Today is my 30th birthday. Let me be honest. It comes on the tail-end of a week which included an unstoppable (though quiet) public meltdown I had at the farmer’s market, a good cry at an osteopath’s office, the researching of Big Ag plans to bio-wreck Africa, a viewing of One Nation Under Dog, petitioning against military testing in the oceans, and yet one last cry sesh yesterday morning on the last day of my 20s (awesome week for Justin).
But don’t feel sorry—the week also included new work, a photo shoot for a new vegan mag, two invitations to speak at large veg fests next year, sunshine, and lots of fresh figs, hummus, peaches, cherries, and zhatar-topped greens. Isn’t that life, though, all wonderful and horrible at the same time. In the grand scheme of things, and when I think of the lives of my late grandparents who survived the Holocaust, my life is incredibly safe and full of good. The crying is just a release of things I absorb, hold onto, or am po lite about when I really want to break glass (if you’ve seen any of my media clips from the last few months, you probably shouted at your monitors for me). One thing I’ve learned: as activists, I think it’s especially crucial to take time to manage and release all the negative things we read, hear, and see, so that we do not manifestly become the things we are combatting. Note to self.
I am deep-down-thankful for this life. I mean it when I say I don’t take any of my comforts and joys for granted. It truly occurs to me to feel glad that relatively clean water comes out of the faucet when I turn the handle. There is so much to celebrate and do.
And on that tip, this day also marks my embarking on a tenth year of veganism—a little health experiment which began when I was twenty. What essentially started as a dare by my love, Justin (vegan 16 years), has been the greatest and most activating discovery of my life—a gift I’m aware of every day. Not only has veganism provided me a high-quality of health—true wealth, it has become the basis of a meaningful career (I was never comfortable creating art solely for art’s sake), it has pointed me to some of the greatest minds and leaders of our time, and has granted me the company of people with truly golden hearts. Sometimes I can’t even believe how good people can be. Most drastically, though, veganism has provided me a clarity about the public realm; it has taught me the profound meaning of political freedom. I feel safeguarded in mind and body against the invisible forces that shape public thinking and behavior. That’s power.
It is worth it to me to absorb often horrendous realities so that I can more effectively be an agent of change. I owe that to my grandparents. When I am down—be it for physical, personal, or professional reasons—I keep the animals in mind. We can change our lives any time we want to. We can leave anytime we want to. A cow, a sow, a shelter dog, a rabbit in a pillory can not. Their lives consist of moment-to-moment tormented frustration. Though the environmental hostility can be burdensome, and change can never come fast enough, I feel privileged to be at work in the beginnings of introducing the mainstream to veganism. I believe this movement is affecting every major industry and every corner of the world as we speak and that introducing kids to the idea veganism will eventually revolutionize all aspects of society. Another thing I’ve learned: never waste any valuable energy on in-fighting. It’s a surefire way to divide and sabotage our own movement. Let’s be good to each other as we work. At this point in history, we’re all fighting on the same side.
To celebrate my 30th birthday, I am recommitting to my inner Tank Girl, my punk rock idol since adolescence. She’s a tank-riding anti-heroine whose mission, along with her posse of animal toys and mutant Kangaroo boyfriend, is to destroy mega-corporations. If this were the Wild West, what a gang we’d all make up, right?! And since I prefer not to be the center of attention if not for the good of animals, Justin and I will just celebrate just the two of us by going to a respected rabbi’s talk on moral psychology—always inspiring, and then drive to Santa Monica for a raw food lunch and a stop at the beach. It seems the right place to set intentions and goals…like if you tell the ocean, then it’s for real, you’d better keep your word.
After that, back to work—professional and personal.
Thank you for believing in me and for being part of the Wild West posse I imagine has my back. I’ve got yours.
Stay tuned, more to come. -RR.