I ate a meatball sub the day before I started, thinking it would be the last meal with meat products I would ever eat. I was right.
Let me take you back in time, further so.
My best friend wanted to visit Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (WFAS) for her birthday. So, we took a little road trip to High Falls, NY (just outside of New Paltz).
Just to be clear, a farm animal sanctuary is a place that rescues animals typically used in the animal agriculture industry, i.e. pigs, cows, chickens, goats, sheep, etc. Often these sanctuaries—as is the case with WFAS—offer humane/vegan education in the form of tours, workshops and classes.
Farm animal sanctuaries in NY State include Catskill Animal Sanctuary (Saugerties, NY), Farm Sanctuary (Watkins Glen, NY), and WFAS. For a comprehensive list on the major sanctuaries around the world, see this list.
After my first time visiting WFAS, listening to the horrid facts of factory farming, and hearing the stories of remarkable animals, I decided to intern there as an animal caregiver. As an English and Psychology double major, many people couldn't understand how this opportunity could be related to my future. People snarkily asked me if I wanted to be a "veterinarian or something."
Honestly, I just really enjoy throwing myself into situations that are unexpected or radically different from what I'm used to. The basis of who I am (a writer, singer, and prospective psychologist) benefits greatly from absorbing a variety of lifestyles, experiences, and perspectives. Plus I just crave any chance for an adventure.
I spent the first few days (being trained by the other intern) flopping around earnestly, driving the golf carts like I was Mr. Toad on a Wild Ride and sleeping 11 hours a night.
Once I learned to not get soaked by the water pumps, ease onto the gas pedal like a rational human being, and enjoy activities other than sleeping (classy, cultured stuff like playing Prop Hunt for hours at a time), I felt I was beginning to slip out of my 'city girl' identity—not that anyone there made me feel out of place in any way. I did a 'good' job of that all by myself.
But I made friends with the extraordinarily kind and cool caregivers and interns. I also discovered I was a "goat girl" (less dirty than it sounds) and that true happiness is seeing a cat in a barrel full of hay.
Most importantly, I received an education from frostbitten chicken feet; from Jack (the goat), Judy (the pig), and Trudell (the rooster) passing away; and from kids Hallie, Raymond, Moby, and Jackie popping out into their first minutes of life.
Removed from friends, family, and really my typical way of viewing food, life, death, and responsibility, certain things worked their way into my daily thoughts.
Like anything else, the vegan movement is complex. It isn't a fad diet centered around restriction and elitist attitudes. At its core is compassion and logic, and it should never deviate from that.
Living with death that is as ordinary as the amount of time it takes for one teabag to steep in a mug is hard. This tea takes 2-3 minutes to steep; someone died today.
That being said, cemeteries are great places to look for baby names.
Writing letters has become a very significant practice in my life.
This doe (female goat) and I both have depression.
Sheep are just big, wooly cats.
How does one even go back to NYC with a plant-filled mind—and the knowledge that one of your favorite beings on this earth, and friend, is a rooster—after a month like that?
I'll just say that it helps that there is now a 150-acre plot of land on this earth that is filled with only friends. Visit a sanctuary, if you have a car, a friend with a car, or a bus ticket.