3 Reasons It’s Hard Being Vegan

“It’s expensive.”

“My family isn’t supportive.”

“I can’t get the nutrients I need to meet my fitness goals.”

“I can’t eat anything.”

“The jokes and public ridicule never stop.”

“My husband only eats meals with meat.”

“I crave animal products all the time.”

NONE OF THOSE ARE THEM.

Do you notice any vegans complaining about these things? No – not anyone who commits to a vegan lifestyle in full for a time period long enough to reap the benefits. Why is that? Because these are actually excuses or ideas perpetuated by dominant culture, and by people who aren’t vegan. These may be occasional annoyances for vegans, but things that are truly, actually hard? No. They’re reasons people give themselves to not go vegan, because if you’ve never done it, how would you know what’s hard about it? The interesting thing about choosing to omit as much harm as possible from your life is that your perspective on what is “hard” drastically changes, because your priorities and the way that you view the world shifts dramatically. Let me explain.

1) Dominant culture assumes that vegans think we’re superior to everyone. That we’re “preachy” and believe that our moral framework is the only one that matters. The hard part about that: We are vegan because we DO NOT believe that we’re superior to anyone. Illegitimizing and silencing social movements is the norm, therefore dominant culture and what is accepted as truth is what takes on an actual role of superior “knowledge.” We are actually challenging that superiority with a different framework.

The idea that humans are the superior species is rooted in religion and history (patriarchy and white supremacy) and science has been used to justify colonization and destruction of our planet based on this assumption. Animals are here for us, not with us, and therefore we should dominate them and consequently dominate nature and the earth. Even so, throughout history only the most privileged groups of humans have truly benefited from this thinking. From my experience, even the vegans who stop eating animals for health or environmental reasons eventually conclude that we are not superior to all the other souls on this planet, we were just lucky enough to be born into the body of the species that happens to be on the top of the food chain for this very short blip in time. But the universe is vast, and to assume my life is more important that anyone else’s is not only foolish, but naive and selfish. The proof is in climate change, preventable disease, species extinction, world hunger, and institutionalized inequality.

Ultimately, I do not think that we can break down systems of power and inequality without realizing that each day, 99% of the population is choosing to dominate and kill other species based on the idea that we are inherently superior. And these choices are not only killing animals, but our earth and ourselves as well.

2) Watching my friends and family members pay to perpetuate a system I strongly want to dismantle is hard.

The closest thing I can compare this experience to is the connection people are now making with “the personal is political.” Whether you choose to admit it or not, the food choices (and basically every choice you make) is a political one. You vote for the world you want to live in every single time you spend money or make a choice. How you live your day-to-day life is your political position whether you’re willing to admit it or not, just by existing and navigating throughout your day.

Some people are beginning to realize this, and it makes it harder to separate our friends and family from their political choices. Rightfully so. It seems that until recently many of us were willing to overlook our loved ones’ behaviors and somehow compartmentalize them into a political box separate from their identity. In my opinion, that is absurd.

Therefore, choosing to be vegan is a political choice. Watching friends and family claim to love animals but then eat and wear them makes no sense. Having those closest to me seem disturbed by violent and horrific factory farming practices pay their hard-earned money to keep these businesses afloat shakes me. Most people claim to be kind and compassionate – in theory we want to do as little harm as possible because we are empathetic beings. But we have separated ourselves from our food production to the extent that our values directly contradict our behaviors. And many of us are complicit to continue down this path of least resistance even though the cost is so high. We’re consuming death, and therefore we’re dying and our planet is dying. It’s impossible for me to accept that once you know these things your behavior wouldn’t change. But most of the time, for most people, it doesn’t.

Accepting that our friends and family are the ones working in direct opposition to our goals and their own best interest (even when most of them know the truth) is hard.

3) Going vegan will cause you to hold yourself at a higher standard of behavior, and therefore recognize that it is your responsibility to challenge this unjust world to help it become better. You have to do this through example, and some are waiting for you to fail. That is hard.

It’s an extremely complex thing to explain, but once you begin to reject violence as normal, everything in your life will change. There is a consciousness shift that occurs once you remove harm from your day to day life that will ripple positivity outward into everything you do. For me, this began with going vegetarian, then vegan, then I began asking myself what other ways I’m contributing to harmfulness in the world. How can I be better? I can shop locally, I can be more mindful of the clothes I buy, I can support companies who value animal and human rights above a larger profit margin. Going vegan influences all of your decisions, and I would argue, only in a positive way. It’s like you’re systematically eliminating the negativity from your life when you stop accepting it and paying for it.

