you Need a Vacation from your Vacation
I grew up in rural Prince Edward Island,
a beautiful area in Atlantic Canada. I've done six university
years in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but I always come home
for holidays and summer.
During the summer, I work to try and
earn enough money to pay for the upcoming academic year,
and since it is next to impossible to find even short-term
work in my field without graduate study, I am stuck
doing nonspecific student work for another couple of
summers. I am in my fourth summer of waiting tables.
The money is good, but the restaurant is decidedly not
veg*n, and now sometimes I feel ugly for serving meals
that earn me the tips I need. Unfortunately, there is
really no better job available to me here, and living
anywhere else would mean paying rent out of the money
I am trying to save.
This fall I am going to Aix-en-Provence,
France with a study-abroad program put on by my university.
I will be unable to come home for the two weeks' vacations
at Christmas and Easter, let alone a weekend at Thanksgiving,
because the cost of airfare is just too high. Part of
me feels relief at this.
I love being home. The environment is
relaxing and lovely, and the singing teacher who has
done the most for my voice and my outlook is here in
Prince Edward Island. On the other hand, I have always
been frustrated at the dynamic between my parents. They
fight over my father's alcoholic rages, which are becoming
more and more frequent lately, and my mother's increased
absence from home to fulfil musical commitments in addition
to her full-time teaching job. I resent the one and
I worry about the other and I get a lot of stress when
my parents actually come to words over something. Usually
one will simply leave the discussion, and I'm the one
who has to help pick up the pieces. When I was first
applying to universities six years ago, I made a point
of not applying to the one here on the Island because
even then I knew I wanted to be out of the house and
away from this.
Since I became vegan, this stress is
increased because my parents do not approve of my choice.
My mother is coming around on the subject because she
sees my continued (improved!) good health. However,
my father is a dedicated carnivore who will not sample
any vegan food I make. Both he and my younger brother
have informed me that they hope I will get over this
"phase" sometime soon. I came to see more clearly how
my family sees my choices when I accidentally ate beef
We had spaghetti with sauce, which my
father and brother purchased. During the meal, I laughed
off the usual teasing about my dietary choices; until
that night, they were a frequent source of amusement
for my family. After we finished our meal, I looked
at the label of the spaghetti sauce bottle before starting
on the dishes, and I discovered that the sauce had ground
beef in it! I surprised myself by weeping for revulsion
and sorrow at what I had inadvertently done.
My family came into the pantry to see
what was wrong. My father hates to see me hurting, but
he couldn't understand why I would cry over such a thing.
He probably felt that my tears were accusatory since
he had bought the sauce, and he became angry. My mother
and my brother both defended me, which was heartening
because it gives me the impression that they're both
learning to respect my new way of life. My father, who
had been drinking, made it clear that he had no sympathy
whatsoever for my position and left the room.
Meanwhile, my mother held me as I sobbed.
I didn't know whether I was crying about the meat or
my father's attitude or just for gratitude that my omni
mother and brother were so willing to accept my emotional
reaction to having eaten something I would have eaten
without qualms just a few months ago. When I had gotten
the tears under control, my mother asked my brother
if he could try to keep my father out of the bar. When
my brother observed the impossibility of keeping my
father out of a bar, I agreed and said, "He's always
an a--hole in fishing season." (My father is a lobster
fisherman.) I do not normally use such words about my
I went for a walk along a field that
leads to a forest that in turn leads to a beach. My
orange cat, Zeke, followed me. He doesn't usually stay
so close to me, but I had started to cry again by the
time I was at the edge of the field, and I think the
sound makes him want to stay near. I walked and cried
for half a mile and slowly felt the sorrow loosening
on me as I took off my sandals and walked barefoot through
rows of potato plants, mossy forest floor, and finally
sand and seaweed, with my cat following behind and the
sounds of birds overhead. These are the land and the
creatures that surround me when I am at home, and they
are a source of spiritual comfort to me. A walk up and
down the beach, drawing in the sand and wading in the
water, was enough to help me regain my spirits and think
clearly about what had happened.
I believe things happen for a reason.
I found it terribly upsetting to have eaten something
that to my knowledge I have not otherwise consumed since
I made the resolution to be vegan. But it strengthened
me to know that I have come so far in perspective from
my recent omni days that it upsets me to eat a small
amount of meat pureed in tomato sauce. My resolve to
live vegan -- and read labels more carefully! -- has
become much stronger as a result of this crisis.
I love my father very much, and I hope
that he will stop drinking and sublimating grief into
alcoholic rage, but I can't fight that battle for him.
I love my mother very much, and she is a source of strength
and support for me musically and personally. Without
her, I might have left home for good long ago.
I don't know where I'll go when I return
from France next spring. I may try tree planting or
rickshaw running. Both of these are fairly lucrative
student jobs and require me to live away from home.
After next summer, I'll be in grad school somewhere
in Canada, and I think that I will stop moving home
during the summer. Of course I'll still visit. But I
think it may be time to let go of living at home, even
if it's only for a part of the year. This decision is
not just a result of my new ethical choices, or of my
father's alcoholism, but it is connected with both of
these and with a need to keep growing up.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
e x t e s s a y -
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