Dear Diary

Okay, so before you click “close window” and write me off forever, hear me out on this one. I’m coming up on my 25th birthday, and for the last year I’ve been in a really strange, unnatural mode of thinking. Essentially, sometime around my birthday last year, I decided to stop caring so much. I decided that I would only look out for myself, that focusing on my career made more sense than focusing on relationships, and that I would do what I wanted when I wanted because I was a strong independent woman.

What I didn’t realize is when you don’t care anymore, nothing really matters all that much.

When August first came around this year, I had a massive wake up call. Why on earth was I actively trying not to care about the things that mean the world to me? I’d lost sight of my morals, my hopes and dreams, and my outlook on love and human connection. I was jaded, tired, and somehow along the way I’d managed to become the sort of cold and detached person that I always swore I’d never ever be. I decided that this month, I was going to get back to my natural state- to caring.

For me, part of “caring” has always meant looking out for the welfare of animals, and doing my best to help out. Growing up I volunteered at the Humane Society, and in more recent years I have fostered dogs for the local rescue where I found my pup Honey. A lesser known fact perhaps is that I’ve been a vegetarian almost my entire life! My parents aren’t big on eating “animals that have families”, so my sister and I grew up never tasting a burger, steak, bacon, or ribs. I ate chicken, turkey, and fish like my parents until my teens, and from that point on I’ve been totally meat-free. In my mind, it just doesn’t make sense that something should have to feel pain, fear, and die for the satisfaction of a meal in my belly, and though I often miss the taste and tradition that comes along with meat, for me the guilt just isn’t worth it.

As much as I’m a really great vegetarian, veganism is a whole other ballgame. A few years ago I took on the challenge of eating animal-product free, and I managed to last almost a whole year before a pint of Ben and Jerry’s half-baked got the best of me. Fast forward a few years, and I’m just as into B&J as ever, plus I’ve developed a pretty serious passion for artisanal cheeses (hello smoked cheddar!), which makes veganism feel more impossible than ever. That said, as much as I’m a huge supporter of small, local, ethical eggs and dairy, there are some facts I have a hard time ignoring as an animal lover, and as I head into a new year, I want to know that I’m doing the most I can to minimize suffering in the world every single day. For example, even on small farms dairy cows are kept pregnant over and over again to continue producing breast milk (just like we would have to be). Their calfs are often taken from them before they even get a chance to feed them a single time, because that milk is to be sold to humans of course, and once separated the babies are locked into confined spaces for a very short time until they can be slaughtered for veal. Until I find a dairy farm that doesn’t subscribe to these practices (I would LOVE suggestions!), I can’t help but feel pretty conflicted when I bite into a slice of brie.

So, I’ve taken the plunge. Starting August 1st I’ve been eating vegan, and though I am certainly not promising to never go back, I’m really loving the effect this decision has had on me and the way I eat already. Instead of dialling up takeout or dousing noodles with butter, cheese and truffle salt every night, I’m actually taking the time to plan meals and get back to cooking again, a passion I’ve totally lost touch with over the past few years. I’m also revisiting some of my favourite vegan baking recipes from my plant-based days, and though I’m a lot more hungry (which I didn’t know was possible to be honest), I’m much happier with what I am choosing to ingest.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favourite vegan tips, tricks, recipes and restaurants, and you can follow along with the hashtag #RAOPgoesVegan. I’d also love to hear some of your suggestions too!