I am a big sister. Before I was a competitive black belt, before I ran the marketing and PR for a global food company, before I was a wife or even a mom, I was a big sister. It is in my nature to nurture, mentor and teach. I love it and I find it inspires me to be a better person.
I’m particularly interested right now in imparting pearls of wisdom to young female activists who are poised to truly change the world for the people that I love—my family and my two young boys.
Despite having two wonderful, encouraging parents who always imparted on me the belief that I could make a difference in the world, it wasn’t always easy for me growing up. As a vegetarian and later a vegan I faced my fair share of adversity at school. Heading to the school lunch room was a daily source of angst for me but I always knew deep down in my heart I was making the right decision for my health and the health of our animal friends.
I slowly discovered other like-minded animal activists and found a sense of belonging through my participation in martial arts and competitive sports. The taunting was significantly less when they found out I knew how to do a mean Ashi Barai (foot sweep) or could execute a Mawashi-geri (roundhouse kick) with the best of them.
For those of you who are vegan activists, you are heading into the world at an unprecedented time. On one hand you face an eco-crisis the likes of which we have never experienced, a global pandemic which has touched virtually everyone on the planet and will continue to do so for years to come and on the other, you face issues such as school shootings, global isolationism and a food ecosystem which is unequivocally broken.
To that end I’d like to give you this virtual commencement speech and advice I wish I had early on.
DREAM TIME. DO TIME.
Allow yourself time to dream. But not too much time. Truly happy and successful people who feel they have power and what they do matters DO. They combine the dreaming with the doing and only then can they be thought of as activists. There is a wonderful line in the song, “Hammer and Nail”, from the band The Indigo Girls which says, “Now I know a refuge never grows from a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose. Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.”
CONTROL TODAY LEADS TO SMART DECISIONS TOMORROW.
One of the most effective tools I learned in karate was a sense of self-discipline. It allowed me to channel the frustration I felt about not being heard, it also taught me self-control and to be measured in my words and my actions. For you, it is imperative that you learn how to exercise control over your thoughts as you go out into the world. Be conscious of what you choose to focus your attention on. And most importantly how you construct meaning from those deeds or words and what you plan to do with that knowledge. Mastery in critical thinking will give you wings at the time you decide you have enough information to soar.
A WORD ABOUT BOLD
I like to say don’t be shy about being bold. Do not conflate being aggressive or rude with being bold. Being bold means doing the right thing, not the easiest thing. It means being honest and vulnerable, free and brave.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
My grandparents shared a lot of the same sensibilities, but they were also so different in many ways. My grandmother loved to say, “If we both had the same opinions and thoughts then one of us would be expendable.” We naturally gravitate towards those like us, our tribe of similarly minded friends and colleagues, thus the phrase “birds of a feather flock together.” Although it is infinitely easier at first to join a flock, it is imperative for growth to step out of your comfort zone and experience new cultures and spend time with people who have different views on issues. Contrary to what we see on Twitter or in the news, we can have conversations with those on different sides of the spectrum and still respect their positions without coming to blows. This is critical for growth and gaining empathy—something we are sorely shy of these days. It also makes you more understanding and well-rounded, smarter and a better debater (if done right).
LOVE – OTHERS & YOURSELF
Are you posting only pictures of yourself? Maybe you’re adding in a picture of grandma in the background for good optics but then you are hamming it up for the camera in the foreground. Make it a practice to defocus on you, you, you and put more focus on giving attention, friendship and love. Being self-involved is a habit for many. Unless you are a diagnosed narcissist, it’s time to break that habit. You will be much happier. Yes, it is critical that you love yourself but you would be surprised about how much more you will love yourself by loving others.
To quote Stephen Colbert in his commencement speech at Northwestern University in 2011, “If you only love yourself, you will serve only yourself. And you will have only yourself. So no more winning. Instead, try to love others and serve others, and hopefully find those who love and serve you in return.” Words to live by.
Finally, the simple most bit of advice I have—if nothing else sticks—is to:
Lack of kindness is a disease. It stems from insecurity and deep rooted anger. The smartest, happiest and strongest activists I know are kind—kind to people, kind to those less fortunate, kind to animals and always strive to do the right thing. They are not perfect, but they strive.
Those who fought in World War II are often called The Greatest Generation. They gave their hearts, their souls and often their lives saving a world on the brink. Over the past 80 years we as a world have encountered our fair share of global challenges but the world you step into in 2020 is unlike anything we’ve seen in those eight decades.
But when I see what your generation has already accomplished and your fervent commitment to a better world I am given hope. I see your love of the planet and its inhabitants. I see your dedication to finding solution. I see you stepping up and taking responsibility for the world you have inherited.
What I see is the New Greatest Generation.
Go Forth with Kindness,
Tammy Fry is the Global Communications Director at the LIVEKINDLY co and the Global Marketing Director at Fry Family Foods. She has fought at the highest international level in martial arts competitions, is an avid surfer, and leads plant-based nutrition workshops in Australia and South Africa. Tammy will be a guest on Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan podcast June 3, 2020; listen live at 3 pm Eastern Time at unityonlineradio.org, or hear the podcast on Thursday June 4 and later at mainstreetvegan.net/category/podcast/ or on your favorite podcast app. Follow Tammy Fry on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/seedbytammy/ and on Instagram at instagram.com/tammyfry