Personally, I’m more motivated to reach fitness goals because I feel more physically capable. I quit drinking alcohol altogether and try to eat less processed foods which has vastly diminished my depression and anxiety. Intellectually, veganism has encouraged me to keep learning. For the first time in years I feel motivated to write so I started this blog and have been freelancing a bit on the side. And ultimately I’m realizing that my purpose is pushing me toward education and activism so I can more formally teach these ideas. And the best part of all these positive changes is that they multiply, and spread from person to person, making my relationships and community better.

Because all of this is so AMAZING and life-changing, vegans want to share it with everyone. And few people are willing to listen, and even fewer people are willing to change. So this can be discouraging, sad, and frustrating. It can be difficult to not feel defeated and depressed because the world is changing slower than we’d like it to. That is hard.

But I come back to that mantra: “Choose your hard.” I’ve chosen truth over convenience, and I believe that is the key to happiness. As Shawn Achor says: “Happiness is striving toward your potential.” Unless you’re willing to face these truths, I don’t believe you can achieve your potential as someone who can enact change outside of yourself to make the world better. Veganism helps to widen your lens outside of your own selfish ego and personal needs to recognize knowledge is peace and that these issues are much larger than ourselves.

The “hard” things in my life now stem from a place of compassion, kindness, and positive social change.

New Goals & My Life’s Purpose

Everybody Loves Raymond is one of my favorite shows. There’s an episode where Ray decides that there must be more to life than he currently has: A successful career, a loving family, a nice home, a retirement plan. His wife Debra confronts this idea with a response like: “Maybe you feel like there’s nothing left to achieve because you have everything you’ve always wanted.” Basically, you have everything; stop complaining. This throws Ray into somewhat of an existential crisis, unsure if his current routine will fulfill him for the rest of his years. He’s only in his early forties from what I can tell and the thought of there being nothing left to achieve makes life seem repetitious and somewhat pointless. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it privilege – sometimes I think we should acknowledge those feelings as subtle encouragement from ourselves (and the universe, if you’re into that) to pursue things that we’re drawn to, even if we’re unsure the reason. Because there is usually a big reason.

The idea that because we have reached a certain pinnacle of “success” we will be happy or fulfilled is completely false. Success is arbitrary and fluid. We’ve let others define what success means for us. Research has found that external conditions have almost nothing to do with internal happiness. Getting that job may cause us to experience temporary joy but does not predict long-term happiness. Why? Because there is more to being human than getting a promotion and making more money, but that’s what we’ve been taught to strive for.

This brings up the dilemma that I’ve been pondering recently. Can I simultaneously have gratitude and live with happiness in the moment while recognizing that I need more out of this life? While acknowledging that what I am currently doing is not fulfilling my purpose?

Five short years ago I was in the darkest place that I’ve ever been. Depressed, anxious, sad. I had lost my job and a person very important to me has unexpectedly died. But now I truly believe that without losing what I thought was everything, I wouldn’t have felt free to do anything I wanted to. Which brings me to my current life that I would’ve never had, had things not fallen completely apart.

Recently I’ve started to wonder if the life that I’m living now is the facilitator instead of the end-all be-all. I have my amazing husband, my dogs, my business, my awesome sister and supportive clients because I’ve really worked hard and changed my habits to create this life. Because I currently have certain systems in place, I am now able to pursue things elsewhere that are calling me, and that have been quietly pushing me to them since I can remember. But I also recognize how temporary everything in life is, so I struggle to find the balance to enjoy where I currently am without thinking of the future all the time. I always thought that once I had worked hard enough to create this life I envisioned, I’d be content to coast – shockingly I’m finding this not to be the case. (That is sarcasm, for those of you that may not know me in person.) Coasting is okay temporarily, but I know that for me to feel fulfilled I need to contribute to my community, and to making the world a better place to live in. I’m realizing that I didn’t go vegetarian almost half my life ago on accident, my journalism degree wasn’t an arbitrary choice. I didn’t lose my job for no reason. I believe all these events were pushing me toward my true purpose. I’m realizing that perhaps turning one of my talents (makeup) into a full time successful career path is not my life’s dream and purpose, but because of it, I can pursue whatever my true purpose is. It’s confusing and difficult to face that. But for me, even writing the words “makeup is my passion” seems silly to me. Because it’s not, and I’d be lying to everyone if I said it was.

