Having been back on the blog for just over a week now, it's come to my attention that there are a lot of open ends. Most of you are friends of mine on Facebook, and given that you know a lot about me and the things going on in my life, a lot of you have been asking me for clarification on a few things. So in addition to your questions, I posted this photo on Instagram and shared that I would be doing a Q & A post. I was pleasantly surprised with the responses I got, and tried to combine similar questions to answer everything as thoroughly as possible. There are still a few questions I can't answer just yet, but I will do my best! Here we go, starting with the most commonly asked question...
1. What happened with the Navy?
Oh you guys. Yes, I have been working with a recruiter since September to join the US Navy as an officer. I even went to MEPS in November. I wasn't enlisting as I have a four-year degree, in which case you can apply for an Officer Commission. I was told at the start that it is much more difficult to join this way, as it is a much smaller, much more competitive pool of candidates. But I was determined. I took a lengthy test, submitted an application with my results from MEPS, got several letters of recommendation, and wrote a 'personal statement', all of which were required to be considered. I even told my employer so that they were aware of the possibility. At first I was supposed to find out if I was accepted in March. Then, for complicated reasons out of my control, it was pushed to the end of May. Then the end of June. I played phone and email tag with my recruiter for results, but there was an enormous delay in their release. And I didn't hear until mid-July. Even typing this, it's hard admitting it: I did not get accepted into the Navy. Ten months of waiting and hoping, and I was not accepted. My recruiter couldn't go into much detail; he just assured me that I wasn't the only one who was delayed, then delayed again, then informed a week after the results actually came out. He said sometimes they need more officers, sometimes not so many. I just happened to be in a board where they didn't need so many. He suggested I forward my application to the next board (meeting in September, results to be out a month or two after), but I decided I had to move on with my life. I gave an honest effort to join the Navy, and the two boards (career areas) that I wanted to join didn't accept me. I couldn't keep my life on hold. It would have been an incredible experience to follow in the footsteps of my aunt and my grandfather, serving my country as part of the most powerful Navy in the world. But as my family pointed out, God just has other plans for me. Yes, I'm disappointed, and frustrated that I waited so long just to hear a 'no'. But at least I tried, and sometimes that's the best you can do.
2. What made you decide to switch from vegetarian to vegan?
I've been a vegetarian for roughly 8 years now. When I started, I wasn't incredibly strict: I still ate fish and chicken on occasion, especially at family gatherings where there weren't many other options. As I grew and learned more about animal agriculture, the hormones they put in meat, etc., I became a more strict vegetarian. In 2014, I did a summer internship in Dublin, Ireland and transitioned to a vegan lifestyle. The options in Dublin were endless: grocery stores labeled everything and it was easy to make the switch without feeling like I was giving up too much. When I returned home to the Midwest, things got complicated. Vegan food was far more expensive than it had been in Dublin, and I couldn't afford to buy everything I needed. As a result, I had a difficult time keeping weight on and it turned into an unhealthy situation. I switched back to a vegetarian diet, adding in things like eggs, Greek yogurt, Feta cheese, and whey/casein protein. For the next few years, I stuck with it, even getting into things like protein shakes and protein waffles as I started lifting and making more friends who were into fitness. At the beginning, it was wonderful, and I got back to a healthy weight with muscle (for the first time in my life). I was counting macros on a daily basis, spending quite a bit of money on protein and egg whites, and eating highly processed foods that claimed to be good for me. Quite frankly I got sick of everything being so fake and micro-managed. It was exhausting, weighing everything and making sure I hit an exact amount of carbs, proteins, and fats every day. If I missed a workout, it ruined my day. And then there was the occasional glass of wine, which - if you count macros - is understandably very hard to factor in. All the while, I knew it probably wasn't great to be getting so much protein from genetically modified sources. I spent a week visiting my family and taking a break from it all, and it was wonderful. So in coming home, I decided something had to change. All things considered, I decided to switch back to a vegan diet. Now, a few of you who have known me for years and saw what happened last time have voiced your concerns. I understand completely. But last time, I hadn't done my research. I existed mostly off cooked vegetables, salads, cereals, soy yogurt, and bread. I hadn't learned of the dense nutrition found in things like avocado, sweet potato, beans, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, or coconut milk. I didn't eat much fruit or nuts because I thought they had too much sugar and fat. I didn't want to try tofu, tempeh, seitan, or vegan cheese because I didn't have a kitchen to cook them in (living in a college dorm). This time however, I've expanded what I'll try. So far, I've had amazing vegan pizza, vegan cheeseburgers, southwest stuffed sweet potatoes, smoothie bowls, fried cauliflower rice, and even a vegan grilled cheese sandwich. The transition has been smooth and easy, and I'm loving trying new things along the way.
