I ate my very last cheeseburger in Disney World at the age of 16.
It was somewhat of a big moment for me, since I knew while I was eating it that it would be my last. I was with my family, and we were at one of the stands where you can grab a quick lunch in the Magic Kingdom. I scoured the menu for a salad or something that wasn’t a burger and got supremely frustrated that I couldn’t find anything. Out of anger, I ordered the burger, knowing I wouldn’t enjoy eating it, but also knowing that if I wanted lunch right then, it would have to do. I’m not sure if I made it known to my family right then and there that I would no longer be consuming meat, but I know for sure that that day I decided to start my new life as a vegetarian.
Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. All my life I had been a reluctant consumer of meat. I can’t think of a time that I truly enjoyed eating a piece of chicken, steak, or even a burger, which I did consume very regularly as a kid. The reason I favored burgers over all the other meat choices back then was simply because you could put lots of toppings on it – and if there’s one thing I love even to this day, it’s toppings! Tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, relish… you name it, that was the reason I was eating the burger.
Slowly but surely in the years leading up to that fateful Disney trip, I stopped eating certain types of meat one by one. I believe the first one to go at a very early age was hot dogs. I never really remember eating steak. Chicken soon fell out of favor and soon all that was left was that one burger. I’m sure my parents grew more and more frustrated with trying to find me things to eat at dinner time as the years went on.
After I decided to go completely meatless, I can’t say things were very easy. Absolutely no one I knew was a vegetarian: none of my friends, and certainly no one in my meat-loving family. Shortly after, I went to college where I MET other vegetarians, but none happened to be in my circle of friends, so on I continued as the only vegetarian I knew. I met and dated some very traditional meat-and-potatoes type of guys who were absolutely perplexed by the fact that I liked vegetables to the point where it actually became a relationship issue. Not to mention the fact that I was being pressured by my mother all the time to start eating meat again because there was no way I could possibly be getting “enough” protein. I have to admit, during those college years, there were times when I wondered whether all this trouble was worth it and I even cheated a few times to have pepperoni and salami – the only two meats I have ever found true enjoyment in (funny that I’d choose two of the most unhealthy representations of meat!).
I honestly don’t think I really found my groove with vegetarianism until the past few years, and it’s mostly thanks to the wonderful world of blogs! I started reading all the blogs that now still remain to be some of my favorites and many of them were written by amazing women who were vegetarians, vegans, raw foodies, and then some. I’ve gotten to the point where I love to experiment with different veggie-friendly foods (I don’t think there’s anything in that realm that I’m afraid to try). And you know what? These days it’s not as hard to find other people who are vegetarians in my real life. Sure, I’m still the only one in my immediate family and on my mother’s side. But on my father’s side, I know of several and one of my good friends from college also decided to go veggie in the past few years.
Maybe the times are changing, maybe I’ve opened my eyes some more, but I know one thing is for sure: I believe in my vegetarian ways and that this is the right thing for me in my life. I don’t miss meat at all and my conscience feels better because I’m a true animal lover at heart.
It’s now closing in on 13 years since I made this change in my life, and for the foreseeable future at least, I can’t see wanting to go back and change the decision my 16-year-old self made.
That’s where I stand with vegetarianism. I don’t judge other people for eating meat, it’s just a decision I made for myself. And I have lots of blogging ladies to thank for helping me no longer feel like “the only vegetarian in the world”!