Working with amazing women who contribute to our community and world is one of my passions, helping women to feel valued is one of my passions, making deep and lasting connections is one of my passions. Contributing to making my community and world better is one of my passions. Each connection ripples out to create positive change and mutual support for us all. I feel like Two Beauties is a practical application of those passions meeting in one location. With beauty being the initial purpose that brought us together, but over the years meaningful relationships make those connections last. This whole time I’ve thought being a successful beauty professional was my end-goal, and now I’m realizing it’s not. But that doesn’t make me love it any less. After thinking this over for a long time now, I’m realizing it makes me love it even more. Because I realize how special and rare it is. How privileged I am to have created it with everyone else’s support. And how temporary all things in life are. So it encourages me to pour more heart into it. Isn’t that weird? When I initially began reflecting, I thought if I admitted these things to myself, it would influence me to put less of myself into my business, but it encourages me to do the opposite, because at the end of the day it isn’t really all about beauty, is it?

My current conclusion: You can have great gratitude and live in happiness each day even if you are pursuing new goals and dreams. As long as you’re not chasing them out of unhappiness. Why do we feel like we need to achieve something and always move on? Or correct our temporary problems by changing the scenery? Or think the next thing will be better than the last? Maybe we can add to our lives to make them more full and rich while appreciating what we already have just as much. We can love our lives already, while also adding in more lovely things.

For some reason, I keep visualizing myself in a huge open field of flowers, with a basket full of the ones I’ve already picked. Instead of dumping them out to find “new, better ones,” I’ve decided to add different ones that are just as beautiful, each one complimenting the last, until the bunch is overflowing.

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As part of this process, I’ve decided to say yes to things that make me feel uncomfortable, but that give me that gut feeling of pursuing my purpose. This is my first published article since college and my first freelance writing job ever. I have so much gratitude for the oppurtunity. It’s amazing how a little 250-word article in a local magazine can light me up and encourage me to ask these questions about my life. Being Vegan and using my writing to inform and inspire people to pursue it is what drives me, but it’s taken a long time for me to really figure that out. And I know this is only the beginning for me.

Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Edition: May 2019
Sensi Magazine, Emerald Triangle Edition: May 2019

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Check out the full issue at:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/document.issuu.com/190430165321-4dfd0e4d73e63dadcf57b1f32e9d7e1d/original.file?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIATDDRE5J76XO2TL4J&Expires=1556989386&Signature=J02FTsS40mqWz2vk7%2B6VTop70GQ%3D

Tattoo Stories

I went to my first tattoo appointment about four years ago, alone. I felt like I was being unreasonably impulsive to get it when Kanan was out of town working even though I had a consultation prior, and had been mulling over one of the ideas since I was sixteen years old. At this point I figured it was now or never, but for some reason I felt irresponsible, like a teenager making a choice they can’t take back. But if I’d had the idea for a decade, it probably wasn’t going to change. I had booked out months in advance for the artist’s soonest availability and he called me with a cancellation. Honestly, I’m not the fondest of needles but at this point I was so ready for new beginnings it didn’t matter to me. I had convinced myself that whatever pain I’d feel could only be a significant improvement over the last few years.

I had the idea to get the words “Constructive Deconstruction” tattooed on the inside of my left arm the first time I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, about ten years prior. In my previous post Why I’m Vegan Part 1 I go into detail about how the book influenced me to research factory farming and animal welfare, ultimately resulting in me becoming a vegetarian, and years later, a vegan. It had changed my life significantly when I was just sixteen years old, the protagonist’s mantra, the thread that tied the story together: Tear it down to rebuild. Constructive Deconstruction. If that idea made sense to me then, it’s crystal clear now.

Fast forward to college. I was taking one of my many Women’s Studies classes and we were assigned an essay by Audre Lorde. Her paper Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference would drive the “Constructive Deconstruction” point home with a intersectional feminist perspective so powerful, I took it as a sign that I had to carry those words with me permanently.

“The future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference. The old definitions have not served us, nor the earth that supports us. The old patterns, no matter how cleverly rearranged to imitate progress, still condemn us to cosmetically altered repetitions, of the same old exchanges, the same old guilt, hatred, recrimination, lamentation, and suspicion.

For we have, built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression, and these must be altered at the same time as we alter the living conditions which are a result of those structures. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

It gives me chills to this day even though now I have all but memorized it.

That first tattoo will always be the most deeply meaningful to me – it has become the mantra for my own life, giving me conviction to push forward and pave my own path through the pieces. Knowing that real change grows out of complete deconstruction gives me power. Knowing that I do not want to reform, and that I do not define the master’s house as my only source of support empowers me still.

