Energy and Intent
Over the past 10 years, more and more staples of a vegan diet have become available at grocery stores across the country, and there's a downright boom of natural food markets, often in the least likely of places. Eventually, in the late '90's I was able to make the transition to complete vegan, even while eventually competing and traveling heavily as a US professional.
For the first few years after that point, I was a very strict vegan, and I wore the title as a badge of honor, not unlike how I felt about straight edge when I was in high school. But any time you choose to eat outside of the normative American food supply you're going to face a struggle, and these days as the pressures and complications in my life increase, I find that the energy I have to fight the battle sometimes wanes, despite my moral and ethical commitment to veganism for animal rights reasons.
As I try to find that balance between how I want to live my life and what I'm capable of achieving, I've begun to think of veganism as my preference and orientation as much as it is my practice. Whether you consider yourself vegan or vegetarian, it's important not to get caught up in titles or labels, but instead keep in mind the importance of your intent, and be satisfied with the level of energy you're capable of dedicating to your practice. For some of us, the amount of energy available to stay vegan in an environment with limited vegan food choices is boundless; it's no struggle at all. For others staying vegan at home where you're in complete control of your food choices, and simply doing your best with the situation you find yourself in when you're not in control is still something of which to be proud.
If your only meal option is a garden patty at Subway which you know has dairy in it, does that mean you're not vegan? Perhaps, but the real question is whether the label is important. Every time you're able to make a vegan choice and do so, you make a difference. Value those opportunities, and make the best of your situation when your available choices don't match up with your preferences.