Being Cognizant: Vegetarianism

A series about the ways I work towards being cognizant through decisions that make me more mentally engaged with various facets of my day-to-day life.

Cognizance (noun): Awareness, realization, notice, knowledge, perception.


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3 years and 3 months ago, I embarked on a 3-week challenge to stop eating meat. It began because someone told me I “looked like a vegetarian”, which led to a discussion, which led to an agreement to try vegetarianism for a little while, which led to today where I remain a vegetarian.
These past three (and some) years have been a learning experience for me that I have embraced despite personal struggles with the change in lifestyle and diet, as well as the frequent encouragement from friends, family, and near-strangers to return to omnivorous ways. It has not always been easy, but I have certainly become more considerate of my eating and lifestyle as a result of this change I made three years ago.

When I became a vegetarian, I was in the midst of my first year of university and decided to embark on a fitness journey within months of changing my diet – all of these transitions occurring at the same time led to a few setbacks that forced me to think about things I had taken for granted. For example, my energy levels dropped a few months into my new diet, and my exercise continued to increase in vigor and frequency. With these changes in mind, I was faced with figuring out new ways to acquire certain nutrients in my diet to (a) replace the easily-acquired nutrients from meat I had taken for granted and to (b) be sufficient enough for my muscles to recover from intense exercise. I found many new foods (especially in nuts, beans, and many vegetables) that offered me the nutrients I needed that I had never considered necessary, or even delicious, before! It was a great opportunity to try new foods and learn about my body’s needs when it comes to nutrients and exercise.

Beyond these health-related ideas I have come to consider regularly, I have also grown to be more selective with the food I buy, particularly when it comes to eggs, which I still eat. I make an effort to purchase food that is ethically-sourced, and perhaps even locally-sourced, as I know I am supporting people that live in my communities by doing so (see my list of Farmer’s Markets!). Without realizing it, this lifestyle aligned with my feminist ideals in that I was caring about non-human animals’ well-being and fair treatment as well as making efforts to not support unethical business practices that are exploitative and even dangerous.. Building upon that, I now (usually – I’m still growing) resist the urge to buy inexpensive clothing or goods from stores or brands that I know are not sourcing their products ethically. Vegetarianism has cleansed me of more things than I had anticipated when I began my journey!

Through vegetarianism, I have become much more thoughtful when it comes to my diet, exercise, lifestyle in general, and even the products that I buy beyond the grocery store – all because I started out by deciding that eating other animals’ does not currently align with my values because of the way it is produced. Regardless of where my lifestyle journey goes, I am grateful for having become more cognizant of how I approach it.

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My Feminism

I call myself a feminist.

However, I think that the words “feminist” and “feminism” mean a great range of things to a great range of people, and it is important to explain what I mean when I say it (and refer to it on this blog).

One website offers this definition of feminism:

“Feminism is a range of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women.”

I care a lot about those ideas, but when I think of “feminism”, those are not exactly the words that come to mind. In fact, there are many more words that come to mind, and the word “feminism” doesn’t always seem to capture what I care about.
Feminism is a somewhat exclusionary term, I find, due to its root being “fem” and its beginnings being based in advancing the rights of women. However, I do embrace the term and the way I have come to understand it as something much larger than an ideology that focuses on women’s rights.

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When I break down what “feminism” means to me, this is what I see:

