I was one of those few lucky teenagers who managed to find a group of kindred spirits with whom to spend my time. We were, to borrow a line from the movie Bridesmaids, a stone cold pack of weirdos, but we shared common values, philosophies, and interests in a way that I’ve come to realize is far from the norm in adult relationships, let alone those in the adolescent world. Although I no longer keep in touch with these individuals except in the loosest sense (i.e. Facebook), their influence on my life was enormous. The experiences, conversations, and adventures I had within these friendships largely shaped me into the person I am today.
Probably my favorite of our recurring adventures involved taking the train into Philadelphia. The purpose of these trips was generally twofold: to get out of the rather boring suburbs in which we all lived and to eat at the only vegan restaurant that any of us knew of. You see, while I had committed to a vegetarian diet in my mid-teens, I had a couple of friends who had already taken it a step further to veganism. Eating at a suburban restaurant as a vegetarian in the late 90s was difficult enough, but trying to find something vegan on the menu? Well, let’s just say I watched my friends eat way too many plates of french fries. But at “our” restaurant we all had an entire menu of food to choose from. No restrictions. No badgering the server to make sure there was no dairy or honey or chicken broth hiding in our entrees. Just ordering off a menu like normal teenagers. In a word: free. And it was this very freedom that made these trips so enjoyable and so memorable for me. It wasn’t, of course, just the freedom I found from being able to choose whatever I wished off of a menu. It was also the freedom I felt from leaving, even if for only a few hours, the town in which I had spent my entire life, the places I would always go, the things I always did. It was about having experiences and making discoveries on my own; relying a little less on the adults in my life and a little more on my peers. Becoming an adult. (more…)