Thought it was about time I wrote another mid-twenties self-discovery post because it’s occurred to me I’m 27 in just over half a year and that’s less fun and more the year lots of famous people die. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk for about a month. I think I overdid it in January with the play; the post-show blues were quite extreme and I’ve spent a lot of February pretending to be more interested in food than writing (which is always half true anyway) and spilling hot drinks on myself.
Procrastination has its upsides though. I raked the garden yesterday. I’ve found a new favourite yoghurt; it comes with a spoon and a peel-off label so you can use the pot for other things afterwards (total revelation). And I’ve given up meat for good.
Now I feel a lot less frazzled than I did at Christmas. I’ve stopped getting ulcers all the time (that was a fun side effect of deciding to go vegetarian) and realised that as long as I can eat food without wanting to scream I’m happy. So because I have a working tongue and the motivation to write, my first post back in the game is about becoming vegetarian in the name of the planet. Because panicking about climate change is one of my biggest dilemmas these days; up there with dry eyes and not having a pug.
It’s not the first time I’ve tried to be vegetarian. That was aged 13 when I went to China Town for the first time, saw a load of dead ducks strung up in the window, and felt pretty violated. It didn’t last because at the time I didn’t like any vegetables so I was living off marmite on toast and my iron levels were pretty diabolical. I’ve tried to commit to full-blown vegetarianism again so many times but have always ended up giving in for one reason or another – whether it’s a hog roast at a wedding, a hungover sausage sandwich, or leftover Christmas dinner. Every time though I’ve felt pretty guilty. I’m a huge animal lover – my favourite Saturdays are spent fawning over farm animals and it’s always felt hypocritical then chowing down on a pork pie the next day – no matter how good they are with pickle.
But sometimes things just click. It could be an article someone posts on Facebook, one of Leonardo’s tweets, or watching Cowspiracy. When the timing of that revelation coincides with the beginning of a new year, it just feels like a good chance to do the right thing and not look back.
At the beginning of the year I decided to make 2017 the one that matters. Whether that was getting a creative project off the ground, joining a political party or just making an unforgettable carrot cake. Like the rest of the country I started with my health. I didn’t want to not be able to run 5k without feeling like I need to go on a ventilator. I wanted my insides to match my outsides. No more guilty conscience. First up? Couch to 5k. I’m running (or rather just trying to avoid dog poo in the park) three times a week and doing some pretty appalling yoga in between. Turns out just because you get some snazzy leggings and a new sports bra doesn’t mean you can pull off downward dog without looking like you’re stuck in cement. But progress shall cometh to those who bend with enthusiasm, right?
Next up was giving up meat (Fish is…sort of in progress.) I don’t understand how you can read about the effects of the meat industry on climate change and not at least significantly cut down on your intake. We only get one chance to save the planet and chucking a tin of baked beans in recycling isn’t going to help. If reading about my most successful form of procrastination yet is making you want to learn more, Cowspiracy is a good place to start but it’s pretty stark so be prepared to want to give up steak. Leo’s Before The Flood is also a good education on the planet – although he doesn’t focus so much on the damage meat production causes and I’m not convinced this isn’t because he likes a good burger. He does focus on the global issue at stake though, which by the way is pretty shocking, and invites us to remember we are one of an entire population, some of whom are suffering immensely because of climate change.
It might not seem like much, one twenty-something avoiding writing a play and looking up vegetarian recipes instead, but it’s part of a movement we can all join in the name of change so it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had, is it?
If anyone’s wondering whether it sucks going vegetarian, honestly – for me – not in the slightest. Plus technically, I should say I’m a weekend pescatarian too, because I don’t quite have enough willpower to say no to smoked salmon. Yet. It can make life a bit complicated sometimes for sure, especially because my stomach already can’t cope with wheat either. And I’ve also cut 80% of dairy because I actively care about cows. I’m trying to care about them enough to not eat a whole Terry’s chocolate orange from time to time but sometimes you slip up. We’re all human (except the cows – I’m so sorry.)
The reason I haven’t yet made the jump to total vegan even though I really like vegan slogan t-shirts is because I find it hard enough trying to tie my shoelaces and pay rent every month without finding time to make homemade lentil stews for my packed lunches every day. At the moment it seems too expensive to do it well – and a lot of effort – and half the vegan options seem to include palm oil and DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE ORANGUTANS?
While I’ve got animals on the brain I also want to stop putting them through so much when they’re alive. The problem with working in the arts and spending more money than you make every month is you can’t read an article on cruelty-free make up, examine the contents of your make-up bag or shower and do an overhaul overnight. But I do actively want to avoid brands that test on animals so as things run out I’m going to stop replacing them. It just feels tragic putting on mascara that might have been swabbed on a monkey’s eyeball, you get me?
You might be able to tell I’m becoming a bit OBSESSED with the planet. I mean I’m really nervous about the orangutans. And TBH I’ve been worried about the rainforests since GCSE geography but haven’t done much about it except buy recycled toilet paper when I remember. I feel like I’m getting emotionally attached to trees whenever I leave the house. A huge part of why I now love living deep in the depths of zone five is getting access to actual fresh air. London is so polluted these days in the week I genuinely feel like my skin is turning grey.
And whilst a big part of me is sat on the tube trying to finish my book on Nora Ephron and thinking COME ON SADIQ HURRY UP AND SORT IT OUT there’s another part of me thinking; where have we all gone wrong? Is this really what matters – money and commuting and getting a fashionable rucksack and wanting to succeed and reading whatever shit the Metro’s made up that week and trying not to make eye contact with strangers? The more I’m trying not to choke on the air in the Victoria line tunnels the more I’m worrying that at some point soon it’s all going to end up like Wall-E and everything else will have been pointless anyway.
I’m not a columnist in the Financial Times though. Nor am I a climate change scientist, documentary-maker, politician. I’m a writer – with probably the smallest audience on the internet. So I feel a bit stuck on the ways we can make a difference, ways we can still live life to the fullest but not be total selfish bastards either.
So… I’m taking baby steps in the name of the planet and sharing that with you. It’s a lot of compromising and a little personal sacrifice in the name of the greater good – but to be honest if we all had to turn vegetarian to fight Voldemort we’d do it, wouldn’t we? For me, right now, it’s about veg chilli on jacket potatoes, homemade granola, dark chocolate and quorn nuggets (holy Jesus I’m completely addicted – someone save me). Not so bad really. I think we’ve reached a point where it’s not a good enough excuse to love meat. We simply have to try before it’s too late. We have to talk about it, learn more together, encourage each other and, if necessary, do a little preaching.
So that’s it: raked the garden, found a yoghurt, gave up meat, called my readers to arms. What’s next? I might de-scale the kettle.