Guys, I am celebrating a big anniversary. It’s been ten years! Rather, it’s somewhere around ten years, the exact date is forgotten, since I made the decision kind of rashly and was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. Eventually my family guessed and were just as skeptical and distressed as I’d thought they’d be. But I persevered and here I am, an entire decade later, still a vegetarian.
This might not seem like a big deal to you. But it’s big to me. Except for a few foundational aspects of my life (having the family I have, growing up in the neighborhood I did, being short) nothing has defined me as long as this simple, but strict, dietary choice. I never went to a single school that long, I’ve only been married five short years, I didn’t even make it a decade as a Christian. But I haven’t had a slice of bacon since 2003.
Let me remind you what 2003 was like, because, really, it happened a long time ago. The US created the Department of Homeland Security and Americans unofficial renamed French Fries, “Freedom Fries.” The Space Shuttle Columbia blew up over Texas and California elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governator. President Bush proclaims, “Mission Accomplished.” The fifth Harry Potter book was released, as was “Finding Nemo.” Hurricane Isabel drowns the East Coast and Itunes comes into existence. On a personal scale I had yet to receive a driver’s license, a cell phone, or a kiss.
The reasons I had for initially becoming a vegetarian are slightly different than the reasons I have now. I’m even a little embarrassed to admit how I eventually came to the decision (let’s just say it involved being really “convicted” by St. Augustine and deeming myself more of a spiritual do-gooder than I ever had a right to). What I left off my plate was going to save the world!
Ten years out I think it’s fair to say that that hypothesis was wrong. But I stick with the diet anyway. It’s healthier, for sure, than the Standard American Diet of chicken wings and diet cola. It shrinks my carbon-footprint and my grocery bill. Being vegetarian means I’m less complicit in the mistreatment of animals and of our earth. I love my veggie cookbooks (hey Moosewood!). But to a large extent I stay vegetarian because that’s who I am. So many of my identifiers have had to change over my life or mis-fit me for some other reason that I’ve clung to this one label that is perfectly true. I don’t eat meat. I don’t cheat, ever. In fact, I have nightmares about cheating and eating meat. Absolutely no one cares if I stay a vegetarian; I answer only to myself. But isn’t that the best reason to keep to the straight and narrow? Out of respect to who I am in the long term I make decisions to stay veggie every time I open the fridge or a menu, every time I walk into the grocery store or through a buffet line.
Maybe you think that’s silly. That’s fine. But me and my tofu are going to hit the town and celebrate our ten happy years together!