For my first Vegan Talk, I thought the best topic would be how and why I went vegan.
It’s kind of a complicated story, and I’ve had a hard time deciding whether or not I wanted to write about it here. It’s not the prettiest journey, and not a very honest one, either. Let me explain.
As you may know, I was not a vegan when I started my vegan company. The reason why I made vegan products and marketed them as such was because I saw (at that time) a distinct lack of choice for vegans in the lip balm area. I have since come to understand that some people would see this as trying to grab “the vegan dollar”, but that really wasn’t my intention. Having said that, it was also never my intention to become a vegan myself.
When you start a new business these days, one of the first things you want to do is establish a social media presence. Within a couple of months of opening my Etsy shop, I had business accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. The latter is where I really call home. Easily 95% of my time on social media is spent on Instagram. Immediately after joining, I made a point to follow lots of vegan accounts to learn about what my target market was into. My timeline was awash with pictures of beautiful fresh fruit platters, decadent vegan burgers and pizzas, and happy healthy people, all alongside memes about animal rights and the environment. To say it was inspiring is a gross understatement.
The person who eventually got me to go vegan was Freelee the Banana Girl. No doubt she is a controversial figure in the vegan community, her YouTube videos bashing celebrities initially repulsed me. To be honest, that particular tactic of spreading awareness still bothers me, but once I was able to look past that and understand the intention behind the negativity, and once I watch enough of her videos about a high-carb vegan diet, and once I watched enough of her videos about the cruelty and environmental destruction of animal agriculture, I was sold. I don’t follow her anymore, but I recognize her as the catalyst to my vegan lifestyle.
On October 8, 2014, I started a plant-based diet. For the next two months, I was committed to veganism, or at least my understanding of what veganism. I knew myself well enough to know that if I told myself I couldn’t have something, it would make me crave it all the more. I remember, when announcing to my family that I was “going vegan”, that I didn’t want to hear anything negative from them if I “wanted a cheeseburger from time to time”. That sounds insane to me now, but the point I was trying to make was that, if I felt pressure from myself or anyone else to absolutely never do something again, I’d crumble and give up entirely. I hate it, but it’s true. But for those first two months, it worked.
I made it through Thanksgiving as a perfect little vegan, but as Christmas approached, I cracked. I thought about all of the traditional Christmas foods my family makes, and I was ridiculously sad at the thought of missing out. Then I had this brilliant idea to “take the holidays off” for one year, and allow myself a final goodbye to all of my favorite foods. Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July… one final taste. In a way, I’m glad I did this. Because it wasn’t worth it. Food doesn’t taste as good when you’ve been made aware of the cruelty involved.
I wish I could say that that’s where the story ends, but it’s not. You see, I kept eating non-vegan food. Not all the time, maybe once or twice a month. If I had a bad day, I’d have a pair of Hostess cupcakes. I remember once or twice having a really bad day and ordering a Wendy’s Baconator and cheese fries. I hated myself for it. I couldn’t understand what possessed me to do it. Then I’d get depressed. And then I’d get a Frosty.
It wasn’t until late 2016 that something finally clicked for me. Obviously I didn’t want these foods anymore. Logically, I didn’t want the cruelty, the cholesterol, the guilt. Subconsciously, I wanted all of that. I’ve talked about my depression and anxiety many times before, but it was the first time I realized that, deep down, my desire to hurt myself was stronger than my desire not to hurt animals. That was a wake-up call. Since January 1, 2017, I have not (intentionally) purchased or consumed any animal products.
Dates don’t matter. What matters is the intent and the improvement in one’s beliefs and heart. When people ask me how long I’ve been vegan, I simply say since 2014. It might not be 100% accurate, but it’s where I started. I’ve come a long way since then.