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The Iowa City Public Library wants to know what the heck you experienced during the pandemic

Processing our pandemic years

Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A, March 29, 6:30-8:00 p.m.


Adria Carpenter/Little Village

For Candice Smith, the pandemic blurred the last few years.

“It has wiped my sense of time from my brain,” she said.

The pandemic was another heavy stone tied to the heels of an already terrible year. Smith was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer on April Fool’s Day in 2019. At the same time, her mom was undergoing treatment for bone marrow cancer.

The cancer had spread to Smith’s lymph nodes. She had chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and oophorectomy (removal of her ovaries). The cancer fed on estrogen, so she took medicine to suppress her estrogen levels, which led to an osteoporosis diagnosis this year.

“But other than that I’m doing well,” she said.

Before the pandemic closures began, both Smith’s parents passed away. She felt estranged from people and lost. Surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic made her feel less alone since everyone was working through it together.

“When the lockdowns happened, I got to spend a lot of time at home, which was really good for me, to just hang around with my husband,” Smith said. “In a weird way, it was actually I think not as hard for me as most other people.”

Smith is a librarian at Iowa City Public Library, where she’s worked for over 20 years. While the library usually holds “book-focused” programming, Smith had an idea for a “person-related” event: how has the pandemic affected us, and how do we process it?

Smith and her coworker, Stacey McKim, began working on the “What the heck just happened?? Processing our pandemic years” event last year. The library will provide participants with a journal and pen so they can write about their experiences during the pandemic. ICPL also prepared several prompts — like masks, silver linings, grieving, etc. — to help people start writing.

This will lead up to a socially distanced, in-person event held on March 29 in Meeting Room A from 6:30-8 p.m. People can gather to talk about what they wrote, how journaling might have helped them process their emotions or anything else they want to share.

“I think it’s going to be a good sharing/learning event and might be helpful in ways that people didn’t think it would,” she said. “If people come to it, they might find a lot of commonality, and also I think just a wide range of experience of how COVID affected people.”

Smith said we can’t move forward until we understand how the pandemic changed our lives, and by sharing our experiences, we can become more connected to others in our community.


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