Monday, July 7, 2014

Friends and vegetarianism

I'm officially the world's worst vegetarian.

It's not actually official and I'm also probably not actually the worst, but hyperbole is supposed to be interesting and I'm trying to get better at this interesting intro business.

And now that I've taken care of that, onto non-intro stuff.

I really am a bad vegetarian. Background for those who I've never talked to about my vegetarianism, here's your tldr version: I'm a pescetarian (I <3 seafood), meaning I don't eat meat, but I eat meat products (eggs, dairy, etc), and I also eat seafood. The reason I'm a pescetarian is a combination of  multiple converging factors, the big ones being health concerns, concerns over the ethical treatment of animals, environmental protection, and the fact that I really don't like red meat... so why not? Oh, and because I want attention.

That was a joke (sort of).

But having just come back from a fantastic lunch with a fantastic friend at which I scarfed down a chicken salad, I've been thinking a lot about why I'm a pescetarian, and why sometimes I'm not.

Let's get all intersectional now.

I've also recently been thinking a lot about what constitutes a good friendship and a good friend. I've had a lot of different types of friends and lots of friends in general, but I've also had very few friends who I feel close to and understood by. Even with the people whom I tell some of my most intimate secrets to, I find that there is an impenetrable wall that builds itself between me and others that no number of heart-to-hearts can ever break down.

Dispersed intermittently within the holistically incredible life I live are moments of realization in which I look around, look down at a phone full of 347 contacts I can't bring myself to reach out to, and I understand that on some level we are all alone. These moments used to be saddening, but more than anything else, they are now just a reminder that deep friendships are hard to find. That doesn't mean the many friendships in my life are not good ones, but rather that 1,200 facebook friends and nineteen years of making friends has not changed my feelings of existential solitude (wow that was dramatic). I love all my friends, but if I am still alone then what is the point of friendship?

Over the past month I have questioned and restructured almost all of my beliefs about what it means to be and have a friend. This summer I have both met and grown closer to people who I would have never imagined I could be friends with, and consequently developed a deeper faith in and appreciation for people than I think I've ever had. From opening up myself to strangers while I was in Paris and meeting some incredible people along the way, to developing deeper relationships with people I already knew, I tried something new this summer: I gave my trust back to people.

Okay, now back to vegetarianism.

The reason I'm writing about these two things at the same time is because after breaking vegetarianism twice this week (like I said... I suck at this), I realized that vegetarianism is a lot like friendship.

I'm a vegetarian because it's what I want for myself. Because I honestly believe in it and because I value it. I think vegetarianism is something that everyone should try and something that betters the world. Animal rights, the environment, health, etc are truly things I care about. I don't think I'm going to conquer climate change or save all the cows by myself, but I think that it is important to act in accordance with my values and that the act of doing so is an independently valuable contribution to my little corner of the world.

But being a vegetarian is an act. It is an act guided by incredible beliefs and morals, but an act none the less. It is a choice (and for some people a sacrifice) that you make daily in order to improve yourself and hopefully the world you live in. It is my commitment to a vision of myself and my understanding of myself that I work hard to uphold as often as possible.

Friendship is a lot like that. It is a practice you work through, sometimes a struggle, sometimes a nuisance, but always an act that you pursue in hopes of self and general betterment. It can be selfless, intimate, and wonderful, but it is an effort you put in and a show you put on. It is something that you do based on a sense of how you should behave, and who you think you are. You are kind to people because you value kindness, honest because you value integrity, and loyal because you appreciate loyalty. Acting like a good friend often means just that: acting like a friend without necessarily being one.

This week I sat with a friend, emotionally naked, and that person showed me what it means to be a friend. Not out of a desire to act a certain way, not with any particular motive, but out of an honest ability to climb over the wall and say "I'll stay here" no matter what was on the other side. For the first time in longer than I can remember, I wasn't there alone.

So I broke vegetarianism.

Because sitting in pajamas on someone's couch thinking some fried rice would be good with meat,there I was: hoping to stop just acting out motions of the things I think I'm supposed to believe in. And siting with me was this other human being who would love me and understand my values even if I shattered every last one of them right there in that instant. I wasn't acting like I want myself to, but in what I consider to be an example of true friendship, there was someone who was okay with me regardless.

I think that's what friendship is. It's when after trying, and trying, and improving, and growing, and striving, and reaching, and expanding, you can just be there and be exactly as uncertain of your own convictions and existence as you truly are. It's forgetting about the person you think you should be for just ten minutes to look at someone else and say "I have no idea who I am."

I'm a vegetarian and a really bad one. And I'm totally okay with that and the people who love me are too.

Because I have people in my life who will sit with me when my sense of self starts slipping through and love whoever it is that remains in front of them when the version of myself  I pretend I can always be is gone. I have real, honest, genuine friends. The type who forgive you when you're not feeling fun, and the type who will never be disappointed in you when you're the most disappointed in yourself, and the type who will look you in the eyes and ask if you're okay, fully ready for whatever answer you might give, even if it's not "yes."

I have the type of friends who I can break vegetarianism in front of because I'm as scared of being wrong about all of this as they are, but they don't love the person I should be, they love the person that I don't even know I am, vegetarian or not.

PS: These are the songs I wrote this post to. I recommend reading it to them too. Here are some links.
Sam Smith – Latch - Acoustic
Twenty One Pilots – Holding On To You

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