This is a topic I am probably not the best person to talk about, but I will anyway because I want to.
I have one vegan friend, who happens to be my father and that probably doesn’t count, and I am rarely surrounded by other vegans.
There are many reasons for that, the main one being that having anxiety and depression isn’t really helping me in the making-friends department. But that’s okay.
It’s okay because I have always been alone and rarely had more than one close friend at the time. It’s also okay because I don’t need to have friends who think like me to continue living the way I believe is right.
When I stopped having faith in god I was able to be the only atheist; same with politics, I am comfortable with being the only non-Liberal in a room and not agree with anyone about the immigration policies. It doesn’t make me question whether or not I should change to fit in.
I am also okay with being the only vegan.
But most people aren’t and there is a large group of vegans who go back to eating their fellow animals because they feel lonely and judged. This is not something to be ashamed of as we are social animals and we do need a strong community to thrive.
I may not have much experience when it comes to making new friends and creating a vegan community that helps you feel good as a vegan in a non-vegan world, but I do know what helps me feel less lonely and maybe these tips will help you too.
- Challenge yourself to attend vegan events at least a few times a year. There are plenty of talks, presentations, workshops and opportunities to volunteer so take advantage of that and go out, even if you plan on just standing on the side quietly.
- Create boundaries with people around you and let them know that they don’t necessarily need to support you on your vegan journey, but they do need to shut up and treat you as an adult that knows what they’re doing. Basically, you don’t really need a vegan community, you just need a community that will not make this lifestyle even harder for you. I wrote about something similar here.
- Internet is your friend and taking its hand when you need help is a must. Email someone, DM them, comment under their photo, write about them etc. There are so many ways you can reach out to people that have been where you are and know exactly what you need to hear to not give up.
As I said a few sentences ago, you don’t need vegan friends to feel accepted as a vegan, you just need friends who will not treat you differently for believing all animals are equal.
I only share my vegan lifestyle with my dad, everyone else is not vegan, but that doesn’t matter because they are not mocking me or making my life difficult. They just don’t talk about veganism unless they have something smart to say. That’s because I created boundaries and let go of those who wanted to change me.
And a community is a community, online or in real life. When you are starting or if you are having personal problems that make it hard for you to be around people, then that really is the truth.
Ideally, yes, we would be better off with friends we can call, visit and hang out with but the world is not ideal and many of us simply aren’t able to have that right now. This just means that we have to do things 2020-style – online and with the help of technology. Welcome to the future.