Entering my 20s: Why does my body suddenly hurt?

Kennedi Whittingham,
senior television writing and production major

Guest column by Kennedi Whittingham, senior television writing and production major

When I tore my ACL for the second time in April, it still didn’t faze me that I wasn’t invincible. Much like the claim that mothers forget the pain of childbirth, I had forgotten almost the entire recovery process that I went through seven years prior, and even told people that I was excited to get back to working out, as if it wasn’t going to be a difficult recovery. I went through a very busy and active April and May, powering through a torn knee without really thinking about the damage or recovery. I thought that even if I messed it up more, I’d be getting it fixed anyway, so what could be so bad?

It wasn’t until the day of my surgery that I started to get nervous. I had put the pain out of my mind so religiously that I had forgotten I was going through a whole ordeal, and the recovery was not going to be easy. On the other hand, I’m in my 20s. Nothing could get me down, right?

I started having dreams a few weeks leading up to my surgery. I would always be running from something or exerting a lot of physical effort to prevent bad things from happening. It wasn’t until a few days before the surgery that someone asked if my dreams meant I was afraid of not being able to escape something. I’d never thought about it before. In my mind, in any event that happened, I would be strong enough to survive. I would kick down doors, endure any pain and easily escape obstacles that came my way – I did run track, after all. I’d spent my entire life believing that any disaster or apocalypse-type situation would simply be a test of my physical strength, but my dreams were telling me to run while I still could.

A few weeks after I’d gotten acquainted with my large leg brace, the news of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida broke. Jumping to the worst conclusions, I started thinking about how I was more vulnerable than ever. I saw elderly people trying to flee, and I sympathized with them on a new level. I started thinking about the early 20s mindset, and how we still think nothing can hurt us – but our body is just beginning to tell us otherwise. Things I could do previously just because I wanted to were now out of the question. The idea of getting from the Lastinger Parking Structure to the other side of campus became almost too much, never mind the thought of not being able to use the elevator in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. Though I’d been through it before, the pain in my knee and the obnoxious cast reminded me of the inevitable: My body will never be as young as I will forever think it is.

Yes, it’s early to be thinking about the qualms of old age, but looking back, many of the things I could do during my first year of college aren’t even conceivable anymore. As a young person, it’s hard to think that, one day, it might take every ounce of strength to just get out of bed, and it’s important to recognize when we take our agility for granted. My second reconstructed knee has taught me to appreciate taking the stairs, running to class and even taking a tumble without worrying about seriously injuring myself.

Quickness and agility are pretty crucial to our society, and though it pains me to say, a huge part of getting older is acknowledging getting older.

Part of health in your early 20s is appreciating what your body can do, but also recognizing new limits and how to treat yourself right, so that when the time comes, you can easily outrun any natural disaster or zombie.

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