Corps Volunteer when a group of young, non-experienced slaughterers decided to try to kill our own turkey for thanksgiving. Without delving into the gory details, let's just say poor Grandpa Bibi (I made the mistake of naming that turkey) had a rough run-in with a knife. At one point he was running around the front yard with the knife sticking out of his head and blood running down his screeching face.
It was an inevitable route to vegetarianism during those two years in Kerenge, Tanzania, and I felt better about the control I had over what was going into my body, and the connection I had with the rest of the natural world. Aside from that, I also found that I had more energy. I started running again, and found I could go much longer than I ever had before. I never really enjoyed running as a hobby, except for what it did for basketball or soccer; but during my last year in Tz, running was an outlet. I had not fully decided to go vegan after living with Jacob, but I had pretty much adopted veganism out of convenience because we were cooking for both of us. He never pressured or prostelitized, but I did see the benefits from his lifestyle, and thought sincerely about it for myself.
I've had a lot of people ask me about my diet, and most of the questions have been as one person presented it, "so which box do you fit in, environmental reasons, animal rights reasons, religious reasons, or health reasons?" And I'm like, uh, well, actually, kind of, all of those boxes. Is there an "all of the above?"
Sometimes when I try to explain it, I end up sounding discombobulated, and people get really defensive about their diets, and in turn I feel like I have to justify myself. People are free to choose how they live their lives, and I, for one appreciate that right, and wouldn't want to cross that boundary and force my views on another. But this "diet", is actually more than a series of food choices for me, it's become a pillar in my foundation. And a welcome one.
I've had a tumultuous spiritual journey, shunning catholicism at a young age, and then trying to figure out where I fit in the spiritual world after that. After devising my own connoction taking from Christian values and Buddhist principles, I've sort of come to an equilibrium. And being a vegan is a part of that philosophy. I do think we are all connected, not just as humans, and I like to try to be aware of the impact I have on all living things. It's one area I can control, and have a say. Also it provides me with a medium to practice my faith and beliefs, without affecting or hurting others.
So that's my journey to where I am now. V to the egan is where I'm at. Animal free, and happy.