“Do your personal best.” Some have lambasted the sentence as the motto of a pampering, self-esteem obsessed and self-satisfied loafs of children. I, however, see it as a stringent call for self-examination of your life: the actions and ideas that make up your time on Earth, but more importantly, Long Island.
By your life, I don’t just mean deciding to get married, have children or shoot for that promotion. I mean little choices like not going on your phone during an awkward moment and making small talk instead. I mean little choices like choosing a turkey sandwich or a veggie wrap.
Every choice is a weighing of values. Do I marry her now because I love her or do I wait until my job is more secure? Do I have children while I’m still young or do I wait so I can pursue my career? Do I ask for the promotion because I need and deserve it or do I wait because I don’t want to seem too pushy? Do I eat the turkey sandwich because it tastes good or do I eat the veggie wrap because…
Okay, the cat’s out of the cage, this letter is about the exotic, hippie, Buddhist/Hindi, super liberal lifestyle—vegetarianism.
Vegetarianism. It’s like homosexuality for heterosexual people. You know it exists, that some people do it. and you’re (probably) okay with it. But you’ve never considered it as something that could be your lifestyle.
I didn’t either, even though I debated and researched the topic for a couple of months. Not until grappling with the issue in a summer ethics class with the motto “do your personal best” ringing in my mind that I decided to consider vegetarianism. I thought about the pros of meat. (It tastes really good. Like really good.) And I thought about the cons of meat. (Immense animal suffering and huge environmental waste and damage.) Pleasure in raping and murdering don’t justify them. These comparisons to other clearly immoral actions have ravished away (most of) my desire for meat.
My friends and family objected strongly to my decision to become vegetarian. It’s natural to eat meat! It’s also natural to set my brother on fire when he farts on me. It’s unhealthy! Yes, it’s harder to get protein, but not impossible for a middle-class suburbanite like me. It’s inconvenient! Okay Mom, I’ll eat seafood.
And I do. I’m not vegetarian. I’m pescetarian.
I can hear the gasps of “contradiction!!” and the ad hominem attacks already, haha. But my arguments and support for vegetarianism remain intact despite the choice I’ve made with respect for my family. My choice is in fact reflective of what eating meat, and what all decisions, really, is a spectrum between values. In this case, between convenience and animal/environmental rights. I’ve chosen to err a little closer to convenience than vegetarians and vegans do, but it’s a choice on the spectrum I’ve made with reflection and dialogue.
I’m not asking that everyone be a vegetarian. I’m well aware that poor people cannot afford it. Nor am I asking a lifestyle change. I’m asking that every meal become a choice, a conscious weighing of values and your own circumstances, instead of automatically defaulting to meat. If we can and it’s good, then we should.
Think about your personal best. Do your personal best. Be your personal best.