A vegan’s road to being vegan
It works differently for everyone, here is just one story.
My official nationality status is Polish Nigerian but I have been living in Northern Ireland for half of my life. My father is from the Igbo tribe. He met my mother in Poland and I was born in a tiny town called Kluczbork. We got a dog, Blacky, when I was about 1 and he was my closest companion for much of my life. He was my guardian and comforter. From when I was 4 to about 11 we lived in the countryside close to Kluczbork. My connection with nature really developed there. We had a lot of outdoor space, and we were surrounded by fields with farmers on either side of our house. The farmer to the left had a plot of land dedicated to cow grazing separated from us by a chicken wire fence. I developed a connection with the cows. I loved watching them cuddled up together, feeding them grass and pushing my forearm through the chicken wire to allow them to lick my fingers with their coarse tongues.
I also loved the chickens running around and the dog next door, and also any cat, rabbit, bird or any animal that turned up every now again. In short, I loved them all. A lot of my days were spent chasing chickens, picking fruit to eat from trees and bushes, exploring, watching the cows and playing in the mud. I changed schools twice when I was small because of racist bullying. We were the only non- white family around. Animals were always such a gentle loving source of energy in my life even if I can’t say the same about humans.
When I was 12 my family moved to Northern Ireland. We left Blacky in a pound which was a massive blow of a trauma. For a couple of years I weathered the atmospheric shock of not having him around anymore, shock learning English and living in a completely new place. This sparked a massive interest in culture for me. The fresh island air revived me too and I started to really develop my passion for finding things that make me feel good, for sports and for nutrition. Not without stumbling though.
I had a lot to work through on a deep personal level which sent me spinning down a spiral of self criticism and restrictive habits and I developed bulimia. This was difficult to climb out of but with time I came to love and accept myself, and to take care of myself in healthy ways. What really helped was the realisation that I physically wasn’t tolerating dairy- that it was making me sick. Cutting it out of my diet completely at 16 made me feel amazingly better, physically, overnight. I made a choice which improved my wellbeing and I was feeling better than ever before. My walk towards owning myself and how I feel really began. I got addicted to seeing how daily actions have such potential for positive change in my life. My relationship with food started transforming replacing the restrictive, punishing feelings which I had been trying to fight with a renewed appetite, curiosity, and sense of adventure in food.
You see I’m just like anyone else. Whatever my life has been so far I was conditioned by society too. An innocent child who loved the animals around her, I ate the things in front of me without asking questions. Although I was unwell a lot as a child no one questioned whether dairy might be making me sick. It’s venerated in Polish tradition. It’s default. I used to think veganism sounded extreme too. It took me time, and it was a process. In the summer before my final year in secondary school I went to Nigeria with my family for the burial proceedings of my grandmother. There, aside from reconnecting with my roots which is an amazing experience I was confronted with the realness of animal slaughter and gave up meat for good. A beautiful African cow was bought to feed the crowd. She was kept in the family compound, tied to a tree, for a couple of days before her time came. I saw the world in her big intelligent eyes, felt such intense love for her, and connected with her deeply. I knew if I saw her execution I could never eat meat again. I was present when it happened. In the moment I could make myself look, I looked into her eyes as a machete sliced into her neck. Her eyes are burned into my mind forever.
You best believe I still ate eggs and fish though and I still didn’t expect myself to ever become one of ‘those vegans’. I still felt a bit sluggish sometimes and I could tell I wasn’t at my best health. Then, one evening, a couple of months after moving up to Belfast to go to university, I signed up to receive a PETA information leaflet on a whim. And then another evening, a few months after receiving it, I picked it up and read it. I read about the dairy and fish industries. That triggered me to google and I researched and read for a good few hours. (while I was meant to be doing 1st year university exam prep 😅) I read enough to convince me. More than convince me, in fact- I went in to the tiny shared kitchen in the halls I was staying in, opened the fridge, and threw the only non-vegan thing I had- a bag of salmon- in the bin.
This was the start of a learning curve of a completely new way of eating. Over the past few years I have been learning as much as I could about the vegan diet while completing my degree and now learning to be a researcher. I am still learning every day. I don’t want to just be vegan. That’s easy. I want to be the healthiest I can be. I want to help others and the planet be that too. I have been lucky to find some amazing influences along the way. Among others Brendan Brazier helped me understand nutrition, Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr Esselstyn beyond convinced me of the health argument for the plant based diet, Joey Carbstrong reminded me again why I was vegan and the massive community on Instagram has fueled me with ideas and inspired me almost every day.
I recently came to share my home with two baby rabbits, Charlie and Dennis, and they have grown to occupy a massive space in my heart 💚 They daily remind me that something needs to be done about this whole situation. Another thing is, I feel so good eating and living the way I do I genuinely would feel bad if I didn’t try to share the news with others. My health has gone to places I could have never imagined it to go.
I feel fit, I can be active, I feel in control of where my health is while enjoying food like never before. I also have a clear conscience and a body clear of decaying flesh, with a clear mind to face each day. My body is really thanking me for it. That’s just me, and if I did it, then you can do it too. We can all individually do it. And wouldn’t the world be a great place then? I see us all healthier and happier for it. I see us bringing back our closeness to nature, rebuilding our ecosystems, and finally giving some rest to our tired Earth 🌏🌱
We need to be able to dream. If not us, then who? My dream is a world where:
- vegan is the norm, not an exception.
- we see that we are all one and the same, no matter what skin or fur we have on the outside
- we put ourselves in control of how we relate to each other, our bodies, others around us and our planet
- we have stopped thoughtlessly harming each other
- there are loads of vegan restaurants offering exciting tasty food
- the green sections in our supermarkets are teeming with variety
- I can help more people adopt not only a vegan lifestyle but also better health