I don’t really enjoy going to Pennsylvania.
I grew up there, and left there when I was 18. I tried my hardest to keep in touch with friends, and for a few years made not one but two trips per year (back when you could get airfare for under $200 round-trip). Then cut back to just Christmas, and then decided not to come back for Christmas. That was around the time I was starting to eat healthier and any holiday that involved massive quantities of food I couldn’t or wouldn’t eat was a hugely stressful affair. My parents probably thought I was quite difficult to deal with. I would come with these recipes – first for steaks (my dad always overcooked and never seasoned his steaks, then ate with ketchup), then vegetarian, then vegan… I remember one Christmas when I was told there would be sweet potatoes. I was happy about this. Something I could eat. Closer to dinner time I asked where they were and was pointed towards a marsh of butter and brown sugar.
“Where? Can I pull some out?”
“No, they’re mashed up.”
I flipped out and threw some left over spuds in the oven. That was the year I decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to be around for Christmas. Besides, it’s cold in December.
I visited again in August of 2010, far from any holiday, and a great time for the PA Renaissance Faire. I’d decided not to try to convert anyone by cooking for them, but to simply cook for myself and let them eat their fish sticks. They seemed curious about the food but not enough to ask for recipes or make anything with me. I still got annoyed at their unhealthy habits and tried to tell them how they should live, how they could be healthier. Of course it didn’t work. I left, and nobody changed.
It’s not just the food, but the fact that before I’m even awake, the television is on, and it stays on until about 10PM. Mostly talk shows, courtroom shows, and classics like The Bob Newhart Show. But I can’t stand the constant noise pollution. And there’s not a whole lot to do in this town, so being productive on my computer seems like the best way to pass time between seeing the few friends I still keep in touch with. My mom’s lifestyle and mine are at completely opposite ends of the American Life Spectrum. She’s on the couch watching Judge… Whatever… and I’m sitting in my brother’s old bed promoting my short film’s fundraising page (ahem. Click here.)
But it’s going better this time. I haven’t blown up in frustration, and I haven’t felt as annoyed as I have in the past, even though my life continues to speed ahead, far, far from what any of my family finds recognizable. I’ve gone through a lot of growth and change, with more to come.
Although my path is leading me towards getting into a more strict vegan diet, I’ve also learned to give in sometimes. Over the summer I went almost completely raw vegan for the month of July (a cooked vegan meal in the evenings), and even managed to eat mostly raw while on my Habitat trip to Poland (thank God for LIDL!!!) and then started sliding back when returning to a social life in Paris. I’ve been hard on myself and hard on others. Intellectually, I know what’s healthy and what’s not. My body knows what’s healthy and what’s not. But the rest of the world does not, and I have to interact with that outer world. I had to let the world break me down to the point that I could be more accepting and more flexible. So this trip back to PA – the land of fried chicken, canned vegetables, Coke and microwaves – was another test. My sister had recently become vegetarian, but apparently had given it up before I arrived. She’s still dieting and counting calories, but doesn’t have a large amount of fresh food in her diet. But she’s on the path. I directed her towards some resources I’m familiar with, and now it’s up to her. My parents can see how healthy I am, and know I haven’t gotten sick since September (I believe I caught something while traveling), and I’ve made a couple of comments about how I think a healthier diet would help with their health problems, but I’m finally realizing that people will hear you when they’re ready, or just won’t hear you at all if they’re not willing to change. I’m sure I was at a similar place in my life at some point. And probably still am in some regards.
I look forward to being totally free of this urge to get other people to be like me, to do as I do, to follow the path that I’m excited about. Yes, I want everyone to be healthy and happy and enjoying life and learning these great lessons, but everyone has their own choices to make. I can’t make them for them. The best I can do is to follow my own path, and be ready to help someone else if they are curious about how they can have something that I have. I have to stop chasing, and let others come to me when they’re ready for change.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m still seeking them. But as I find bits and pieces I sure get excited about it! It’s hard not to want to share.
I’m reminded of a quote (wrongly) attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Which really doesn’t apply well to the Gospel, you do need to use words in addition to living a Christian life. Nobody is going to guess “oh! You’re cool because you have the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior! I want that!” without you having mentioned something about it in some way…. ack that’s another conversation. Anyway, it DOES apply better to the Gospel of the Vegan. 😉
“Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”
Tomorrow I head to New York for the weekend! I’m going to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s!