Normally I would be posting a race report today, as I raced, 15 kilometers through the wooded area of Indianapolis. I would tell you that I ran hard, putting it down from the start and dropping anyone hanging on as soon as I could. I would tell you the mud was shoe-sucking and hilariously thick, coating my calves with a good 1/2 inch of peanut buttery goop. I would tell you I pushed up the hills as hard as I could, even though I didn’t have to, but I did anyways, because all that happened. I won the race and all, but this was nothing but a battle against myself and a tromp through absurdly inefficient trail conditions. I would tell you all that in much greater detail, but I have a few other pressing subjects I find more pertinent and which I want to put out into the world. Namely…how we do it.
This is uttered directly to me, sometimes quietly around me, after some of the races I run or in response to the number of miles I put in a week.
“I just don’t know how you do it, man.”
I could go on and on about the many ways I have figured out how to do it. I could mention the mantras that cycle through my head. I could talk about the genes I’ve been fortunate enough to have inherited. I could talk about the slow progression of training expertly delivered to my by my coach. I could talk about the obligations I have to those that want to see me succeed, that look to me for inspiration. I could talk about the nightlife I avoid, foods I eschew and overall continuous preparations I make to “do it”. I could talk about all that, but ultimately, despite any tricks, mental exercises, motivations or external assistance, I do it because I make the effort. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter the goals I have in mind and understand of what it takes to reach those goals. All that matters is that I get out the door and turn my legs over time and time again, making the effort. It is simply the physical process of it all.
But I get it. What people are expressing is their unwillingness to do it themselves, or inadvertent expression that they CAN’T do it themselves…and that sucks. Barring a complete physical obstacle, everyone can “do it”, whether that is distance running, cycling or any physical activity that seems out of their capabilities. The biggest consideration then, is WANTING to do it. And in that WANT is where all the tricks, exercises, mind games, and support comes into play. But first you have to start with wanting it.
Ultimately though, I don’t belabor anyone who doesn’t “want” to “do it”. If running isn’t your thing, fine. If cycling isn’t your thing, fine. If baking, writing, reading, isn’t your thing, fine. But I find it inarguably important that all individuals have SOMETHING they WANT to do and find the ability to DO IT. The benefits having this desire affords our quality of life is immeasurable and carries over into so many areas of our lives and I don’t think it should be understated, whatever it may be.
There is, however, one other lifestyle choice of mine others express their disbelief in, or rather the disbelief in themselves to adopt, and which I don’t think should be viewed as a personal choice, easily discarded based on the idea that one can’t fathom how to “do it”, and that, of course, is veganism. The expression of disbelief was most recently delivered by a few coworkers who stated matter of factly, “I don’t know how you do it, man.” Except they DO know. They know I simply eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc. etc. etc. instead of meat and dairy. It’s that simple. What they are really saying is, “I don’t know how I could do that.”
And, again, I get it. Our culture consistently presents anything out of the norm as difficult, inconvenient, problematic, etc. To buy into these negative associations is quite tragic, not just because they demand the individual to accept a limited potential in themselves, but because the effects of accepting that limited potential has victims….and beneficiaries. There is a profit-motive in these cultural expressions and those profits are protected by individuals accepting their limited potential in overcoming personal boundaries, and the victims are millions of sentient creatures who have done nothing wrong except be born into an exploitive economic system. But all that is relative external, wrapped up in details, intricacies, selfish defensiveness, etc. All I’m concerned about is getting people to understand they “CAN do it”.
Veganism is not about changing your identity. Veganism is not about achieving a sense of “purity”. Veganism is not about personal hardship and sacrifice. Veganism is not about engaging in activism. It’s simply about recognizing that sentient creatures should not be harmed whenever practical…and it is almost always practical. And we can all simply engage in doing it. I’ve been doing it for 18+ years. Others have been doing it for longer, without sacrifice, without hardship, without sacrificing identity. We’ve simply been doing it because it is practical, easy and the most direct way we can effect change in keeping our hands out of the industry of oppressive and torturous animal agriculture. It is that simple.
So when it is expressed to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” I can only think, “Actually, you can do it, with the most basic recognition that sentient creatures do not want to be harmed and you can simply stop engaging in the systems that harm them.”
I know, it’s oversimplification, right? There IS the force of identity. There IS the transition away from old food and towards new. There ARE social niceties to consider. I know, there is all that, but at it’s most basic, above all else, there is reaching for foods on the grocery shelves that have not been created out of the bodies of animals.
When all is said and done, it is THAT simple.
THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT.
And that is not hard.