When I was about 16 the world was black and white. At least it was to me. There was right and wrong, no grey areas. In fact, the world was mostly wrong, and as a headstrong teenager it was up to me to put it right.
When I look back at my 16 year old self I feel admiration and a tinge of sadness. I admire her conviction. She had just become a very strict vegetarian in a world where an omelette on a menu would have been a treat for those looking for a meat free option. She had marched to save the whales and truly believed that not eating oranges from South Africa would end Apartheid.
But she was also naive. Several decades of life later and it’s clear the world isn’t so simple. In fact it’s downright complicated. There’s still plenty of right and wrong, it’s just these days there are lots of grey areas making the boundaries a little murky. I prefer the world through her eyes. It was simple, straightforward. In fact, I did get to witness the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison. And though these days I’m not so sure my fruit embargo achieved much beyond my own satisfaction, at the time I did feel a small sense that I helped.
So despite my cynical age, turning my back on everything that was important to my 16 year old self would feel like I was letting her down. It was her, after all, that set us on this road to a simpler life when she arrived home that year and announced that Christmas in our home should no longer involve gift giving. We still stick to that tradition all these years later. And though I’m no longer a strict vegetarian, I know she makes me think hard about what I’m eating. She’s still inside me somewhere, keeping things simple.