Making Friends and Avoiding Osteoporosis at Thirty-Five

I gave up on a social life years ago. Medical school is not where you enroll if you are planning to be the belle of the upcoming season. You barely notice which season you are currently inhabiting. All you can think of is the two weeks in front of you and if eating one more tortilla chip may push you into the next jean size. Who cares about meeting up with interesting, likeminded people? You are just trying to get your study partners off your couch at 1 am. 

But at 35 years old I find myself at a cross-roads. Do I want my entire life to be heading home after work only to find myself hiking alone or cleaning my house on the weekends? Could I be missing something? If so, how do I find friends at thirty-five? Do I need them?

I think I do. At first, they aren’t going to be comfortable. Like a new pair of shoes: they are thought provoking in the window, have the new smell in the box and give you blisters the first time around the block. Questions then emerge: Will they break in? How will the soles hold up? Will a few scuffs improve their appearance, or will they just look resentful? Quality or quantity?

But people, like shoes, are traveling companions. You both get a little calloused through the experience, but callouses are not all bad. They are the body’s way of accommodating new pressures. And, weirdly, stress is needed. The skeletal system is not static. For bone to stay healthy, it needs force applied and remodeling to take place. Lifting weights in your 30’s and 40’s is a way to stave off osteoporosis and friends are a way to keep changing and adapting to life in a healthy way. 

Another good medical example (I can’t help it. I am a doctor) that utilizes stress is exercise and your cardiovascular system. Heart rate variability is a good indicator of heart health. What is heart rate variability? This is where the time between each heart beat shifts by a very small amount. We have higher heart rate variability as a child but as we age, don’t exercise, drink too much alcohol and make poor food choices we lose hear rate variability. Don’t fear. Swimming, running, dancing and playing are all here to help remedy the situation. Smiling, sweating and laughing are all good for your heart and all my involve some work. 

So with these words of comfort and a small pep talk I will begin to slowly wade into the friend pool. I can’t see the bottom but as my friend Adam Sudd says, “You need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.” Change is good.

 

- Dr. O'Connell

Abby Laing