so.. where do i start?
i guess the most appropriate place would be at the beginning of my journey (or just a little bit before it). i don't really know how to define what i mean by 'my journey'.. its just the things i've experienced ever since i woke up from my illusory view of life and realized that i can think for myself. that started with going vegan.
life before the early months of 2015 was okay, but its was just that. just.. okay. i don't want to say it was the worst period of my life, because that makes it sound like i went through some huge mid(dle school) life crisis, but since life has overall been pretty good for me, it was. most of my problems were what just about every young girl goes through- feeling like they aren't complete because they aren't pretty enough or skinny enough.. all that nonsense. spending so much time, money, and physical and mental energy to bury their insecurities deep inside themselves. that was me. hundreds of hours spent watching makeup tutorials on youtube, looking at pretty pictures of girls on instagram. always comparing and judging myself. so many toxic habits that led me around and around in a circle- a cycle that disguised itself so well as a path towards freedom. my thoughts were absorbed in makeup, 'cute' clothing, doing my hair.. anything that would change my appearance. my emotions were controlled by how many likes i would get on an instagram photo of myself. I was told over and over that changing my appearance to be 'prettier' would help me like myself more. not by cruel, misleading people.. but by people just as lost as i was. and the reason i (and many) are trapped in this illusion for so long is because it seems like- when we put on a cute dress, or apply a full face of makeup- it really seems like we have found happiness and confidence. but is it true confidence if it washes off along with your makeup at the end of the day? no. true happiness and confidence are states of being and they don't depend on external circumstances. and i didn't truly realize that until a few months after going vegan- but my point (yes, i know i got a little side tracked there ha) is that: that was basically my biggest struggle and the lowest part of my life. not too bad.
but focusing on 'beauty' also took up a huge part of my life, when i wasn't at school i was watching beauty gurus, furthering my internal conflict with myself and also scrolling endlessly through instagram to compare my life to other girls' lives that i went to school with.
this person was hanging out with so and so.. and all i'm doing is sitting at home alone.
wow look at how perfect her face is.. i'm so ugly compared to her.
why can't my body look as good as theirs.
so i just let all that stuff basically control me. control my happiness. i honestly can't remember what i would do during that period of my life besides going on social media and consuming unhealthy amounts of purposeless content not having any awareness of how it was affecting me. but then! one day as i watching videos on yt about health and diets and i was in the middle of some body builders vid ( i swear the channel was called '6 pack short cuts' lol but i can't find the video so maybe not) about 5 foods to never eat... and as i glanced towards the recommended videos section, one particular video caught my eye. 5 reasons to stop eating fish by freelee the banana girl.
and thats where everything changed. I can't even imagine how different my life would be today if i had not watched that video. after watching it, i knew. i just knew-- that one day i would go vegan. now at the time- i was 14 and about 2 1/2 months into my first year of high school. for some reason i really didn't think it would be possible for me to go vegan until after i got out of high school, so it was something i just wanted to keep in the back of my mind until then. that was my immediate thought but over the next few days i kept watching video after video and i was like hey maybe i can go vegan next summer! in the mean time i'll slowly eat less animal products and in summer i can put more time into it and fully go vegan.
it was only about 2 weeks after that first video that i went vegetarian. almost. ironically i let my mom convince me that i should still eat fish so i was technically pescetarian. that was the day after thanksgiving 2015 (nov 27th). by january i really felt like i was ready to go vegan but it took me until feb 1st to stop making dumb excuses and cut out the dairy and eggs.
i continued to educate myself throughout the beginning stages of veganism so i never 'caved in' and purposely ate anything non-vegan. after just a few weeks, i didn't have to think about it much- it just felt normal. i made a lot of cool recipes in the first few months that made it that much easier. i really enjoyed it (and still do of course!). not only did i feel much better, have more energy, and finally loved what i was eating... but it gave me this feeling that i was on the right path. and of course if felt good to know that i was leaving a substantially smaller ecological footprint on the world, and contributing much less to animal cruelty.
toward the end of freshman year i began to really understand what i was talking about earlier- that makeup and fashion did not bring me happiness, just the illusion of it. during that summer i pretty much stopped wearing makeup altogether and maybe wore it just a few times (can't remember). and i began to really feel comfortable like that.
but then when school the next year started up i went back to wearing makeup, although a lot less than i had the previous 3 years. i was comfortable seeing myself without makeup but didn't want others to. since 7th grade, i had worn makeup to school everyday except a few days at the end of 9th. on fridays in the last few months of freshman year my softball team had to come lift at school at 6 am and we'd get done about a half hour before school started and in the beginning i would actually bring makeup to school and apply it in the bathroom. after a few weeks of that i realized just how silly it was and decided- hey i think i can go one day a week without makeup. but other than that it was an everyday thing. so when i went back to wearing it after taking a summer off- i knew i had to stop. at that point i knew i was just hiding my insecurities-- so i decided to slowly wear less and less makeup everyday. it took a month or 2 but i finally told myself i was just gonna stop one day- and i did.
