I haven’t written in a couple weeks, and I want to explain why. I have been struggling lately. I have an anxiety disorder and sometimes it just takes over and I quit things. I could be extremely invested in something and one little comment from someone or one small inconvenience can set me off and I just want to quit. I almost gave up on this blog. I have been met with opposition, criticism and judgement for what I am doing on my sustainability journey. When you do something that is not the social norm, people do not understand it. It can be really hard to express yourself or talk about what you are doing or going through.
I have had people close to me make negative comments about this, saying that I am being crazy or stupid. I have had people try to pressure me into using disposable products, and then tease me when I say that I have an alternative to it. I’ve heard the phrase “well it’s only one ___” so many times and it drives me crazy. Yes it is only one straw, only one plastic fork…but those things add up when the majority of people have that attitude! I have had people who I consider good friends say things to me like “you’ll give up and go back soon enough” or “you won’t be this way forever, everyone quits eventually”. When I try to explain it, people don’t want to listen. They can’t understand if they do not have the passion for the environment that I have. You have to have the drive to do something like this, and see the benefits of it. Making other people see these benefits can be difficult. How does one talk to family and friends about wanting to live a sustainable lifestyle?
The hardest part has been going vegan. I get uncomfortable visiting family and having to explain why I don’t eat most of the food. My family is very set in their ways when it comes to cooking, so I have to bring my own dishes to holidays. I don’t mind doing that, but I feel judged for not eating my mother’s cooking. We grew up eating meat with every meal, and that is how she still cooks, because it is what she likes to eat. I heard something on the Chickpeeps podcast that really resonated with me. A lot of mothers express their love by cooking. They cook for their children and they love to do it, and refusing to eat what they have prepared is extremely hard. My mother is very particular about what she eats and how she cooks and bakes, and as a fellow picky eater I understand that it is hard to accept a change to what you are comfortable doing. I also get self-conscious about not eating at family gatherings because I have struggled with an eating disorder in the past, and therefore I fear that this will just be mistaken for that rather than believing that I want to be environmentally conscious.
Thanks to deciding to go vegan during the pandemic, I have only had the tough experience of going out to eat at a restaurant once. That was an impossible experience, because I went to a restaurant that did not have a single option for me. I ate vegetarian, but had a lot of butter and some cheese and felt really sick afterwards. I wish there was an easier way to make people understand that what I am doing is a good thing. It makes it hard for me to have confidence and feel good about what I am doing when I can’t even eat anything anywhere I go.
I had to stop and focus on my successes. There are tons of obstacles with this experience. Yes, I get looks when I whip out my stainless steel straw at a restaurant. Yes, I get judged for not accepting a piece of birthday cake. Yes, I am aware that using paper plates is easier to clean up after a party but I accept the fact that I will just have to wash more dishes. Yes, bringing my own grocery bags means I don’t want plastic ones, even for fragile items. The truth is, I like living this way. It is actually great for my mental health because I feel happier and more empowered every day. The most important thing you can do is think positively about this journey. Framing everything negatively is so easy and usually an automatic response for me, but I know deep down that small victories will add up into big accomplishments. I have to stop caring if people think I am weird or crazy; the people who truly matter will be supportive- it may just take them some time to understand. I’ve changed a lot in the last few months, but these changes are not only good for the planet…they are good for me too.