My first Vegan Summer.

So, this has been a very full summer so far - so full, that I have barely found any time to just be with myself and reflect. But today it's a warm and beautiful July morning, and I've got a hot cup of coffee with almond milk, which means I'm ready to do some major reflection.

If I had a Vegan Summer Playlist, the following would be my greatest hits. So far, in the nine months I've been a vegan, I have had countless experiences pointing me in the direction towards remaining a vegan. I have fallen in love with my cause, and the moments thus far have lined up in a beautiful way to help me define why I intended to practice veganism in the first place.

I will begin my list with a word:

1) Ahimsa: a Sanskrit term meaning to do no harm.

This word has become my guidepost in life. With the addition of this word in my vocabulary, I have finally made a decision about how to answer the question I am always asked: why did you decide to go vegan? From now on, I've decided to say: I've chosen to life a cruelty-free lifestyle, and by eating vegan, I am eating in a way that does no harm to any animals. Before, when asked that question, I would figure my way through it while answering it. I would get defensive, or nervous, or just plain confused as to how I could express verbally this commitment I've chosen for myself. Now, after nine months of being so dedicated to it, the answer is finally clear.
Also, If I'm wondering what to do in any given situation, I try to think - what is the least cruel way to handle this? I've found that Ahimsa can apply past any vegan issue and directly into the everyday dilemmas of my life. To have found a new way to live that challenges me to be as kind as I can is completely refreshing and wonderful. And I have Ahimsa to thank for that.

2) The Farm Sanctuary

Remember when I blogged about getting offered a summer internship with this amazing organization? Well, I had to turn it down. It was one of the saddest days of my entire life. I was sitting at home with so much on my mind - after struggling to make ends meet for months, I had decided to take on two jobs, and after a long while without anything creative, I was finally given the opportunity to work on two amazing theater projects. The time I thought I'd have for the Sanctuary internship was disappearing before my eyes.

But as sad as it was, it made me realize something very important. Jasmin Singer (National Advocacy Organizer for Farm Sanctuary), David Benzaquen (New York Advocacy Organizer), and the people who work to campaign in NYC are some of the hardest working and passionate individuals I have come across. I am in awe of how loyal these people are to their cause - and by continuing to commit to finding a better life for farm animals, they have proven to me how much I need to continue to commit to finding a better life for farm animals. Even if I cannot take on the responsibilities of a Farm Sanctuary intern, I can do as much as possible each day to get the word out about veganism. And this blog could not be a better place to do that.

3) Going on a cruise as a vegan for the first time

What I thought would be a truly difficult task ended up being a whole lot of fun. For four days I was surrounded by more meat than I could possibly handle, and I had to find a way to sift through it all and find vegan options for myself. And this is what I found - beans and rice can be a delicious and simple meal, a sense of humor can help any tricky situation, always bring non-dairy milk along with you (because that is simply not an option on a cruise - yet), and you never know who you are going to meet that will inspire you to continue your vegan journey. For me, it was Mirella, our cruise waitress from Romania.

The entire cruise, Mirella served me dishes I had to make very specific due to my dietary "limitations" (I put this word in quotes, because I really feel it was the cruise food that was limiting), and she always did so with a patient smile. On the final evening of the cruise, Mirella asked me why I didn't eat animal products. I answered with a simple "because I love animals". Her eyes brightened up as she exclaimed "Me too! Me too!". It turned out that Mirella was a vegetarian on her way to trying to go vegan, and she had read the same exact book that changed my life in so many ways - Kathy Freston's "Quantum Wellness". I left the cruise even more dedicated to my cause and realizing how wonderfully small our world really is.

4) My Trip to Vegan Treats

A few months ago, Steve and I made a decision - we would serve one giant vegan cake at our wedding, rather that one cake for him and one vegan cake for me. We rented a zip car and traveled all the way from Brooklyn to Bethlehem, PA, where we would taste samples for our wedding cake at the famous Vegan Treats bakery. We had no idea what was in store for us - pure dessert heaven. Not only were the cake samples unbelievably delicious, but so were the donuts, cheesecakes (!), cinnamon buns, and cupcakes. We took home more sweets than we could handle, and the entire experience showed me how much fun vegan eating can be.

5) Seeing "Food Inc", and Steve taking the "Veg Pledge"

This is my final summer experience so far, and maybe my favorite.

"Food Inc." - if you haven't heard of it already - is a startling and eye-opening new documentary about how the food we eat is made and sold ( As scary as the prospect was, I was ready for the horrific views of the animal slaughterhouse and kill floor. What I wasn't prepared for was to learn that corn is at the core of most foods we eat (and not because it always has been), tomatoes out of season are injected with chemicals to make them red, and low-income households oftentimes face dilemmas such as being forced to choose between buying expensive vegetables and ordering off the Dollar Menu at McDonald's.

All of this made for a great "wake-up call" moment in my life - I already knew I was done with animal products, but now I must also worry that my vegetables are safe. The result? I now buy organic as much as possible, I read ingredients lists and labels like it's my job, and I try not to settle anymore for convenience when it comes to my health.

The result for Steve was much more powerful - he chose to take a 30-Day "Veg Pledge". And after a month of forgoing meat, he's still going strong. Funny story: The other day, a group of his friends were sitting around eating lunch, and one of them jokingly insuated that the meat-free sandwich he was eating was not "man food", to which Steve replied that you don't need to eat meat to be a man. I love this guy. :)

At the end of the day, it's moments like these that I look back on and am truly grateful for having. I don't know why my life directed me this way, but I have chosen to commit as much of myself as possible to living a vegan lifestyle. And after nine months, I am still at it with a vengeance.

I hope everyone has a beautiful, warm, and relaxing last month of summer. Mine will be filled with theater performances, finishing up my summer camp job, more wedding planning, my sis's 21st birthday, and a little bit of vacation if I play my cards right.

And food. Lots of food.


Wait to go Lindsay! Much respect!
Britt said…
Wonderful post! I am not personally a vegan, but I just had to let you know how much I respect how grounded you are in your decision. I think sometimes people make these choices on a whim or without fully understanding things--but your educated passion is refreshing.

I recently found out that I can't eat gluten and it has opened my eyes as well to how unbelievably processed and manipulated so much of our food is today. It's sad and disturbing really. We're so lucky we have such great resources and farmers' markets here in NYC!

All the best to you on your journey!
Lindsay said…
Thanks so much Brittany!! I really appreciate your thoughts and kind words! :)
Erin said…
Wow, I just came across your blog and I am so thrilled! I became a vegan 6 months ago and it's been really hard to stand up for what I believe in when my friends and family are constantly questioning me. That's why I'm prepared to gain more knowledge about why going vegan is important to me and why it can be a great lifestyle change for everyone! Knowledge is power! I plan to continue reading your blog faithfully. You're right, it is a wonderfully small world after all! :D