I have experienced both the preventive and therapeutic value of exercise in my own life. When, at 22, I arrived in America from France, I hardly knew anybody. Besides going to medical school, I was looking for an apartment, moving in, getting the lay of the land. Starting all over again, without parents around to tell me what to do, was fun at the beginning, but after a few months, my life seemed empty, devoid of pleasure. Without my family, my friends, my culture, my favorite hangouts, I felt as if I were slowly withering away. I remember one evening in particular, nothing seemed to matter or make sense except classical music. I listened to Schubert endlessly instead of studying. After several weeks in this stark mood, I realized that if I didn't do something, I was going to fail my exams.
I didn't know where to begin, but I knew I had to shake myself out of my stupor. I thought about squash, which I had taken up shortly before leaving Paris. Luckily, I had brought my racket with me—and it saved me.
During the first two weeks of playing at a local health club, nothing changed except that I finally had something to look forward to. But also, thanks to squash, I met a few people who were nice enough to invite me over for dinner. For a long time, I didn't know whether it was the exercise or my new friends that helped me most, but whatever the explanation, it didn't matter. I felt far better, and I was back in the saddle.