A few nights ago I was invited to attend a yoga class in Los Angeles. The teacher, and owner of the studio, started class with a mudra, or hand gesture to bring about a certain state of mind. That night’s focus was on change. I could either circle my arms toward me, bringing in unknown change, or I could circle them away from me and project change. But what kind of change was I looking for? Was I even looking for change? Isn’t change inevitable?
I figured I should let change in. I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to make a change. Actually, I didn’t know what I would change. In the past two months I had already changed jobs, changed apartments, changed hair styles, changed cable TV companies, changed passwords, batteries, light bulbs! Did I need more change?
Change can be difficult. When I was 23 I was introduced to PETA. I was given a flier at a rock concert. Turns out, the lead singer was vegan and they were there to support his efforts in spreading the word about cruelty to animals. The next day I swore off meat and lived meat free for 8 years, sans a few fishing trips where I ate what we caught. I didn’t even eat the chickens we raised, even though I knew for a fact they had been treated proper both in life and at death.
When I decided to go vegetarian, I never considered the alienation I would feel from family and friends. Living in the Midwest, meat and potatoes were common dinner time staples. A roast in the Crock Pot, a Sunday ham, and let’s not forget about burgers on the grill. No one knew what to do around me. Where could I go out to eat? What if I just picked the chicken chunks out of the soup? I won’t even mention the issues at Thanksgiving.
Despite my constant reassurance that I would go to any restaurant, or eat at any home, I could never escape the feeling of being different. I brought my own “meat” to eat at family gatherings, ate salad and baked potatoes at steak houses, and was constantly answering questions about why. Why would I not eat meat?
I won’t lie and say it was an easy journey. I have yet to meet someone who likes to be alienated. As humans, we want to be accepted for who we are, even if we don’t always know who we want to be. Through the course of those 8 years I was reminded to live my life for me. I could have easily given in and helped myself to a bowl of meaty chili. It probably would have been easier. But if we all did what everyone else is doing, then we couldn’t celebrate our differences. And what a boring world we would live in.
Change can sometimes be hard to accept, especially if you didn’t invite the change into your life. Change is in fact inevitable. But how we react to change and how we view change is important. My family and friends did not like that I had changed my eating habits. I was now different from them and they had no control over my new way of life. I suggested they change to vegetarianism, but that was met with predictable resistance!
In the end, I grew out of caring what they thought. I reminded them that I was still me, but I was just not eating meat, and that I didn’t define myself by my eating habits. Unfortunately, I didn’t inspire a change in any of them, but I did get them to eat more vegetables.
I have since gone back to eating meat. After reading what seems like millions of food labels, I suddenly realized I couldn’t pronounce or even recognize what I was feeding my body. But I still take care of myself and eat locally sourced produce, humanly raised meat and dairy, and try to stay active. At least most of the time. Now, the biggest change is that I’m happy. Still just being me. Whoever I decide to be.