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On that same day I got another tattoo that I believe is the counterpart to the constructive deconstruction idea: “Give me a reason to care, I’ll sing along forever.” A Bouncing Souls lyrics from their song Sing Along Forever on their 2003 album Anchors Aweigh. The script is my Grandma Brown’s handwriting, pulled, pieced together and traced from birthday cards and book inscriptions. She always encouraged me to read and learn, to do my own research and refuse to believe anything just because it was told to me. So I made a deal with myself. If I’m going to try to live a progressive life, if I’m going to tear things down to rebuild, I’m going to be open to the truth. I’m going to be willing to learn painful things and to relearn uncomfortable realities. I’m going to change the way I live when I learn my privilege. I’ll try my best to know better and actually do better. And if you give me that reason to care, I’ll make it one of my life’s goals to sing about it forever. Because what are ideas without action?

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I got my next tattoo a couple of years later on what I now call my “vegan arm.” I mean, my whole body is vegan, but my left arm is just more vocal about it. (Ha. Ha.) I essentially entrusted my new tattoo artist to create a half cow, half dog portrait with the words “Have courage and be kind” framing their sweet faces. And the work she did is perfection. We used a picture of a beautiful cow I found online, and a picture of my adorable border collie Moose. Connected with a flower crown, but split down the center, it’s meant to represent the idea that we’re all in this together, and we all have a responsibility to each other on this planet. Everyone’s soul matters, and the value that humans place on life is arbitrary and ignorant. I believe that everyone should have the right to their own life, and it shouldn’t be our choice to take it, no matter the species – they are a someone. The ironic part about this is that animals know this already, and they should be our teachers. They know how to be kind, and to only take life when necessary. It’s us humans that can’t figure that out.

I used the quote “Have courage and be kind” because it’s from one of my most favorite Disney movies: Cinderella. The remake. Her mother gives Cinderella this last bit of advice to her before she dies, and to me it’s simple but so complex. It’s something that I need to be reminded of daily, because having courage is only half of the equation. Finding a way to be kind in this life, to me, is the hard part. Not letting the world harden you as you discover inequalities and injustices, but being wise enough to push forward toward change with kindness in your heart and the belief that the world can be better. Hope. Knowing that kindness begets kindness, but you must have the courage to speak up and work toward change.

There’s a scene in the movie where the prince is hunting a stag and stumbles upon Cinderella on her horse in the woods.

Cinderella: “What’s he [the stag] ever done to you that you should chase him about?”

Prince: “I must confess I’ve never met him before. He is a friend of yours?”

Cinderella: “An acquaintance. We met just now. I looked into his eyes, and he looked into mine and I just felt that he had a great deal left to do with his life, that’s all… Please don’t let them hurt him.”

Prince: “But we’re hunting, see it’s how it’s done.”

Cinderella: “Just because it’s what’s done doesn’t mean it’s what should be done.”

She shifts his thinking of the stag as a thing, to a someone. With kindness. To me, there’s nothing better than working toward that balance.

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The most recent tattoo I have also has a complex story. In 2012, Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Against Me! interviewed for Rolling Stone Magazine, explaining she was transgender. I kept the magazine because it was revolutionary at the time and to me, she was so brave to announce to the world that she would be identifying as a woman moving forward. I also thought it was great journalism.

Over the years I’ve gone to a few of their amazing concerts, but actually had the opportunity to meet her in person at Humboldt State University at a small acoustic show she played for around $20 a ticket to promote her book Tranny. Which is amazing. I brought my magazine from years prior that I dug out from under a million books and papers, with the off chance she might sign it for me. And she did, with one of my favorite lyrics: “There is an ocean in my soul where the waters do not curve.” I had my new tattoo artist place this on the back of my arm, opposite my Bouncing Soul’s lyric on what I now call my “punk rock arm.”

To me, the song The Ocean represents the undying persistence to discover your true self. It represents the not-giving-up during the tumultuous repetition of life that attempts to strip you of yourself, but in doing so makes you more authentically you if you let it. It’s about that night at their concert playing The Ocean when my sister and I knew it was that exact moment where the crowd would move from jumping in symbiotic unison to violently tearing through each other in an instant, so in a half second we grabbed each others hands and held on tight. It’s the strongest and the calmest. It’s the most volatile and yet the most flexible. The ocean grounds itself around whatever obstacles appear, while ultimately being uncontrolled.

“There is an ocean in my soul, where the waters do not curve.”

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Tattoos 1 & 2 by Henry at Sailor’s Grave Tattoo, Eureka CA

Tattoos 3 & 4 by Stacey at Seven Stars Tattoo, Eureka CA