A Fresh Start
By Julia Feliz, Guest Contributor
Week three into my move to Switzerland, and last night, I finally ventured into actually taking part in a group made up almost entirely of non-vegans – by almost entirely I mean that, apart from my partner, I was the only vegan there. Can you guess how nervous I was prior to the meeting? It now seems a bit ridiculous that I was sweating, biting my nails, and worrying about a little get together, which turned out pretty great! I imagined every possible horrid scenario on how I would be rejected as soon as the “V” word came up. I had to ask myself, why was I so anxious? As most vegans are aware of, we are sometimes not well received by non-vegans. Things can get awkward pretty quickly without even having said a word about veganism (Oops! Someone caught a glimpse of my vegan tattoo…I’m out now! Shit. For the millionth time, “I get my protein from….yes, I care about people too….no, I am not crazy…”).
For the last 2 years or so, most of the people I spent time with were all vegan, so I guess I got accustomed to my little bit of vegan paradise. I could eat and say all the vegan things I wanted without repercussion. However, no matter how ideal this setting is or was, it’s not the real world. As an active and very social person, I wanted to reap the benefits of now living in a large city with countless activities calling my name to join in the fun. However, I worried what would happen should my little herbivorous secret get out the first 5 seconds of shaking hands with my new group members.
To my surprise, my veganism didn’t come up (vegan tattoo unnoticed – phew!) and everyone enjoyed their (non-vegan) meal and worked off their non-vegan threads (wool) while I did the vegan version of the same without anyone even noticing (it was a knitting group meeting at a cafe). Success! I entered and left a non-vegan group meeting unscathed and actually smiling from having enjoyed myself. This may sound ridiculous to some, but I am pretty sure there are vegans out there who do or have felt the anxiety that I did prior to venturing out into a potentially very non-vegan environment. I’ve also met vegans that refuse to have anything to do with non-vegans because, perhaps, of how they have been treated by non-vegans in the past. I just want to say – don’t worry! You are not alone. The message here is: give it a chance. It doesn’t have to turn out badly at all.
I’m incredibly proud and passionate about my veganism and will talk anyone’s ear out about veganism if asked about it, so my intention is not to hide my veganism but wait until it comes up in a non-threatening and laid-back way. I’ve come a long way from my first year as a vegan (SO MUCH TO SAY and sadly, not many to listen to my rambles about the someone they were munching on or whose body they were wearing at that moment…) and through many experiences, have found that the best way to be vegan and spread the message is just to be a great example of one. Although this was my first attempt at joining a group where no one knew me and no one even hinted at my veganism, I was happy that it was not the focus of my initial meeting. I got on pretty well with most of the members, and just think how many ridiculous vegan stereotypes will be broken when my fellow group members realize they have been mingling with a vegan all along. I can’t wait. I also can’t wait to join more groups!