The Necessity of Compassion

Today in my college public speaking class, I gave a speech on veganism, and how the consumption of meat, dairy, and other animal products is absolutely devastating for the health of our Earth, the animals, and even our own physical health.

I was given feedback that told me to look into “humane animal agriculture.” And while I appreciate the effort to not torture animals, it does not negate the fact that a living, sentient being will ultimately die for someone’s taste buds.

I understand that animal products are engrained in today’s culture. However, its prevalence does not mean that it is ethical or moral; nor does it mean that its existence is justified. Being deemed socially acceptable does not make it correct.

If you apply that logic, it means that all of history is without flaws. It implies that nothing in this world has ever required reform or revolution.

Not too long ago, it was considered universally acceptable to keep slaves, to oppress women, and homosexuals. And while I know these issues are still far from being resolved, I applaud the effort that has been applied to each of these issues. Despite having miles to go, there has been commendable progress.

Just because the issue may never be entirely resolved, nor will the change happen as quickly as we would like, it does not negate the fact that we should not still try.

For if we live life in the shade of stagnancy, we live a life of ignorance. And while hiding from the truth can be more comfortable, it inhibits the opportunity to improve.

Life, as we know it, is a progression. We are meant to strive, to learn, to grow, and to change. Nothing ever remains static.

People tell me not to take resistance to the movement of veganism so personally.

But I do take it personally.

While I cannot fall apart with every obstacle and or whenever someone tells me being vegan is silly, we must acknowledge that despite any of our own personal interests and desires, there will always be fact. The truth will always remain.

Let us be aware that our Earth, our home, is at stake. Sentient creatures are exploited and murdered. The earth needs more compassion, and more empathy. We need to try harder to exhibit behaviors that radiate kindness in all aspects of life, not just in regards to animals, but to people, to all forms of life.

Essentially, we need to have genuine care for things other than our own selves.

Maybe that makes me radical, maybe that makes me too sensitive. But I stand by my beliefs with an unshaken conviction.

And perhaps you think animals are only animals. But once you choose a life of kindness towards the smallest creatures, that kindness manifests into something indiscriminate. You will find that there is kindness in your heart for all beings.

With a mindset that emphasizes love, life will become a game where the cards are not always stacked against us. There will be harmony instead of competition. We will value differences and live with a gentle, underlying sense of content.

I am not saying veganism equates to perfection.

No, rather, I am saying it fosters acceptance. And in that acceptance, we can find faith, even in things unknown. In times of trial, there will be a strong inner peace to push us through. We will almost always fail, but that does not infinitely destroy the opportunity to succeed.

So, do not be complacent. Do not swallow passion or feel ashamed of doing what is humane and right. Have undeniable empathy for others, and do not apologize for intense sensitivity.

To be sensitive is to be aware. Heighten your awareness, and embrace vulnerability as a bridge to progress. And while your efforts might not be rewarded immediately, have patience. There will always be intense gratification in holding strong to your convictions.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Vegan Life in the UVM Dining Hall

So now that I am a bit more acclimated to college life, I thought I’d let you in on how I navigate the dining halls here at UVM 🙂

First and foremost, I’d like to say that the University of Vermont is one of the most vegan-friendly campuses that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. A lot of people in Vermont are super into sustainable agriculture, proper nutrition, and staying active.

I am also in a Wellness dorm that encompasses the pillars of fitness, nutrition, and mentorship.

What does that mean for me?

Well, for starters, it means there are a lot of awesome people here! But, it also means that everyone understands the importance of nourishing their body, while also being ethical about doing so.

While not everyone is vegan, the campus is super tolerant of all diets. This includes having allergen-free zones, vegan and vegetarian options, as well as healthy, mindful options for all diets.

UVM is also a proponent of the Real Food Challenge, which means that 20% of the food served is considered to have minimal environmental impacts, is of a local source, and of fair trade. UVM prides itself on being ethical and sustainable in as many outlets as possible.

And, as I’m sure you’re all wondering…how does the food taste?

GOOD!

Living in the Wellness dorm means that I have a dining hall within my building. This specific dining hall offers a variety of mindful options to encourage healthy eating patterns.

Each day there has been a variety of grains, fruits, veggies, tofus, veggie burgers, soups, and oats to satisfy any vegan’s hunger! Here are a few pictures of the foods I’ve been eating:

img_4242
Below the abundance of squash, zucchini, beets, and brussels sprouts, is a grain called farro! I tried it for the first time, and it was delicious…I guess college really is for trying new things!

