Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Twenty Years Vegan: How to Age Without Regret

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I want to write about getting old today. How about that for a great hook? Don’t worry, it all gets better after I get that out of the way.

You see, I just turned 48. Forty-eight, no matter how you try to buff and shine that sucker up, just doesn’t sound dewy and fresh unless we’re talking about giant tortoises, bacterial spores, solar systems or along those lines. When octogenarian millionaires threaten the inheritance of their adult children, the lady friends who have gotten them to take leave of their senses are generally not perky 48-year-olds. So, I am getting old and there’s no way to spin that otherwise.

Bette Davis dryly observed that getting old isn’t for sissies* and for the most part, I am at peace with both aging and not being a sissy. After all, what is the alternative? Being a dead sissy, that’s what. As someone who was always young for my age in terms of maturity, I still feel a little unsteady on my feet sometimes when the reality of my age splashes cold water in my face and – cliché warning, but it’s true - I immediately feel how rapidly the years have whizzed past and it’s like I’ve suddenly been deposited at the end of a time warp or I’ve just gotten off a Tilt-A-Whirl and I need to get readjusted to land because I’ve got the spins. In those moments, as with dizzying carnival rides, the only way to get reoriented is to sit down and breathe between my knees. When I look around and notice how many of my contemporaries now have aged parents and are sorting through and dividing up the acquisitions of a lifetime, at first I always find myself shaking my head, thinking, “Isn’t this for people older than us?” Then, no: This really is us. We were kids yesterday, though, weren’t we?

This is really turning out to be a buzz-kill, isn’t it? I promise, I will get to some more uplifting stuff. The suspense is probably killing you, so I will jump right into it.

On February 1, one exact week after turning 48, I will also mark a much more exciting milestone: My 20th year of living as a vegan. On February 1, 1995, I called my ex-boyfriend (current husband) and said, “John, we should go vegan,” and he said, “Okay,” without even a pause and so over the course of a sometimes-maddeningly imperfect first year, we did just that. Twenty is pretty young but definitely venturing into elder territory for the length of time as a vegan. I can say this for a fact now with twenty years of hindsight at my hind: Going vegan was the very best decision I ever made, right in front of deciding to go out with that smiling guy who wasn’t a jackalope (my ex-boyfriend/current husband). Despite some eye roll-worthy claims to the contrary, veganism will not give you eternal youth but it is a way to become renewed again and again when the hope and promise of our ideals triumph over the defeatism and cold-heartedness of custom.


With twenty years behind me, I can say that the only reason I’d want to live forever is so I could keep doing this work for as long as necessary, which I hope isn’t forever, because it is so damn fulfilling and important. Veganism is not about checking labels, being vigilant and feeling out of touch with the rest of the world (though those things are certainly part of the experience sometimes); it is not about sacrifice, hardship or martyrdom (not even for a moment). If I could get people instead to understand how incredibly empowering it feels to not be owned by corporations, social pressure or habit, I will have done something worthwhile. So I am saying just that – if you’re looking for meaning in your life and a sense of higher purpose, going vegan will do this for you. I feel like I get paid back every single day that I put more distance between the last time I told an animal that a temporary pleasure of mine mattered more than his or her life. Twenty years since the last time I decided that my taste buds were more worthy of being listened to than the cries of another living being in anguish. Twenty years of rejecting the cynical notion that because I am allowed do something, this confers the right to do it. This is an indescribably liberating feeling. At the end of the road, though, it’s not about any of this.









 It’s about him.










 

And her.












And them.


 






And, yes, us too.


What started twenty years ago as a desire to not inflict harm has evolved into my life’s purpose. I have screwed up in many areas of my life but living as a vegan is one thing that I have done right. I wake up with a passion for this work and this deeply-held purpose every single day. Yes, I’m 48 but for the past twenty years, I’ve felt renewed every time I get to say yes to my ideals. This sustains me. I get to help create change from the right side of history. I couldn’t be more honored and grateful for this opportunity I get to enjoy every day of my life. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that it keeps me young but I will say that it keeps me at peace and this is worth everything.

Getting old isn’t for sissies; neither is living our truth but it is more rewarding than anything I know.

*Yes, I understand that the expression “sissy” is problematic. I’ve decided that I don’t care (one of those perks you hear about that comes with age) and you can insert the word you’d prefer.

7 comments:

Vanilla Rose said...

I read that being vegan meant I would produce more fragrant poop. Unfortunately, I don't think that really is the case for anyone.

shelties11 said...

Wonderful and inspiring, as always! Thanks for being you!

Anonymous said...

I hope to stay vegan for the next 50 or more years of my life (now 43).

Have Gone Vegan said...

I went vegan almost seven years ago at the ripe old age of 46 (believe me, once you get a couple of years past fifty you remember 48 as being pretty dewy indeed, snort), and look forward to my 20th vegan anniversary which will dovetail nicely with retirement. From paid work of course, not the more important work of vegan advocacy.

Thanks for the empowering post! :)

R.L. Delight said...

Happy Birthday and congratulations on the milestone! Had to laugh after reading Have Gone Vegan's comment. I too am a couple of years past 50 and think 48 is indeed pretty dewy! :-).
I just celebrated my 7th year as a vegan and am planning a 7th year feast sometime this year. Thanks for a wonderful and inspiring post!

elizabeth rosas bella said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Calendula said...

20 years is a long time.