why not eating meat makes me (kind of sort of) an adult

Two days ago I did something I really regret.

It’s Tuesday, so, yes, I sort of have that thought every week around this time.

But this weekend I really messed up.

I ate chicken.

I have been a Pescatarian since April. One day, after determining that the consumption of dead animals could only lead to a sad and unfulfilling life, I stopped eating meat. I eat cheese and I eat fish and I eat eggs, because, really, I can only be so pure. But meat—nope! That shit is no longer for me.

Until Sunday night. When I ate orange chicken from Spring Rolls delivery and it was…so fucking good.

I was drunk, of course. But I’ve been drunk and hungry before. Before I have made myself tofu stir fry, or vegan sausage and kale (vegan sausage is really not bad). For almost seven months I drunkenly managed to avoid eating meat. I’ve drunk eaten vegetable moo shu from Spring Rolls delivery! So why, on a fairly ordinary Sunday, did I grab the orange chicken from my sister, and tell her that I planned on finishing it? (I did finish it).

I think it’s because being compassionate is harder than I think.

I’ve been telling people for months that my new lifestyle choice is “pretty easy” because “I really like vegetables—and I still let myself eat fish.” I tell them that I imagine chickens and cows as the brothers and sisters of my darling cat and dog—would you eat a cat or dog?? (Don’t answer that if you have to think about it).

I don’t tell them about the dreams I have every once in a while. The ones about fried chicken. The ones about pulled pork on a soggy, vinegar drenched bun. The ones about a huge, juicy, cheese-laden burger. A fucking medium rare steak from Ruth’s Chris. That duck dish at that Italian place. Bacon.

“So, you don’t like meat?” Is something that people ask me a lot. And I just stare at them. I love meat.

I just don’t eat it.

I woke up in a panic yesterday. I texted my sister (she was in the next room but I couldn’t bring myself to verbally acknowledge what had happened).

“I have so much shame! Don’t tell anyone!”

She didn’t respond.

All day I thought about meat. I thought about why I liked it and why I couldn’t just go back to eating it. My stomach ached from the chicken the night before. It made me want more chicken. And all that other shit listed above. I sat, downtrodden in my desk, and called in a lunch order for some lame salad “without the pork lardons though…I guess.”

I picked at the green beans and mixed greens and I considered skipping yoga for McDonalds. A Big Mac. For god’s sake, can you even imagine?

I can, because I used to love Big Macs. I mean, I probably still do love them. But, if I can help it, I will never eat a Big Mac again.

If I try really hard, for the rest of my life, I will never eat chicken or steak or pork or duck again. And one day, if I can afford to be a pain in the ass, I will try to stop eating fish too. And then cheese and eggs and anything that came from an animal. I will be a vegan and I will be an asshole. But I will feel damned good about it.

I am 23 and I’m really selfish. Most of everything I do is a means to an end in my favor. I initially stopped eating meat because I thought it would improve my life. I admitted, to anyone who asked, that I was mainly in it for the good karma.

But then I read articles about foie gras (because after my sister raved about eating some I had to let her know that she was a terrible person), about sustainable cow farms. Yes, sustainable. They take good care of the cows there! They kill them humanely. I read about their deaths and I almost threw up. I realized that my initial intent had evolved. I just really don’t want animals to die for me.

And of course, because life is complicated, my growing compassion has been accompanied by more frequent dinners with meat eaters. And with those dreams. So many meat dreams. I stop thinking about the dead cows and ducks and I start to wonder if my life would actually be okay if I went back to eating meat.

You know what? It would probably be just fine. My sister and I could share entrees again! I could look like the cool girl who orders a huge burger on a date. I could eat all of the things that taste so good.

But I won’t go back to eating meat. I hope that I can be a Pescatarian (or, as some of my friends like to call it, “a fake vegetarian”) for the rest of my life. Or at least a really long time. I don’t need my choice to influence other people. Eat all the meat that you want! But maybe think about it first. Or, really, think about anything first.

I’ve learned a lot about myself since entering the terrifying world of semi-adulthood. I’ve learned a lot about other people too. Everything in the world could be improved upon if we all just paused before doing or saying anything. Pause and think: be kind.

That. Is. It. Be kind. Hell yeah it’s hard. But I know, deep down, that it feels a lot better than that orange chicken tastes.

And if that’s not growing up, I don’t know what is.