  • Gender equality (for women and for men and for non-binary folks)
  • An end to racism
  • No more patriarchy
  • Deconstructing systems of power and oppression
  • Understanding colonial histories
  • My positionality with regards to ethnicity, gender, class, physicality, and as a settler
  • Challenging “the way it is/the way things are”
  • Being thoughtful, critical, and celebratory more often
  • Asking people what their preferred pronouns are
  • Unlearning, relearning, repeating
  • ETC.!
When I think of my feminism, I do NOT see these things:
  • A hate for men
  • Being angry all of the time
  • Saying “man up” or “lady-like”
  • Making any essentialist assumptions based on someone’s physical appearance (i.e., assuming things because someone is male- or female-bodied in appearance)
  • Recommending people/activities/places based on someone’s race/gender presentation/income (i.e., not saying “you would like this movie with this [ethnicity] actor” because that person’s ethnicity matches)
  • Thinking that Indigenous peoples are solely responsible for negative aspects of living on reserves or the disproportionate number of crimes associated with Indigenous peoples
  • Accepting information at face value or letting mildly sexist/racist/classist/etc.-ist comments slip because it is tiring to always challenge people’s thinking (and my own)
  • Being silent because it is easier to do so short-term
“Feminism” doesn’t seem to fully capture my mindset for the world – my studies in “gender, race, sexuality, and social justice” seems to be a bit better, but that’s also very long. When people ask if I am a feminist, I say “yes” and if they get to hear more, they’ll learn about what I’ve described here (and more). If those people are satisfied with my response and make assumptions about my personality, beliefs, and behaviours as a result of that response, then so be it.
Simply put, I really care about people. 
I want the world to be a healthy place (mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally) where anyone feels welcome to go in whatever direction they choose in life.
Unless the direction they choose makes the world a less healthy and welcoming place. Then I don’t support it as much, but it makes us all a little more well-rounded, right?

Me and the Blog

I hail from Western Canada and go by the pronouns she and her(s). I am part of a web of family, friends, school, coast, country, and feminist, anti-racist thinkers. My happy place usually contains chocolate, a camera, and my loved ones.

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My blog started as a platform for sharing reviews for the 2014 hot chocolate festival and grew into a bit of a public, online journal. Now, I hope that it will continue to be a way for me to share my stories, but through a more refined lens that focuses in on a few key values of mine: Food, feminist thinking, and photography.

While I am neither a renowned scholar of the gender, race, sexuality, and social justice field nor a professional photographer, these are things that rejuvenate and invigorate me, and I hope to find energy and inspiration through engaging with these pieces in my blog. I also hope to find ways to connect all of my passions with one of my greater loves – people.

When I can combine any of the things I do – eating, helping, photographing, exploring – I find great joy in sharing those moments with others. With that, I offer an idea of why the blog is named as such: an attempt to capture moments amidst life’s motion.

Thinking about Caitlyn Jenner

There has been a lot of stir (already dying down now) about Caitlyn Jenner making her debut in her new body and with her new name, which she appears to feel are finally in line with her mind after all of these years.

I follow many intersectional and anti-racist feminist thinkers and groups online and read about others in books and news articles – most of them have felt compelled to comment in one way or another on Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair unveiling. As I am making an effort to critically think about and share my thoughts about these increasingly relevant and important and talked-about occurrences, I thought I would add my small voice to the online conversation.


My thoughts on Jenner’s move are, in short, these: She has done what is fulfilling for her in a way that allows her millions of fans to be aware of this change in her appearance and name, and I think that those are good things.


When I consider the conversations that have occurred, I return to a recurring thought that I have after having studied gender, race, sexuality, and social justice, and in my own non-academic life: There is no 100%, sure-fire, make-everyone-happy way to do anything, particularly in circles of critical, feminist thinkers. 


That’s a good thing! 


Usually.

Critically analyzing events and approaching them with an intersectional frame of mind (intersectionalitythe study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination) challenges us to not take information at face value, and to consider the deeper meanings and implications of what we have seen, heard, or done. It can be mentally tiring to think of the world this way on a regular basis, but it is important to do so because it makes us more able to connect with others because we do not merely assume that our experiences are the same as someone else’s. Further, we become more complex and empathetic to others by allowing ourselves to open up to new ways of knowing, living, thinking, and experiencing the world.

