By Shelby Jackson
My Eleanor Wolff Internship with the Vegetarian Resource Group has been wonderfully inspiring and informative. Charles and Debra were warm and welcoming and made sure that I experienced all the fun Baltimore had to offer. Debra’s kindness never failed to put a smile on my face, and Charles thought-provoking banter exercised my mind and challenged me to think in new ways. As a vegan from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, I had never spent much time with many vegans, especially vegan adults. My coworkers and all those involved in the VRG, as well as the many individuals I met at conferences, proved to be reaffirming on many different levels.
The variety of skills and talents my coworkers brought to the table helped me realize the many different tasks that keep the VRG running smoothly. I began to contextualize the vegetarian and animal rights movement in new, more enlightened ways. The wide variety of organizations and causes are the nuts and bolts that hold things intact just as the ideas, passion, and commitment from all the individuals within the movement fuel it forward. There is a place in the movement for every individual interested in vegetarian advocacy, one that they must personally seek. I learned that I have a definite place; although I do not know exactly what it is yet, I am comforted by the fact that it exists, and that with time, it will become clearer to me.
Working the VRG table at the Taking Action For Animals, School Health Interdisciplinary Program, and Animal Rights conferences, I was forced out of my comfort zone. I began to comprehend that crossing such a threshold, and taking advantage of experiential learning and face-to-face interaction is an effective way to carve your place and truly engage in the world. This sort of engagement is essentially what the entire movement hinges on, and I would have been deprived of many understandings had I not immersed myself in the conversations taking place at the conferences.
Sitting in the VRG office typing away on a computer often made it difficult to grasp the tangible effects I was attempting to bring forth. Often, I felt disconnected from the world that I was presumably working to better. Then I began to realize that results are not always that which you can see, and that certain types of advocacy and real world work are very different than the work that is done in college. Unlike college, you will not get a pat on the back or an A for your hardest, most challenging work. In the real world, you must learn to give credit to yourself by identifying the relation of your work to the larger scheme of things. My work at the VRG helped me discern this difference, and I now realize that the work I engage myself in beyond college must be, like the work I have done for the VRG, personally meaningful. I must remember that not everything is visible, and that as long as I am working for the greater good, and motivated by genuine passion, my efforts will bring happiness.
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