About a year and a half ago, I left the country by myself for the first time ever. I was 24 years old, managing a customer service call center and had been going back and forth between a vegetarian and vegan diet for six years. Feeling very disconnected from myself and the people around me, I jumped at the chance to to spend a month at a rural artist residency in Canada. I intended to spend my time there doing yoga, taking long walks, and dedicating myself to my art, a clean, vegan diet and exploring the depths of my spiritual being. But, as it turned out, I wasn’t really ready for any of that.
I stayed in a renovated farmhouse with four other artists and an adorable little dog. The landscape was breathtaking. Green, open farms with happy animals and flower covered hills that rolled on forever. It was a huge difference from the life I knew in Boston and, as I rode my bike around the small town in my black denim jacket, I felt like an outsider. I had a great time getting to know the people that I shared that space with and a much harder time getting to know myself. The hours I spent alone felt like a spiritual detox. I was scared, emotional, unsure of my path and very, very cruel to myself. I felt off balance. I slept a lot, because I’m the type, and before I knew it I was leaving, and sad to be leaving, and unhappy with what little art I had managed to make.
My happier times (and don’t be mistaken, they were plenty) were spent with my new friends, who I witnessed cook their own meals in the communal kitchen. Simple poached eggs and buttered toast for breakfast (with lots of coffee). Baked salmon with spinach. A gorgeous blueberry cheesecake. And, bacon.
The smell of bacon seemed to filled the home with a kind of familial warmth. It brought quick footsteps across the hardwood floor and exciting, smiling faces to the kitchen. At that time, I thought perhaps the rigidity of my vegan diet was holding me back from enjoying myself. So I ate the bacon.
And then I ate the poutine. And that fall, back in Boston, I put grass fed beef in my homemade chili. For the first time in six years, I ate the turkey at Thanksgiving. I stayed warm through the winter with Vietnamese Pho. But no later than the first signs of spring, a year from my month spent in Canada, something shifted. It started out as a whisper of a thought, the voice of my true conscious, speaking to myself. It said, “I don’t eat meat” as I browsed the menu at a local burger joint. And not long after that, I was saying it out loud.
So here I am, 25 years old, eating a vegan diet and feeling, a least on the subject of food, a little bit truer to myself. My time spent eating meat was important, if only because it put me in touch with my inner voice which I had struggled so hard to find a year earlier.