Like many other people, I was moved by PETA's brochure when it was handed out at a music festival a few summers ago.
Of course, the brochure then brought me to Google, where I spent hours watching animal cruelty videos on YouTube.
At that time, I wasn't persuaded to give up meat.
Simply put, I loved bacon way too much. But, those images stuck with me for a long time.
It wasn't until about eight months after that experience that I decided to give up meat.
My 17th birthday was creeping up, and I wanted to use the year to make a drastic change.
By giving up meat, I knew I could make a difference.
I wasn’t really sure why or how, but it seemed like I was doing the right thing.
Starting out, I had a ton of misconceptions of how changing my diet would affect me.
I thought becoming a vegetarian solely meant clean eating (aka dieting).
I was convinced I would lose a ton of weight while being a vegetarian. I thought it would be easy.
Boy, was I wrong.
The first week was pure hell. I was constantly dizzy and had little energy.
The lack of protein from meat in my diet resulted in me being constantly tired.
What does a diet of a vegetarian consist of? Well, at this time, I was eating a lot of pasta and pizza.
They were quick, easy and meatless meals.
However, this is exactly what made me sick. I was overdoing carbs and neglecting protein.
I ate fruit and vegetables here and there, but it wasn't enough.
It wasn't until my mom started buying meat substitutes that my diet began to improve.
Boca Burgers and fake chicken became part of my daily meal plans.
I even switched to drinking almond milk during a short-lived stint of attempting to go vegan.
A few months into my vegetarianism, I faced my fear of eating tofu.
The tasteless, scentless chunk of who-knows-what scared the living hell out of me.
But after much research, I knew it was for the better. In fact, it was the best thing ever.
I soon started eating tofu everything. Tofu-stuffed shells soon became my favorite meal.
However, no matter what or how little or how much I ate, I didn’t feel healthy.
To be honest, I didn’t feel like a better person by not eating meat. In a way, I felt a void.
What I thought was a void for meat grew larger and larger throughout the year. I convinced myself I needed meat.
Yet, I wouldn’t give up until I reached my one-year mark.
I was determined to prove to everyone I could be a vegetarian, even if I sacrificed my own happiness for it.
It wasn’t until a trip to Ecuador in late February that I was truly tempted for the first time.
Everyone in my group was trying guinea pig (a delicacy in the area) as an afternoon snack.
Not joining them meant I would keep my vow to remain a vegetarian for an entire year.
Taking a piece of the meat would mean I would be able to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Puzzled, yet still aware of the urgency of the situation, I ate the meat.
It was amazing.
Although I didn’t choose to go back to eating meat at that point, I appreciated the experience.
A month after my experience in Ecuador, I finally went back to eating meat.
I surpassed my one-year anniversary and proved to myself I could face the challenge.
So, what did this teach me? If I learned anything, I learned I was an absolute fool.
Going vegetarian didn’t make me a better person. In fact, I started preaching about a cause I didn’t truly believe in or understand.
So, while strolling through Whole Foods one day with a friend, I decided to take the big step and end my year-long commitment.
I loaded up a salad with chicken and enjoyed every last bit.
I never could have expected what happened next.
My sickness that occurred from eating meat again was both the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me.
The illness itself was painful. I was nauseous, lightheaded and dreaded my decision.
However, on the other side, I was free.
I no longer felt obligated to abide to any standard.
I didn’t feel the need to defend my decision to anyone anymore.
Why I chose to become a vegetarian, I’ll never know.
Maybe it was because of the pathos expressed by the PETA brochure.
Maybe it was because it seemed like the “cool thing to do.”
Maybe I needed change. Maybe I liked the challenge.
At the end of the day, becoming a vegetarian didn’t make me any healthier. It didn’t make me any happier.
It definitely didn’t help me become aware of the cause.
While being a vegetarian was an experience, it was ultimately a waste of a year.
I pretended to be somebody I’m not.
I pretended to be so adamant about causes I wasn’t really concerned with.
I uprooted my whole life just to go along with it.