By Daria Zeoli, Guest Contributor

Life is about choices. Sure, circumstances affect your choices. But so much of who and how you are boils down to who and how you choose to be.

In 2011, I chose to live alone for the first time in my life. I found the perfect apartment on a quiet street in a neighborhood bordering the local park. I chose to rid myself of many possessions I didn’t need anymore. I chose to live with the intent of being a little more eco-conscious.

In 2012, I chose to reach out to KD Traegner about writing for YDV. What an awesome decision – writing about veganism requires me to take a critical look at who I am as a vegan, who we are as a movement, and how we as a culture treat animals. More importantly, this decision has resulted in a strong friendship that I am grateful for each day.

In 2013, I started the year choosing to live fearlessly. Little did I know just how much I would be tested on this front. My father’s liver started failing in February, and the following five months culminated in what I always thought would be one of the most terrifying things I’d ever have to live through: one of my parents dying. This time in our lives was not easy, and it was fraught with frustration, stress and despair. On the morning of Dad’s death, two years ago today, I sat in the visitor’s lounge with a hospital worker. I told her that I always feared this moment, but here it was and I had survived it. We talked about what came next: moving back home.

In September 2013, I made the necessary choice to move in with my mother. Circumstances have prevented her from working and the sheer amount of stuff she and my father had prevented her from moving to my much smaller apartment. And so I said goodbye to two years of solitary living and headed home. I would be lying if I said the past two years have been easy; while my mother and I get along pretty well and our rescue beagle, Millie, is a perfect fit in our family, combining two households and two different lifestyles brings with it challenges.

I am a vegan living with a non-vegan. This means that there are animal products in the fridge and non-vegan products in the house. Combining two households also means that there is a lot of “stuff” – I confess that the pictures for my walls still lay stacked on my coffee table (for which there is no room) under a comforter. Our office has become a “place for [our] stuff” instead of a room where we can work or play. This is a result of choice. I can choose to argue with my mother about getting rid of things and cleaning up, or I can choose to let things lie. For two years, I’ve chosen the latter. What I’ve ceased to realize is that there are other choices.

In 2015, I’ve chosen to let myself fall into a routine that isn’t necessarily healthy for me. I’ve been experiencing activist burnout and anger, and instead of choosing things that would make me feel better, I’ve been stewing in those things. Of course extenuating circumstances impact our lives. Of course the larger aspects of being a single woman in America in the twenty-first century inform my decisions. But the fate of my days is under my control. To spend the them wasting time, to spend them being angry? I should’ve learned what a waste of life that would be watching my father die when he was fifty-nine years old.

I can’t pretend that I’ll never make bad choices again; I’m not perfect. What I can do is tell you that just as by being vegan, I intend to do the least harm possible, I intend to take each day as it comes and to make choices that are worth making.

What choices are you making today, and why? Tell me in the comments!

Photo: Alan Levine