during this time (maybe the first year or so of going vegan) i was still watching a ton of youtube videos--not really living in the real world-- but they were mainly educational, so that was a step up. some of the vegan youtubers i watched talked about this thing called minimalism and in december of 2015 i decided to jump right into it. i started with my clothes.
i took every clothing item out of my closet and threw it in this huge pile in my room. it was probably 6 ft x 6 ft and 1 ft tall. then i counted it and wow wow wow was i amazed at how many things i had. i had exactly 350 clothing items. from there i went through and sorted everything into 2 piles: keep or get rid of. then went through the keep pile and really asked myself 'do i need this'. that helped me get hid of an additional load of things i didn't need or wear that often. so just in that one day i went from 350 clothing items to 100!! later on i got rid of about 30 more items and I'm sure after writing this ill continue to get rid of more stuff.
i also took a day to get rid of a lot of the stuff in my room and bathroom. i had tons of shampoo, soap, conditioner, shaving cream, etc (maybe 15ish total) and now i just use 2 products (1 soap and 1 shampoo). as for my room, i simply got rid of things that i didn't use and some things i was attached to because of their sentimental value. Im not an extreme minimalist by any means (its cool if you are though!) but i think the most important part of living simply and minimally is learning that material objects do not bring happiness. so its not about the numbers, its more about releasing any attachment you have to material items and feeling free from them. if you haven't downsized a large amount of items, you probably won't be able to understand how liberating it is and i might sound like a weirdo but living with less clutter seems to just open up so much more time and space for other things in life (like experiences which are a lot cooler than things). i've found that less stuff creates a more calm environment which can bring about positive, relaxed feelings and can - seriously - declutter your mind.
let's see... what happened next..? well i believe it was around this time (a bit earlier actually) when i became interested in online school. i happened to stumble across a video about pros and cons of online school one day in september and knew immediately it was for me. unfortunately, i also knew my mom would take a lot of convincing. i had just started my sophomore year of high school a few days prior so i knew i had lots of time to convince her since i wouldn't be able to start till the next school year anyways. over the next few days i devoted every bit of my free time to working on this 'speech' i was going to use to try to get all my points across in an organized manner. I was staying up until 11 or 12 (which is crazy for me cuz i like to go to bed at 9) doing research, typing up this 7 page paper, and practicing speaking it. and it was really kind of fun. i wish i could say the minute i wrapped up my speech that my mom was totally down without hesitation... i mean she didn't seem too opposed to it at first, but over the next few months it was kind of a back and forth struggle. eventually, i enrolled :) and i suppose i should probably mention why i wanted to do online school in the first place! well, a few reasons-- my intuition was like, 'dude, this is what you're suppose to do'-- i wanted to be able to get a part time job once i turned 16 (which would be in july) but also didn't want my entire life to be school, work, sleep, repeat-- i wanted to be able to spend more time learning about myself, the world, life instead of 7 hours spent learning things i was pretty sure were completely irrelevant outside of the class-- i didn't feel like i was benefitting from being surrounded by a bunch of people who spend all of their time gossiping, judging, and talking about stuff i just didn't care about-- i kind of knew in the back of my mind that i didn't want to go to college so i felt like it would be better for me to spend less time doing things that are getting me nowhere and more things that will help my future. so that about sums it up.
now since i brought up college i should probably explain why i'm not going to college. that one seems to get a lot of people. most think you're just weird if you do online school but if you tell them you're not going to college they think you're straight up dumb. a fool. naïve. because we get fed this lie from such a young age that if you don't go to college you won't be successful. "how are you gonna get a good job if you don't go to school?" people think that life is all about getting a high paying job. the more money you make, the more successful you are, the happier you'll be. i guess that's why a lot of rich people buy so much stuff week after week after week, because they're so happy with what they have. and why do we define success as making a lot of money? i don't have a clue. i personally feel that happiness is success. that's it. as long as i'm happy, i feel successful. another thing i get often is- since i've always gotten good grades in school, people who know that will say, "why wouldn't you go to college if you're so smart?" my parents have even told me that i'm just "wasting my life and potential". because, again, we're fed lies that grades = intelligence. and back when i had zero self esteem, i really identified with my 'intelligence'- or my grades. i now realize that shouldn't control my life choices because life isn't about being smart or dumb. and i know i sound anti-college and all, but i'm really not. i totally believe that if there is a career you are really intrigued by and you think you'd love to do that requires going to college- then college is for you. but if you're not interested in anything that would require a college education, why waste time, money, and stress not knowing what you want to do or if you should be elsewhere? that's just my takes on things. it may seem naïve to say- but i truly believe that i will find my way in this world and make enough money to live with just a high school diploma. that being said i don't actually know exactly what i want to do with my life. i would love to have some kind of online business.
