One Way to Cope with the Pandemic: Eat Ice Cream
A Pittsburgh Magazine intern focuses on the positive despite an avalanche of negative events.
I’m eating ice cream at 11:30 in the morning.
It’s OK. We’re in a pandemic. There’s no judgment during a pandemic, so these calories don’t count. And that stomachache that’s about to hit also doesn’t count. My anxiety about COVID-19 has already done plenty to keep my stomach in knots.
I’m not afraid of getting sick. I’m in my early 20s; if I were to contract the disease, I have a high chance of recovering fairly quickly. I am worried, though, about people stocking up on supplies they don’t need — which inadvertently could keep supplies from those who do need them. I’m worried about small businesses and how they will be affected by weeks of social distancing. And, on a more personal note, I’m worried about how social distancing and isolation will affect the emotional well-being of myself and my loved ones, especially those on my former track team and other college students who’ve had their final semester cut short.
But I’m trying to stay positive.
So I’m eating ice cream.
My final semester of college wasn’t supposed to end like this. In fact, it wasn’t supposed to end in 2020 at all. In the eyes of most of my friends, some of my family and even myself at times, I’ve already graduated.
I started college in the fall of 2015. My college experience didn’t fit into a four-year mold — but I got close. I was permitted to attend graduation in 2019 because I had completed enough credits that my department allowed me to go, and I had a plan to finish my last few classes over the summer.
Instead, I needed to take a break.
I’ve faced a lot of adversity throughout my college career — and it peaked over the last two years. My fourth year of college started in August 2018 — a week after my ex-boyfriend died. That was swiftly followed by an injury, my first in eight years of track and field. The following January, my grandfather died.
At that point, I was visiting the athletic trainer every day to recover from injury — while grieving and taking an unusually heavy load of classes. In late March, just when I thought my life was becoming somewhat normal again, I clipped my foot on a hurdle during practice and landed on my head. The resulting concussion took me out of competition again and led to a chain reaction of other events. I wasn’t able to complete all of my classes. My college plan was extended by another semester — the semester I’m completing now, amid social distancing. In a twisted way, the pandemic feels like the final obstacle, setting up a fitting ending for my college career.
Still, even after all I’ve been through, I’m thankful for having extra time in college to better prepare for my career while enjoying the company of friends. It’s not my own college career that the pandemic makes me sad for. I feel like I already had my time.
For many of my friends, they’ve lost an experience they won’t get back.
It’s my former teammates who won’t be able to finish their final track season, or those who have lost a season in the middle of their career, that are on my mind now. It’s two of my roommates who traveled to the NCAA Track and Field Nationals but were told to go home before they had the chance to compete. It’s my friends in Global Public Health Brigades who were supposed to go to Panama over spring break to build latrines and improve public health in an under-resourced community. It’s my friends who have had internships canceled.
All of these changes in our lives were absolutely necessary to combat COVID-19, but that doesn’t make the adjustment easy.
So, for the next few weeks — in addition to going for walks, exercising in my room and sticking pretty close to my usual diet — I will be eating as much ice cream as I want. After all, we’re in a pandemic and normal life has pretty much halted.
So these calories don’t count, right?
Autumn Hair is an intern at Pittsburgh Magazine and completing her senior year at Carnegie Mellon University.