The Life and Times of a Vegan Teen
Veganism is not for the faint of heart. I believe that it takes a special kind of person to make the commitment. From scrutinizing every product label to navigating tense social gatherings; life can best be defined as a struggle for the vegan. To be teenage and vegan is a particularly volatile mix.
I became a vegan as a result of my quest for better health. I was incapacitated by migraines and constant fatigue. The medications I was prescribed only made me feel “out to lunch.” I was curious about why my doctors never talked about curing my headaches, only masking the symptoms. I knew there had to be a better way to cope. I began to exercise and eat right. I transitioned myself to a diet of unprocessed whole foods. I ceased to eat meat, dairy, eggs, wheat, refined grains, or refined sugar. If it came in a cute, brightly-colored package and contained 27 ingredients I refused to eat it. I would opt for an apple instead. Discovering how apples made me feel made such things as Oreos and Fritos much less appealing. Now, two years later, my complexion is amazing. I have nails for the first time in my life, and my eyes are bright. I feel like veganism gave me a new outlook on life. Instead of sleeping all the time due to extreme fatigue, I can do all the things I want to do, such as ride my bike, study, play with my dogs, or read a good book.
When I first became vegan I was unaware of the political and social ramifications of my choice. I just thought that it was a really great, natural way to eat. I couldn’t understand why people looked at me so strangely when I told them about my lifestyle. As I educated myself more and more I started to understand why. I learned about animal welfare issues, the politics of meat and dairy, and experienced first-hand blatant discrimination from others. However, I no longer see myself as standing on the sidelines of my life. Rather I view myself as an active participant whose choices matter. This was the ultimate gift that veganism gave to me.
Unfortunately, those around me have been less than supportive. I would be overwhelmed if it weren’t for the support of my mom who is now almost vegan herself. Teachers have harassed me. Students have tried to make my life miserable. Most look at me like I am a freak. Class parties are tense miserable experiences for me. Even when I bring benign food such as cantaloupe there is always a backlash. I am told that I am a snob just because I won’t eat the processed, death-dealing donuts that my classmates bring by the dozens. The daily comments, condescending looks, and vicious attacks make me think less of people in general. Before I became vegan I suffered under the delusion that I lived in a tolerant society. Who knew that not drinking milk would open me up to so many people’s scorn? Yet I believe that my lifestyle is valid, worthwhile, and necessary. I do not want diabetes when I am middle aged. I want to be running marathons when I am middle aged. Therefore, they can have their donuts and I’ll take my cantaloupe.
I delight in veganism. I am running clean on sprouted grains, raw nuts, tempeh, hummus, and every fruit, vegetable, and seed imaginable. I know I am living the way I want to live for the rest of my life. Maybe I annoy a few people by merely existing but I feel too good to care. And while I have some days where I want to cry at the sheer nastiness of people, I have many more great days cooking my own broccoli for dinner after yoga class.