now let's do some more backtracking. in the summer of 2015 i started riding my bike a few times on the weekend mornings for fun and in march of the next year i decided to buy an actual road bike so the next summer i could do some serious riding. i've always enjoyed bike riding with my mom when i was younger and a lot of vegan youtubers cycled so i was like, hey- that would be really fun. i wasn't training for anything or cycling every single day but i also didn't want to only go for rides like once a month. i liked going right in the morning around 7 so from march to when school got out i was only riding on weekends but then in the summer i was 'training' pretty consistently.
i would also go for the occasional run here and there because i use to be in track and cross country in middle school and really missed running but i didn't like the fact that i couldn't run very far without getting cramps and super out of breath. every time i'd run i'd push myself too far and my calves would be sore for a few days so i mainly stuck to cycling. i didn't have anything too fancy equipment-wise at the time i was just tracking my rides on this app called strava but i had a lot of fun! i rode to so many places in my city and the towns around it that i'd never ever been before (i've lived in the same place my whole life) and got to do so much exploring. i went up hills i never thought i would be able to ride up and by the end of those 3 months even did a 100 km trail ride. i really really loved it and (since i live in wisconsin) was pretty sad that i wouldn't be able to ride for a while once the cold weather came. i'm not a huge fan of being freezing cold while riding and once the snow and ice came it's obviously not safe to ride outdoors anymore. so i thought- why don't i get an indoor trainer so i can ride all throughout the winter. and that's what i did. but i soon came to realize that riding indoors isn't nearly as enjoyable and peaceful and beautiful as it is outside in real nature. i was using this computer program called zwift which is like virtual riding and it was better than staring at a wall but i found myself losing motivation to ride really quickly. that was after the 6 or so weeks it took me to figure how to set up my indoor station (i didn't have the right parts for everything). by the time december/january rolled around i was luckily if i could force myself to ride 1 day a week. it just wasn't fun anymore.
i was kind of questioning if it was worth it. why was i going for rides when the whole time i was not really feeling it and going about 1/4 the distance i usually would because of that? and ya know what i realized..? not right away, but that summer when i still wasn't riding more than once a week, i realized that it was because i was making myself feel guilty for not riding. i let that guilt control a lot of the feelings i had around this aspect of my life. i also came to see that, while i was enjoying myself a lot of the times (outdoors) that i would put myself down if i didn't beat my previous record on a hill. i let my results control my happiness in certain moments. sometimes i look back and wonder how much of cycling i did for the results, the records, the achievements... and how much of it i did to feel good, move my body, enjoy the peace of nature. i wish i had realized that a few months earlier because i kind of scammed myself into buying unnecessary, expensive products. my mom had gotten me me the indoor trainer for $250 or something like that but i had also purchased with my money a garmin edge 520 for $200 and a power meter which was $360. and i don't usually spend money on things i don't need but i had this idea that those things would benefit my life. but since then i've realized i don't want to have that kind of relationship with cycling- or any form of physical activity for that matter. i don't want to go about it to attain any type of result anymore but at the same time i've spent so much money on things used to track speed, power, time, distance, etc so i'm still in the process of figuring it all out (i'll probably end up selling the equipment i don't need). i've since gone for a few runs and rides without tracking anything and it's felt pretty good!
i also experienced something similar in another area of my life: food. now i wouldn't say i've ever had that bad of a relationship with food, but there was a time- maybe around summer 2016- where i just spent too much time worrying about how raw my meals were. there was a lot of people who i looked up to online who were 'raw vegans' or did rawtil4 or things like that and it was never me wanting to be like them but i wanted to feel as good as they said they said they were feeling. whenever i'd have a smoothie for breakfast i'd feel so good for a while, i'd feel very light and have a lot of energy.
but the thing about large meals of mainly fruit is that they're high in volume, low in calories so you feel like there's so much food in your stomach that you can't eat anymore but you'd also still be hungry because you didn't consume enough calories. and this way of eating seems to work for some people, which i think is amazing.. but i was trying to force it to work for me. and although i'd feel really good drinking that smoothie, i'd get super hungry almost right after finishing it and crave cooked food. and i was always aware of whether what i was eating was raw or cooked, which is so weird to think about now that i'm not in that mindset anymore.
there was one day i tried to eat raw the whole entire day and it was like i had to spend so much time making sure i had enough ripe fruit and then the amount of time i thought about food because i couldn't feel satisfied was crazy (even though i most likely ate more than 2000 calories so it's not like i was under eating). thankfully, i've found eating whatever i want whenever i want has really worked for me and i don't feel like food is controlling me as much anymore. and that may sound like i eat a ton of junk food all day every day.. but i naturally enjoy healthier foods so it's more not spending so much time worried about food.
lately, i've been focusing a lot of my energy on spirituality and self-growth. i've been reading a lot of books about life/happiness/ all that stuff. another work in progress for me has been being conscious of how much waste i'm producing. i'm in the super early phases of those things so there's not much to say...
for now that's all. something i didn't mention is that i'm a major procrastinator so although i wish i could say i'll update this soon, [the last time I updated this was jan 2018] it will probably be a while, but you can always check out my youtube channel to see what's up.
to be continued...