I'm celebrating my first year as a vegan this week and wanted to share some thoughts/indulge in some rambling about my path to veganism and the changes I've noticed. I first heard about veganism is high school when I found out one of the cool punk girls was vegan. I was intrigued and gave it a try, but it only lasted a few days. I didn't think any more of it until college, when I found a PETA Meet Your Meat DVD that someone left on campus. I was horrified by the cruelty, and while it wasn't enough to turn me vegan on the spot those images never really left me. I think from that point on I knew eating animal products was wrong, and that realization would surface again and again in the following years. My skater friend and chemistry lab partner Sally was the first vegan I spent much time with, and we had several discussions about it. I'm pretty sure I gave her the typical "but protein/malnutrition/it's natural" arguments, and she calmly swatted them down with simple facts and moral clarity. It wasn't until about a year and a half ago that I started to face the fact that I couldn't live my values or shake off the feeling of hypocrisy without changing my diet. I wish I could remember what brought me to that point, but I was in a severe depression in the wake of major injuries in a climbing accident, stoned around the clock and often high on painkillers. My best guess is that with my life seeming to come apart (and the rest of the world seeming to come apart with it!) I saw veganism as something solid I could grab onto, something that could lead me back to self-control and a positive lifestyle. I transitioned gradually, first reducing meat in my diet...more vegetarian meals, and smaller portions of meat...then the same with eggs and dairy, but much faster. I got to a point, almost exactly a year ago, where I was eating 99% vegan, and I remarked to a vegan coworker that I was only going to eat animal products on special occasions (that makes me cringe now!). She simply asked "Why?". That single word was the final straw, after over a decade of flirting with the idea and suppressing my guilt and justifying my hypocrisy, convincing myself I was morally weaker than I actually was in order to claim "I could never be vegan". The biggest surprise for me so far has been how easy it is. I thought I would perpetually be like a drug addict gone cold-turkey, always battling temptation. But I quickly stopped seeing meat and cheese as desirable at all, and lately I don't even see them as food. I can imagine myself making a lot of poor choices, but I honestly can't imagine myself ever eating animal products again. I've also experienced an ethical snowball effect, finding that the more socially responsible I am in one area of concern makes it seem easier and more important for me to be socially responsible in other areas as well. I am by far the healthiest I've ever been. I've always been active and athletic, but my endurance at high intensity and my ability to recover and do hard workouts back to back is at an all time high. I haven't been sick in well over a year. I feel more invested in my health, and a lot more optimistic about my health in middle and old age. Nutrition no longer seems boring or confusing or in conflict with my taste buds. I guess if there's any takeaway here it's that sometimes it take a long time...a frustratingly stupid long time...for a person to become vegan after the initial seed is planted. That punk chick from high school will never know she planted that seed...whoever left that Meet Your Meat DVD will never know they forever changed my feelings about animal agriculture. The handful of vegans I've known since...who, importantly, identified themselves as vegans...made it impossible for me to pretend there was nothing I could do about it. The next person who asks you about protein or says they could never go vegan probably just doesn't realize how easy it is.