Striving to be Vegan – A Year has Passed

July 7, 2012 § 6 Comments

It’s been a year since since I undertook my 30 day vegan challenge. A year of amazing explorations in new food groups and tastes have transpired. I’ll write more about my thoughts on the past year later, but today I’m wondering:

Am I vegan?

I don’t know why but I’ve always been into labels and the need to define myself. “Vegan” has been one of the hardest labels to deal with. Vegan denotes a person that excludes animal products and byproducts of any kind from their life. In the beginning, I had successfully cut out all animal products but didn’t dare call myself vegan for quite a while. It just didn’t feel right saying I was vegan when I was driving around in my car with leather seats and wearing leather shoes. Even though I really wanted to be vegan, what was I supposed to do? Buy a new car and throw all my shoes away?

This bothered me for a long time. I remember eating out a few months in and realizing there was fish sauce in my stir fry. I didn’t know when I ordered it and the fact that I’d wavered made me literally sick to my stomach. Here I thought I’d been doing so well! Little slips like this made me frantic and I became that annoying person at the dinner table asking about every single ingredient in a dish.

I recall reading a line in The 30 Day Vegan Challenge where Colleen says something to this extent: The idea is to try and avoid all animal products but also teach others that veganism is attainable and easy. If you’re out at dinner and asking about every ingredient in every menu item, that doesn’t make it look attainable to others.

This offered me some hope. I felt like I didn’t have to be that annoying person at the restaurant anymore. That showing others the ease of trying to be vegan was important and since that day, that’s the philosophy I’ve lived with and got more comfortable in saying “I’m vegan” despite slips here and there.

Last week marked my one year “vegan-versary” as a friend called it. I was overjoyed. I did it. I successfully stuck to it for a year. Yes there had been a few slip ups like the aforementioned stir-fry and probably others I’d not known about. And yes, I’ve knowingly cheated a handful of times, but all in all I’d eaten a vegan diet for a year. I was finally confidant in calling myself vegan.

But today, I’ve taken a 180. I’m a new follower to Choosing Raw. BTW – How I ever went the last year without finding this blog and surviving is beyond me! Gena is a truly gifted writer and I’m always left inspired by her posts. Today I stumbled across this post: “Why going vegan is not a pledge of perfection“. At seeing the title, I think I got a little too excited. Would Gena confirm that I’m vegan and I can be confidant in calling myself that?

She lays out a very compassionate and accepting approach to going vegan and that the fear of slipping or not being 100% perfect is no reason to not try. The comments that followed were diverse and interesting. First off, I’m not alone. There are many people trying to be vegan but slipping occasionally – intentional or not. And there are many comments from true vegans who are models of living a compassionate life 100% of the time who quite strongly (and rightfully) point out, eating a mostly vegan diet but intentionally eating a non-vegan meal on occasion does not make you a vegan.

Over the past few months, I’ve had multiple friends and family members that have watched my journey this past year tell me they are inspired to give this a try in light of how I’ve done. I’ve had many tell me that the fact that I cheat every now and again is OK. It makes me human and again, gives them hope that they could do it too. I recently wrote about this here and the fact that I have the occasional slip up. This is due to a variety of factors. Sometimes, I’m somewhere that I can’t eat vegan, and thus must make the best non-vegan choice possible. Sometimes the allure of food gets the better of me. It is as simple as that. To be clear, I never go to a restaurant with the intention of ordering a non-vegan meal – but on occasion it has happened where I order the fish or eat a bit of cake. Without fail, every time, I wish I would have ordered a vegan meal (or been able to).

In light of my friends support and my good intentions, I’ve been saying proudly “I’m vegan”. But after reading Gena’s inspiring post and then re-reading my post about cheating, guilt overtook me. Had I done the vegan community a disservice? After all this time calling myself vegan and writing about veganism on this blog – am I just a phony?

I don’t know the answer and I’m back to wondering what on earth to call myself. I guess at the end of the day, I’m striving to be vegan. I’m a person that awakes every day with the best intentions to not exploit animals and eat a healthy diet. I have hope that the vegan community isn’t offended by my actions but compassionate towards me and others that are on the same path, faltering here and there. And I’m thankful for people like Gena who are model vegans and inspire me to be better.

What do you think? Do you think these labels are important? Do you consider yourself a vegan?

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§ 6 Responses to Striving to be Vegan – A Year has Passed

  • Michael Q says:

    I don’t think the label matters that much. I call myself a law abiding citizen, but I drive 60mph in a 55mph zone all the time….

  • Debbie says:

    I’m not the spokesperson for vegans or a member of “vegan police” but I am one of those people who since going vegan have not knowingly eaten or purchased anything with animal products that I could avoid. Do I think I am more of a vegan than you? Of course not! We all have our own path to follow and we all have those who inspire us. Some people become vegan because of activists like the Animal Liberation Front, or because of compassionate people like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. And some people need role models like you who are doing their best every day and are strong enough to admit that on rare occasions you chose not to avoid all animal products.

    They say that going vegan saves the lives of 95 animals a year. So maybe you are saving 93. It is still 93 lives and that is something you should be very proud of. So Congratulations on your first year going vegan!

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you Debbie for your support. It means a lot. I remember when I was starting this journey you were leaving me comments and inspiring me! You definitely helped me get started – Thank you!

  • […] I’ve stumbled over the past year and am still trying to find my way, I’m proud of myself for sticking with […]

  • […] I just ask for some vegetables since I didn’t want tofu? I’ve written recently about slipping on my vegan diet and the guilt that I feel […]

  • […] is a big one for me. I’ve talked before about my struggles to be 100% vegan. Sometimes I can get pretty down on myself. But I think there’s a lot of truth in this […]

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