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The off-white, slimy cube looked back at me with a concentrated gaze that matched my own. I tentatively picked up my fork, poked its side, and watched it jiggle and sway under my fork’s careful teasing. “The time has come,” I thought to myself. “Today is the day I will eat tofu.” I stabbed the dang cube with my fork, raised it to my mouth, and swallowed it—along with my dignity. A dumb decision made in the spur of the moment can change one’s life forever, and, that week, I made the dumb decision to take part in a bet that I lost.
Now I found myself face-to-face with a block of pressed baby soybeans and with what seemed like an impossible challenge: be vegetarian for a week.
While a vegetarian diet is easy for some, I grew up in a carnivorous family. A trip to the Brazilian Steakhouse, Costco hotdogs, and rotisserie chickens were not out of the norm. Being vegetarian would require commitment, perseverance, and daily battles with leafy, green-eyed monsters. Out of desperation during my first week, I combed internet for recipes and flipped through the pages of Vegetarian Times. Somewhere along the way, I was blinded by a blog’s neon green background and emphasis on graphic factory farm photos; despite the awful visuals and clear propaganda, the blog had a message that stuck with me: in the future, we will all be vegetarians. Whether this message is true or not, it made me contemplate human responsibility to mother earth.
As my internet searches shifted from quinoa recipes to the ethics of vegetarianism, I learned more about the damage human behavior inflicts on mother earth. I didn’t know it required 2,464 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, nor did I know that nine billion chickens were slaughtered each year. I did, however, know that vegetarians were notoriously high-maintenance, preachy, and deficient in a million vitamins. Never in a lifetime would I have predicted a future as one of them. Today, I have become the high-maintenance diner who orders the BLT without bacon and subs black beans for pulled pork in tacos. I have also become the “preachy vegetarian” who leads the school Herbivore Society and who probably would have been mocked by my former self. A simple challenge initiated by a friendly bet has changed the way I view the world around me and has fostered my eagerness to try new things. More importantly, I learned that being a vegetarian was more than a change in diet. Being a vegetarian meant being aware of the effects of my actions and learning to immerse myself in a challenge.
Choosing to live life as a rabbit was no exception to the rest of my life: I thrive on challenges. Challenges that make my brain ache (or in this case, my stomach) excite me. I chased challenges in the classroom by deciphering Dalton’s law and memorizing 1,000+ locations on a world map; on the road, every step during the last few miles of my half-marathon is a lung-busting, calf-aching challenge. I’m drawn by intellectual debates– whether they be about the origins of Thanksgiving or Kafka’s intentions– that challenge my mind’s preconceived notions. Yet, I find it comforting to know that logic is always by my side on even the most challenging derivatives and computer science projects. The challenges I seek go beyond a simple diet change; rather, challenges are the way I satisfy my curiosity and embrace my love of learning.
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