By Aileen McGraw
By the time my internship with the Vegetarian Resource Group began in early June, I had lived the vegan lifestyle for over two years. Cruelty-free diets and compassionate living brought familiar comfort. I knew the philosophies and strategies behind vegetarianism and veganism. At least, I thought I did.
One of my first projects was writing about balancing veganism with Type 1 diabetes – two factors that define much of my daily life. I hardly remember the years before my diagnosis with diabetes, but 17 years eating meat and other animal products remain vivid in my memory. Before the VRG piece, I rarely thought to consider these two driving forces together. Diabetes and veganism were parts of a whole, and through the writing process, I put into words something my body knew all along: my medical condition and dietary preferences inevitably connect with one and other. This became more than a general idea as I researched and fact-checked the article, diving into resources within VRG and the American Diabetes Association. Intern revelation number one: complete.
Starting at the VRG had me asking myself, “What do I want out of my internship?” The VRG comprises an amazing community of writers, professionals, interns, readers, sponsors and supporters of compassionate living. My resource pool is endless, and my experiences find even greater potential while interning long-distance from Chicago. I attended Chicago’s first annual Veggie Pride Parade, later exploring the wealth of VRG information on vegetarian festivals. I wrote up a blog entry filled with my opinions and perceptions of the parade, soon submitting it to the Baltimore VRG crew. I eagerly awaited their thoughts. Is it vegan of me to love feedback, to see how my words and actions impact others and our environment? After receiving the VRG response, I poured over revisions and comments. Surprisingly, the input surprised me. Intern revelation number two: witness politics. Recognize the achievements of everyone. Sure, I blogged about my experience, but more importantly, I had the opportunity to share information about Chicago’s vegan community and learned the importance of writing without bias.
As I reach the halfway point in my VRG internship, I keep reevaluating my concept of sustainable living. New challenges come to my attention while co-writing a vegan-backpacking article (who knew shoe glue can contain animal products?). The vegan lifestyle takes on a broader meaning when surveying senior living options. Fresh perspectives show me that vegetarian action happens at all ages (take, for example, Justice Beske and his mother, Marla Rose, who make kid-friendly Vegetarian Starter Kits together).
Intern revelation number three (and four, five, six…): ongoing. So far, my VRG internship catalyzed a redefinition of compassionate living, what it means to me, and how it influences community. I look forward to continuing this growth!
Interested in interning with VRG? See Internships & Scholarships at VRG!