Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Healthiest Days of Our Lives

Different people will tell you what the "healthiest" age of one's life.

If we're looking at stem cell healing and "bouncing back," small children have it in the bag. For physical prowess, look to those between 16 and 20. With mental agility, early to mid-20s are healthiest, when your frontal lobe finishes developing.

None of those sound quite right to me. There's a lot more to life than stem cells and frontal lobes.

Maybe my healthiest age could've been my early teen years. But I started struggling with depression at age 12 or 13. I'm not the only one: most teens in America wrestle with mental health issues.

There's the physical. Sure, teen bodies are strong and resilient. But increasing stress and low sleep take a toll. Plus who in their teen years actually utilized the health we had then?

High school and college students are more active in sports, making them more likely to incur injuries. College students are also in the top 5 loneliest demographics. Stress and mental illness continue to be high into your 20s.

Most kids in college don't eat or exercise too well, either. They're too busy with grades, internships, jobs, and trying to live up to expectations. Twenty-somethings outside college don't eat well either. They're too busy trying to get a living wage.

So forget eating and exercising: I need to pay rent. And ramen is cheap.

As I sat around with ex-roommates a few months ago, the topic of health came up. We realized we're in our late 20s/early 30s and all extremely healthy. We eat well; take care of our mental health; exercise; actually have a PCP; and work on improving ourselves.

We feel healthier than we've ever been.

Maybe it's the slow realization that we're not going to have these young, "easy" bodies for long. Or maybe it's that we're out of the stressful coming-of-age gambit. We have enough time now, and the knowledge gleaned from our mistakes.

My friends and I at that table have stronger muscles: running, dancing, climbing. Our numerous health conditions have died down or come under control. We eat healthy and feel great. Those of us with mental health issues are managing them.

We live well-balanced lives.

So what if your body is in peak condition when you're younger? Most of us don't use our body's full potential until after the peak. Youth may have greater vitality, but age makes you responsible enough to maximize it.

I don't want to be someone who pines after being in their early 20s again. If I ever do, please remind me about the depression, chronic gastritis, high stress and anxiety, hospitalizations, defunct knee, stress-induced casein allergy...

Remind me that no time in life is perfect.

And at the same time, every time in life is good.

All we have is right now. Even if our vitality cap lowers when we edge toward our 30s, we can still make use of what we have. We can still enjoy life.

What else are we going to do -- complain?

Word count: 507.
Photo: Donnie Ray Jones.