I went vegan when I was 13 and rarely met another vegan for the following decade. After high school, I moved from Northern California to Western Michigan to study music. I didn’t have a lot of success connecting with others for the first couple of years. As a vegan, and not to mention a leftist and strident atheist, it was hard to find my people between rehearsals, five hours alone in a practice room daily, and occasional mortifying events put on by the Evangelical Christian student org that I mistook for casual social invitations. I was hopeful during a short stint volunteering with Food Not Bombs, but after they shut down for the first winter, they didn’t start back up again. When I think of my first couple of years of undergrad, the most striking memory is of deafening loneliness.
Once, on a rare occasion when I had reason to leave the music building, I was offered a leaflet. Imagine my delight when I saw that it was about veganism! I declined, not wanting this precious sermon to be wasted on the choir, and let him know I was already vegan. He reached into his bag and offered me a second leaflet. This one, I guess, was more focused on recipes.
“Are you with a group or something? Is there something I can get involved with?” I asked, probably ready to join literally anything he offered.
“No,” he replied. “It’s just me.”
I don’t even think we exchanged first names.