At the ripe old age of 31, I find that I’m quite nostalgic for the pain and injury-free days of my 20s. Sure, many people in their 30s claim that it’s an amazing decade in your life. They speak of this newfound self-assurance, and their self-consciousness seems to mysteriously vanish. They start chasing after their dreams, and they make major life changes that lead them to happiness. But what these best-decade advocates neglect to mention is how your body starts to completely fail you as you’re living your so-called best life.
Why aren’t all my body parts living their “best life”? There are muscles aching in my body now that I didn’t even know existed. I don’t know how to stretch them or rehab them because I don’t know what they’re called. I find myself devoting at least twenty minutes of every day to Googling symptoms, pains, or aches and self-diagnosing my latest affliction by cross referencing a series of Web pages and health blogs. With the amount of time I spend researching the human body, I could practically be considered a licensed physician. The hypochondriac M.D.
Of course, as you start to age, there are some expected subtle differences in your body. If you drink multiple tequila shots until 4 a.m., you might need 1-2 days to recover completely now instead of 1-2 hours of sleep and 1-2 Advil. If you order Seamless multiple times a week, you might need to buy a separate wardrobe to fit your body whereas your waistline didn’t change by even a centimeter back in your heyday. But there are even bigger, in-your-face changes in store.
Apparently, no part of your body (internal or external) is safe from injury after 30. And apparently, as you’ll find out, I should be living in a bubble. I’ve always been very active, hitting the gym 4-5 times a week. Just before my 30th birthday, I was in peak physical shape and still working out like I was invincible. I rarely dedicated the proper amount of time to stretching or warming up. Fast forward to a lifting session where I attempted to squat about 200 pounds without any type of warm up. Two reps in, I broke form and rounded my back. The pain that shot through my lower back was so intense it robbed me of my breath and my pride. I fell on the cold tiled gym floor like a little bitch. I was in complete agony. And I was in mourning for my body. This new 30-something reincarnation of my body was frail and needed to be cared for in a new, sensitive way. I hadn’t received the instruction manual on this, and I didn’t recall this being a part of all the fabulousness of turning 30.
You’ll discover your confidence, they said. You’ll become a new, better, bolder person, they said. What they didn’t say was that I’d simply be older. Older things (and people) break more easily. And this lower back trauma was my first lesson in how not to age gracefully.
Throughout the first year of my 30s, I went on to suffer from bouts of bronchitis, sinusitis, a strained piriformis muscle (I don’t know what it is either), the development of bunions, and a case of esophagitis brought on by taking a pill before bed without enough water. Esophagitis is the term for the inflammation of your esophagus. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it makes everything you swallow feel like shards of glass. Never take the ability to swallow solid food for granted. A diet of chocolate pudding and gelato sounds like heaven until that’s all you can get down without crying. Taking your pills with a full glass of water is not just a nice recommendation. It’s a requirement. Trust me; heed the warning, folks.
Take this essay as more than just the confessions of a hypochondriac. Entering my 30s has been fruitful, exciting, and amazing on so many fronts. But the one downside of aging, and the part that I’m having the hardest time coming to terms with, is the increasing physical vulnerability of my body. How are these parts supposed to last me another 50-70 years? Am I alone in my struggle or are other 30-somethings watching their bodies crash and burn too?
Youth may be fleeting, but Google is not. Before something else is sprained, strained, or pulled, I guess I’ll invest time into researching preventive health measures like never leaving home again or suspending the aging process. As I sit here simultaneously stretching my lower back, feet, and piriformis, it’s important to note that aging can still be a beautiful thing as long as it’s done with caution. Getting older is an inevitable part of life, but be sure to do it in moderation or agony and pain will be just as necessary.