This morning after my workout I got to work and at my desk I pulled out my usual spread: chia seed pudding, fruit, almond milk, matcha powder, all nicely contained in mason jars and glass containers, followed by my silverware and some stevia. Normal.
And then a coworker walked by as I'm pulling these items out of my reusable bag, as if pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and her look of confusion and general "wtf" expression suddenly took me out of this seemingly normal moment and made me (and her) laugh as I realized just how far off the health deep end I've gone. She asked me with polite distrust, "What *is* all of that?! What are you doing?" I could barely get out the words "chia seed pudding" through my maniacal laughter. She asked what that was and I chose to use the word "coagulate" which I immediately regretted. She said,
"Is this your, like, healthy stuff? I know you're a vegetarian or whatever but what is all of this? Have you always been this way?"
No, no I haven't. There was a time where I wouldn't eat anything green, even avocados. I ate Stouffers meaty lasagna and Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner. I drank large glasses of cows milk every day because I thought it tasted good and I thought it was human food for some reason and the media told me to do it. I drank alcohol and ate entire sausage pizzas and would go to the gym at 10:30pm to try to "burn it off" by slowly moving on the elliptical for 30 minutes while reading People magazine. I didn't know how to cook nor did I want to learn. I loved meat and butter and cheese, omg cheese. Dieting meant eating microwaveable Lean Cuisines. I had to call my mom to ask her how to make a pot of white rice on a regular basis. So no... I was not always this way.
What happened? I slowly (and I mean like 10-years-in-the-making slow) let cracks start to form in my foundation of self, letting a little bit of light in, little by little. I started with one book (Omnivores Dilemma, of course), then a documentary (Food Inc, obviously), without realizing I was planting seeds for what would to come. I slowly began to fill myself with knowledge, perspective, ideas and a view of the world that was so much bigger than I had ever wanted to acknowledge. I started asking questions, probing at habits that I had taken for granted, slowly deciding I actually wasn't okay with the status quo, and finding small truths that slowly and powerfully rocked my world entirely.
I am not someone who likes change. I have persistent habits that I dislike and are blatantly detrimental to myself and my relationships or my life in some way and I'm stubborn and indignant yet I still fight to change them on a daily basis. There is comfort in the familiar, even if it's unhealthy. And in many areas of my life, this remains the case. Yoga helps add more cracks to that foundation, but it's a work in progress. And I say all of this because it's a reminder to myself and others that despite our upbringing, the cards we were dealt, the ways in which we fight to protect ourselves and our ego, our pain and trauma, or comforts and addictions, our culture and our social expectations, change is still possible. In fact, if we are lucky, sometimes there is so much inertia in truth that change is easier than staying the same.
In my journey, the truths I've discovered have been so powerful and so disruptive that it's no surprise I am where I am now. I chose to listen to a small, tiny voice that said "seek" and my experience of living has fundamentally changed for the better. Certainly age and wisdom that comes with time helps, and certainly the scars of a real life lived help build synapses faster than comfort, but my story is not special. I chose to open myself to living healthier, longer, better, with more energy, more compassion, and more truth, and the habits just... changed. Meaty cheesy microwaveable lasagna no longer seemed so delicious when I took time to notice how it made my body feel (aka like shit). Three bowls of cereal for breakfast had never kept me full and when I discovered why (because it has no nutrition whatsoever), I realized there were better solutions that would help me feel just a little better until lunch, like oatmeal. When years of being a slow cardio bunny did nothing for me, I got frustrated and sought other ways to be healthy, which helped me discover weight lifting, yoga, and activities that feel stimulating for my body and soul. When I discovered the harmful effects of animal products on human health and after having lost loved ones and seen the fragility of life, I discovered plant-based eating as an obvious glaring solution to a global and personal existential crisis. When I learned about climate change and chemicals and the products we use to decorate our homes, our bodies, and our lives, I had no choice but to change what I bought and how I consumed to at least do something for the planet. And when I discovered that animals have to suffer or die for our consumption (and I discovered that I should probably care), I became vegan, as there was no way to go back to living in the dark and I felt ashamed that it had taken me so long to wake up.
Change is possible. Change is necessary. Nothing meaningful ever happened in staying the same. I have so much gratitude for growing up and being unlike how I used to be. But don't be fooled into thinking the process is easy - habits and core beliefs and self concept all die hard, and very slowly. I mean it took me over 5 years of trying (and "failing") to become fully vegan until it finally stuck. And just because I've grown in becoming healthier and more conscious doesn't mean I've mastered all the other bad habits and core beliefs in my life that are holding me back. (Like I said, yoga helps with this, but it's a lifelong journey). But if you are open enough to allow a tiny crack to form in your thinking, letting in one tiny streak of light, then you are open for the entire sky to eventually spill through. Seek truth. It may just make you who you are.
Pro tip: For more reading about the process of change, take a glance at the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change
Have you radically changed your behaviors? Share your experience in the comments!