Sometimes, it seems that the tendency to think this way leads to a nearly constant problematization of the whole world, and no event can escape our minds unscathed by considerations of all of the ways it could have a negative impact. This is where I have found myself frustrated by certain conversations about Caitlyn Jenner. An incredibly wealthy, famous, and Caucasian individual choosing to transition is not a representative experience of most trans* individuals. For that reason, the publicity received by Jenner and the widespread praise are difficult to embrace by anyone who has struggled with similar or related experiences.

Despite the unlikely circumstances of being able to transition in a very expensive and widely-praised manner, Jenner’s experience is her own and is one unique experience in the world that happens to be very public as well. While I do not think that Jenner should be the standard of what trans* individual is expected to be, I think that the publicity of what a transition entails for one individual is important in normalizing the experience and concept of transitioning/transgressing overall. An individual who was born in the most privileged body there is – a White male’s – chose to act on a life-long knowledge that the body they were born into was not the one that matched their mind and spirit, and left that incongruent body behind to pursue greater self-fulfillment.

Jenner’s transition does not represent the extremely diverse range of transitions that many individuals go through, but it is an example of one person’s multi-decade struggle with the feeling that their body is not the one that will lead to maximizing her sense of wholeness.


While we cannot assume that all experiences will be the same based on this one example – in the way someone looks when transitioning, what it means to transition, how easy it is for someone to transition in a practical and psychological sense – I think that it is important to embrace it. Embrace the conversations that have started, the acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner expressed by so many, and the figure that many other, younger trans* or queer individuals can look to and think, “She did what was right for her, maybe I can do what is right for me.” Those things are worth embracing, I think. The only downfall could be that Caitlyn Jenner assumes her experience is representative of all experiences, or that she does not embrace the powerful position she is in to make change possible for so many others who do not share her resources in life.


My hope is that Caitlyn will take full advantage of her powerful new role as a figure in the trans* community, which has been thrust upon her by virtue of being in the spotlight, and make life better for many others who have struggled, are struggling, and will struggle.

Being Cognizant: Budgeting

The first post in a series about the ways I work towards being cognizant through decisions that make me more mentally engaged with various facets of my day-to-day life.

Cognizance (noun): Awareness, realization, notice, knowledge, perception.

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In recent months, I have taken on the task of budgeting all of my expenses along with my income on a monthly basis. A budget (noun) is “an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expense for a given period in the future.” So, to budget (verb) is to plan for certain amounts of money to be earned and spent, and then keep track of what is actually earned and spent (at least that’s how I have defined my budgeting experience).

I started my budgeting adventure with an… idealistic… mindset of how much money I thought I would be spending on things such as groceries, school supplies, gas for my car, dining out, etc. However, as some guides on how to get started with a budget might tell you, your expenses might not be so simple to predict. As a student who lives away from home but receives financial support from parents, my budgets are not often too scary to approach because I am secure in knowing that if my job fell through or I had to drop a lot of money on one big item and it set me back for a month, I would not be without help. However, budgeting helps me set realistic goals that align with my desires to save money, live comfortably and independently (to some extent), and to be aware of my spending and do some reflection on how I use my money.

For others that do not have the financial support of parents or other folks, budgeting can be really useful for setting goals to alleviate the stresses of being financially “strapped” (i.e., not having a lot of extra funds once basics are paid off). Creating a budget can help you visualize what money you have coming in, what you need to spend money on, and what you want to spend money on (on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis). Being able to visualize where your money goes can lead to greater monthly savings, more effective allocation of funds (such as phone bills and groceries), and opportunities to treat yo’ self!

An example of treating oneself upon realizing that
one’s budget is CLEAR FOR EXTRA SPENDING!


If you haven’t done so already, take some time to research how to set up a simple budget, and start collecting your receipts! Alternatively, you may want to try tracking your spending by writing down your expenses, keeping an ongoing record on your phone, or using a mobile app – such as Mint – that can break down your expenses as they come out of your bank account.

Take control of your life in this capitalist world – make a budget!
(Or let me know if you have another idea.)