How I Changed Direction

Describe an experience that caused your life to change direction.

We were nervous. The breeze of early morning stung our bare arms with cold. I complained, out of my own bitter hatred for the cold, and in hopes of quieting the spinning butterflies in my stomach. Doubts floated through my head as I acknowledged that we were three hours from home on a side of the state we had never known. Would they ever come? Eastern Washington, vastly different from our side of the Cascades, seemed a whole new world. Katie held my arm to warm me up and, I think, comfort herself, too. It was an explosion of firsts for us: first time alone far from home, first time at Warped Tour, first time representing an animal rights organization called PETA2. We were going to run a table for PETA2 at Warped Tour and, little did I know, change our lives. Every summer, Warped Tour returns to Washington’s Gorge Arena in George, Washington, bringing more and more bands of the “I’ve been dying to see them!” variety each time. For years, Katie and I had excitedly highlighted the list of performers at Warped Tour, imagining who we’d see and how great it would be. At over $100 total for tickets, merchandise, food, and board, Warped Tour was much more than we could ever afford. The 100 mile distance for two non-drivers proved to be an even greater obstacle. Warped Tour, at best, was nothing more than a distant dream. It is not difficult, then, to imagine our elation when we heard that PETA2, our favorite proponent of animal rights, was giving away free entrance to all those that tabled for them. Not only could we help an organization we loved, tabling provided the perfect cover, community service, to inspire my mother to drive us the long distance. Our dream could become a reality! We didn’t have to wait long before the PETA2 staff members arrived. They were two vastly different college-age women: one girl, Jolena, tattooed and dreadlocked with numerous piercings, the other, Amanda, clean cut with eyes that radiated with perkiness. I was struck by the fact that two opposing characters could find common ground in animal rights. Their devotion to animals impressed me. Both girls had been vegan for years and spent their entire summer touring the country in promotion of their passion. Katie and I listened with eager ears as Jolena explained how she’d been vegan since she was 12 and had gotten a tattoo with the word “Vegan” to remind her of the commitment she had made. I was awed by the fierceness that came over Amanda when she remarked on the horrible abuses animals face in factory farms. After listening to the women share their reasons behind their support of PETA2, we were moved and more than ready to man the table. Tabling was a wonderful experience. I love public speaking and tabling allowed me to speak to all sorts of people! Most people where receptive to the information we had to give out. Watching hundreds upon hundreds of people sign our petition to support an end to Wet Seal’s use of rabbit fur in their clothing was incredible. With so many signatures, we knew we could make a difference. Occasionally, we met people who were sharply opposed to PETA2 and their actions. These times were amazing too. Sticking to my convictions, standing up for what I believed in despite criticism, gave me a powerful feeling like nothing else. I had decided I wanted to be a lobbyist earlier that year. The enjoyment I got from attempting to persuade average people to listen to my opinions and agree with them made me feel confident in my ability to do such things as a career. In the end, we forgot about those highlighted lists of Warped Tour performers and only saw two of our favorite bands. Somewhere in the day, Warped Tour stopped being about getting community service hours and seeing bands. It became about learning all we could from amazing advocates for a great cause and guiding people towards seeing what we saw in animal rights. I’ll admit, though I proclaimed myself an animal rights supporter before tabling for PETA2, I was still very much a carnivore. After the Warped Tour, however, my life changed directions and I became a vegetarian. I liked meat prior to Warped Tour, but after, I knew that if I truly believed all I said that day, and the days before it, I could never enjoy meat again. Tabling taught me what devotion meant. Knowing Jolena and Amanda had stood for what they believed in across the country, and stuck to their principles no matter what, meant the world to me. I had been selfish in wanting to work with PETA2 just to get closer to my favorite bands. After tabling, I knew that if I was going to pursue anything, I couldn’t do it for the superficial reasons I had earlier. When I go to USC, like Jolena and Amanda, I will be a college student selflessly devoted to my passions. After tabling for PETA2 at Warped Tour, my life changed direction and now, I feel I’m definitely going the right way.

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