"What's my age again?"

The time between when my parents finally left me alone after the holiday (November 25) until now (December 5, and coincidentally my father's birthday) has been extremely chaotic, in part because it's been a time during which I've questioned how old I am.

Last Monday, I hung out with some friends and watched 'The Social Network' for the second time. The chilling out, knocking back some drinks, and watching movies made me feel collegiate--like I'd never left my beloved coop at Princeton. (Though I will admit, I watched maybe a total of 5 movies in the coop during my 2.5 years in the IFC. The reality was that I was mostly watching television shows there. During my junior year, it was Grey's Anatomy, and BB and I would laugh, cry, and scream through the soapy surgical drama as we both crammed for Friday Chinese tests. As for senior year, there was definitely Mad Men, but since I bought a season pass on iTunes for Mad Men, I largely remember watching the Ben Flajnik season of 'The Bachelor' during thesis season. On that count, for better or worse, RPM is my witness.)

On Wednesday I went to a cookbook signing, an activity that made me feel like I was a late-twenties thirty-something homemaker. Saturday night, I had the same feeling as I went to a coworker's dinner party that could have put the Barefoot Contessa to shame and would have given Martha Stewart a decent run for her money.

Thursday night into Friday, I was a teenager again as KF and I saw 'Breaking Dawn: Part II' and TFC and I had our weekly Skype date in which we talk scathing 'Vulture' recaps of Season 6 of 'Gossip Girl' and watch the new episode of 'Glee.'

Then there were the mornings this week, all of which made me feel like I was 50+. When I went to the gym on Monday and Tuesday (and whenever I exercise, in general), I had tried running the indoor track before being stopped by the strange, dull pain that hits my ankles and feet. When I moved to the elliptical, my knees were hurting a little, as they sometimes do on this type of machine, even though it's technically low impact. (This is the part where someone recommends that I swim instead. I like swimming, but I am not a swimmer. The whole idea of my contact lenses falling out into the pool freaks me out).

Then this morning, I had to get an upper GI and small bowel X-ray, because my gastroenterologist can't explain my recent celiac tests and "wanted to see if there was anything else going on" in my tummy.

Good heavens, no one should ever have to go through this type of X-ray. They have to have something light up your insides when they take the picture, and the chemical of choice is barium. And chugging 16 ounces of barium solution, which tasted like chalk with a vague hint of the flavor you'd find in a fruit-flavored Tums, literally brought me to tears. Nothing could have made me more miserable as I lay on a cold, hospital table and was getting poked and prodded, forced to turn this way and that, all the while dressed in a gown that robbed me of whatever modesty and dignity I came with into the Radiology area of HVMC.

The whole experience made me feel terribly old. The impersonal, businesslike demeanor of the radiologist and the rehearsed concern and cordiality of the technicians made me feel positively alone. All I wanted was to have a husband or some old, widowed friend or something with me in the room to be supportive, hold my hand in the waiting room, and drive me home. I was terrified, and when it was over, totally weak and exhausted from the fear and from the hunger (they tell you the night before you can't eat after 8PM or drink after midnight.) I have no idea how I got on my bike to head to the office later in the day, let alone on the T to get home after the X-ray. My stomach is still turning from the barium, to the point that I'm deliberately writing with the laptop on my tummy to use as a heating pad. Hope I'm not killing too many eggs (now we're getting menopausal).

At any rate, the variety of experiences I've had concentrated into the past 10-ish days have made me realize more than ever the importance of physical health. I always want to smack the person on TV or in a book who cites his or her method of cooking, exercising, or living as part of some "quest of lifelong health." But now, I'm starting to think the oft-preached "quest" isn't so trite, and that it's something to which I (and my fellow twenty-somethings) should devote some real attention. It's a bit of a shame that I had to go through getting diagnosed with celiac disease and then today's ordeal to realize it, but at least it's not too late to get on the path.

Even if it means that I try going a little bit crazy/vegan...

(To be continued)