Is Life Really in Our Control?

I’m finally out of the period where coming to college felt like sleep away summer camp…

As I’m starting to adjust to college life, and being away from home, the more real it seems. I am beginning this new chapter of my life, and it is both incredibly scary yet thrilling at the same time! I’ve never been good with change, and I think that’s because I like to be in control.

But you know what I’m learning?

The only thing that we can control is how we perceive the world, our work ethic and drive, and how we respond to experiences in our lives.

As cliche as it may sound, life is not a straight pathway. We must accept detours with faith in both ourselves, and fate. There will be times of bad, but there will always be times of good to follow.

I used to thrive on control, as evident in my eating disorder. It gave me an excuse to hide behind all my insecurities. And although it doesn’t make sense now, at the time, I clung to that ounce of control I had because it made me feel like I had some worth.

If people didn’t think I was pretty, smart, athletic, or interesting enough, at least I could be skinny.

At least I could sustain myself on 800 calories a day.

And I feel silly admitting this to you, but this needs to be said. That mindset is destructive. It made me small, and I am not talking about jean sizes or the number on the scale.

I am talking about self worth. I became a small person; my entire existence was small. I chose to limit myself, and with that, came extreme unhappiness.

While I restricted every bite, every calorie, I didn’t just compromise my physical health (which I surely did), I also compromised my mental health.

I developed social anxiety, and I didn’t want to leave my house. I hated eating in front of others. I didn’t want to meet new people. I didn’t want to try new things. I lived in fear.

All I wanted was a smaller stomach, bonier hips, a thinner face. I ate minimally. I exercised as much as my frail self could tolerate. I barely slept.

Of course I didn’t acknowledge any of this in the midst of my eating disorder, and I hadn’t fully realized how far I had plummeted into such a dark abyss until I was in recovery.

With the help of my family and therapy, I started to realize that fearing foods wasn’t normal. And no, it’s not okay to jam my fingers down your throat to get rid of my meal. I shouldn’t feel an adrenaline rush every time I have to raise my hand in class.

I didn’t have to be irritable all the time, and the feeling of hunger was not a measure of success. I didn’t have to push my friends and parents away. I found that guys do not find starving myself attractive.

So what’s the point? What did I get out of both having and recovering from an eating disorder?

The point is that we can only control so much. And what we can control, often makes a world of difference.

I’ve come to learn that life is sometimes messy. But in the midst of chaos, it can also be wonderful.

You can control certain aspects of your life. Choose to work hard. Choose to be kind. Choose to try new things. Choose to have a positive outlook. Choose to be adventurous. Choose to love instead of hate.

And although you can control how you carry yourself, it is impossible to control the words, actions, and reactions of other people. You cannot derive happiness based solely on other people.

And while we can seek joy, companionship, love, support, and compassion from others, we cannot expect perfection. Human relationships are amazing, and I definitely urge you to find friends and loved ones that love you unconditionally. Find people who want to guide you towards bettering yourself. Find people who try to empathisize with your struggles. Find people who are genuine.

img_4194
Me and my new friends at UVM! There are always good people to be met 🙂

However, we must also accept that sometimes people may let you down, hurt you, or not return your feelings. Human beings are flawed creatures and we must have enough strength, clarity, and self love to accept such a truth.

I believe true happiness is nurtured from within. Although it is normal to have moments of grief, stress, anger, and discontent…we must acknowledge that those feelings are only a small fraction of life.

There will always be good. There will always be sunlight in the world as long as you turn your face towards the rays.

You must be active in seeking a life with strong undertones of contentment. You cannot control everything, but you can choose to have faith, to love, to be optimistic, and to perservere.

I once chose to count calories. I once chose to hurt myself. I once chose to hate my body and who I was. I once chose to let others’ perceptions of me dictate my happiness.

And though I am still far from perfect, I have found a balance. If you put positive energy into life, there will always be moments of beauty to come. Life is better when you have faith in the overall virtue of the world. Small lapses can no longer dictate your life, if you always look towards the sky with hope and acceptance that life is not one experience, but a compilation of ever-changing moments.

I know life can be hard. But, have peace in your heart, and clarity in your mind. Do not let negative external sources cloud your outlook on life. Breathe in and accept what you cannot control, but always seek out the good that you can.

Sending you all my love and best wishes,

Emma