3. What is your favorite vegan food?
This is a hard question! If I'm making it at home, I'd have to say my southwest stuffed sweet potato. I do plan on doing a recipe post on it soon, but to give you an idea: cooked sweet potato, vegan refried beans, roasted peppers in chunky salsa, black beans, Daiya shreds, and olives. I love spicy food and this is a great way to make it! As far as eating out, there really isn't anywhere in my town to get vegan food. However, I recently visited a friend who introduced me to vegan pizza and it was the best deep-dish pizza I've ever had. Wondering where? There's a post coming!
4. What is your favorite/least favorite thing about living in Michigan?
I was born and raised in Michigan, spent four years in Minnesota for school, a few summers interning in different parts of the world, and ended up living in the Upper Peninsula. So I can honestly say that my favorite thing about living in Michigan has much more to do with the past than it does with the present. I have very fond memories of my family camping in the northernmost part of the Lower Peninsula, spending evenings around a campfire, riding our bikes to the ferry docks, and spending entire days on Mackinac Island. Fudge, ice cream, lunch packed in the two red paniers on either side of my mom's bicycle...it all just meant summer. I love that I have these memories with my family and spending time with them here in Michigan is hands down the best. However, many towns in Michigan - particularly northern Michigan and the UP - are very small. Very small. Everyone knows everything about everyone and if you aren't from there, you feel like you don't fit in. People come and go. And then there's driving 45 minutes to the grocery store, coffee house, and restaurants (that offer something other than white fish and beer). It's three hours to the nearest Target. I have to pay $4 every time I want to go below the bridge, so my options for weekends are limited. Even when I did live 'downstate' by my family, I still didn't love living in Michigan. You have to drive everywhere. There's no public transportation because the automotive industry drives the state (pun intended). And then there's winters. I could go on but I think you get the idea.
5. If you could live anywhere outside of Michigan, where would you go?
Take me south! I have been in the Midwest/northern part of the country for far too long, and I would love to be somewhere that stays warm year-round. I have dealt with snow and ice and cold winters for 25 years, and I would love to get away from it for awhile. Sure, there are people who say they love having all four seasons, but honestly I can't stand winter and spring. When I was in college, the temperature could get down to -40'F. One of my floormates my freshman year washed her hair one day before we left for class and didn't dry it. By the time we got across campus, it was breaking off because it had frozen. The belt in my car's engine cracked because I worked early mornings and it didn't have time to properly warm up before I got to work and shut it off again. I don't snowmobile, ski, or ice fish, so I really just get crabby for a few months until it's warm out again. And then spring comes and my allergies act up, giving me itchy eyes and major headaches. I would love to live somewhere where it stays warm year-round and just avoid the hassle of winter and spring. Maybe I would enjoy them more if it was just for a visit...
6. Was it hard to go minimalist? Is it better to sell or donate as you transition?
As with any big life change, you have to do what's right for you. For me, it was not hard to go minimalist because I did it at my own pace and on my own terms. I feel it would only be 'hard' if you felt deprived at the end. And to clarify, minimalism is not asceticism. It's just a way to clear out the clutter in order to adjust your focus and attention. It's not about severe deprivation or doing it for any sort of accolade or award. Some people take it to the max and live out of a suitcase, finding happiness and opportunity in writing and traveling. Some people do it slowly but surely, hanging onto things that let them live comfortably but not excessively. Some would say I'm not a 'true minimalist' (whatever that means) because I kept my Starbucks mug collection and have more than one plate, bowl, and spoon. It's very subjective to each person's needs, but in the end it's really just a way to simplify and move away from consumerism. In no way do I feel deprived, so it wasn't difficult at all. As far as selling vs. donating, I found that selling was better for 'big ticket' or 'current' items (think: furniture, video games, some books). I could have probably sold more of my movies, but I would have gotten pennies for them. I was glad to sell my furniture (cabinets I no longer needed, a side table, a shelf) because it allowed me to afford a few new pieces that I will actually use. For example, I made enough money to buy a new kitchen table and chairs, so when I do move I don't need to take my current, heavy, wooden one that has been passed through my family and gets sticky when its humid out. As for things that were still functional, though of little current value, I donated. Clothing, movies, books, dishes, etc. were all taken to the local donation store, where members of the community can now come and purchase them for a price they feel is fair. I also took some of my books and movies to the library, because they were all in great condition and the library in town really didn't have much for current movies, English learning books, and foreign language books. Honestly it all comes down to what is easiest and works best for you, allowing you to make the transition as simple and smooth as possible.
7. When are you moving? Have you found an apartment yet?
This post is coming. 100% aware this is a major loose end....stay tuned!
And on that note, that's all for today! I hope I answered your questions and tied up at least a few loose ends for you. I'm aware that there are still quite a few things unanswered/undecided, so keep an eye out for updates as they come. I do appreciate everyone who sent me a question on Facebook or Instagram and would be happy to answer more as they come. I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend!