When COVID-19 hit the United States in March of 2020, we (Jessica and Stephanie of HerStories) were just starting a new writing intensive course with a few dozen students. The women in this course were women just like us — midlife women whose entire lives had been entirely disrupted in a matter of a few days. All of us (instructors and students alike) struggled to get through the course “successfully” (if we judged success by any pre-2020 criteria).
We continued to offer groups and courses throughout the pandemic, and we heard — in writing and in our Zoom meetings — about our students’ everyday struggles. We also shared ours. We offered writing prompts and groups to help women like us to make sense of their feelings and anxieties and to share them on the page (or screen). Most of all, we knew women like us desperately wanted to connect, to be heard, to reach out. For some women, we knew we were offering a lifeline of support, and we took that responsibility seriously.
We also wanted to hear from women like us who weren’t enrolled in our writing courses. How were they doing? How were they coping? We put together a survey for our wider community, and over 520 women shared the details of their daily realities.
Right away we knew we wanted to offer women a chance to share their experiences in story form, not just through survey questions. Although we hadn’t published an anthology in quite a few years (so much work! so much time!), we knew that this pandemic experience was unlike any other. We wanted to put together a collection of fantastic writing about midlife women living through this pandemic — as a historical document, as validation for women who might feel that they were alone, as public evidence of Gen X women’s unique obstacles.
We were overwhelmed with submissions, and it was almost impossible to choose. For every chosen essay from a contributor, there were dozens more whose stories were equally powerful and resonant. This essay collection is dedicated to all of these women as well, who so bravely shared their pandemic stories.