My bout of blepharospasm began a few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, when I woke up hungover and tired but unable to fall back asleep. Beyond the generalized agony — the parched throat, the raging headache, the feeling of a chain tied around my gullet — that morning’s hangover also brought a more peculiar symptom. Every once in a while, I felt as though someone were poking the corner of my eye, pushing my eyelid up and down with the butt of a pen.
The twitching was only mildly annoying at first. I found that if I closed my eye and massaged the lid, the spasms would go away. For a few minutes I’d be in peace, but it was only a matter of time until the invisible pen returned, poking me in the eye, incessantly, persistently, maddeningly.
I don’t usually turn to the Internet for medical advice, but by the afternoon I had grown desperate. I found it comforting that when I typed “eye twitching,” Google suggested “eye twitching causes” as a popular query. (Less comforting at the time was the second suggestion: “eye twitching for days.”)
The causes of blepharospasm, WebMD told me, include alcohol consumption, stress, sleep deprivation and high caffeine intake — all of which happen to be consequences of enrollment at Yale. But also listed on the website were a host of neuropathies: dystonia, Bell’s palsy, Tourette’s syndrome and Parkinson’s disease.
To be sure, my eye twitching was not caused by young-onset Parkinson’s. But it occurs to me that my optimism was grounded on only one fleeting factor: Youth.
I’m 21. I’m young. Most of us are in our 20s. We are, statistically speaking, safe from Parkinson’s for at least 40 years; from hypertension for 20 or so; from incontinence for 60 and from arthritis for 25. Most hip replacement patients are between 60 and 80 years old, meaning that our hips have, in all likelihood, at least 40 good years left in them.
At our age, we can live life with a degree of abandon that we’ll never enjoy again. This is partially about being a college student. Soon the things that now loom large in our minds — tests and papers and internship applications — will be dwarfed by real-world worries: rent and car payments and grocery bills.
But it’s also larger than that. We’ll only be young once; for now, we can chug penny drinks and dance at Toad’s on the stage and dip Wenzels in ranch dressing without worrying about our livers or joints or arteries. We can sleep on couches without needing a chiropractor in the morning, and we can play IMs without having to take breathers every three minutes. We can put on the freshman 15 and lose it in time for junior year. We can take cool but poorly paying jobs after graduation because we can survive on a diet of ramen noodles.
True, we’re not invincible. Our bodies are resilient, but they have limits. They’re breakable. What’s more, the choices we make now have an impact on our health later. But being aware of our youth puts things in perspective. No one is healthier at age 60 than they were at age 20. Slowly, surely, our bodies will deteriorate — our muscles will weaken, our bones will wear, our eyes will go cloudy and our minds, which now soar, will begin to flutter. Eventually we’ll be unable to do the things we once did with ease. That time will come inevitably, and when it does, I suspect we won’t regret all the bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches we ate, even if they end up making the needle climb a little higher.
So wake up at 7 a.m. on Saturday to tailgate and nap in the afternoon instead of doing homework, even if it means you’ll need to pull an all-nighter on Sunday. Be sleep-deprived — that’s how Blue State stays in business. Drink a little too much — a quart of Gatorade and an Advil or two and you’ll be good as new.
If worst comes to worst, you’ll end up with an eye twitch.
Teo Soares is a senior in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.