fb-pixelIt’s March again . . . or was it always March? As the pandemic closes in on grim one-year anniversary, people feel stuck in time - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

It’s March again . . . or was it always March? As the pandemic closes in on grim one-year anniversary, people feel stuck in time

“We never left March, we’ve been here the whole time.”

Runners cast long shadows as they jogged along the Charles River Esplanade earlier this year.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File 2021

It’s March again! Spring is right around the corner; summer, hot on its tail. Better days beckon.

Or was it ever not March? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

So much has happened in the year of the pandemic — most everything was canceled, a new president was elected, Tom Brady left but won another championship, and three highly effective vaccines emerged to one day restore normalcy. But in some ways, it feels like time hasn’t budged a bit.

For many of us, the past 12 months have been somewhat of a blur, the days mixing together like paints on a palette. We are Phil Connors from “Groundhog Day” — trapped in a maddening loop and searching for signs that it will be over eventually.


Sure, things seem to be heading in the right direction. But as March 1 landed on our doorsteps on a raw, rainy Monday morning, it was easy to feel like we’d never truly moved beyond the bleak chaos of March 2020.

“POLICY ANNOUNCEMENT,” former congressional candidate Jesse Mermell tweeted Monday morning. “I am **against** it being March again.”

On March 23, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker ordered all nonessential businesses closed by midday, and advised residents to remain home. It was the start of an entirely new way of life, of wearing masks and social distancing, that happened so quickly it warped the passage of time.

Just weeks before that, we looked askance as hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and rubber gloves began to disappear from store shelves, and chuckled nervously — but listened! — as the marching orders became “sing Happy Birthday in its entirety, twice, while washing your hands!”

We learned new ways to greet each other (tap your feet, or knock elbows!) and soon wondered if sweat pants would become the de facto outfit for those fortunate enough to work from home.


And now we are here again, March 366th, 2020, a month that will go down in infamy.

For Kris Haight, it feels like he’s still on a vacation that he never got to take.

In early March last year, he was gearing up for a trip to Europe and then Florida. But things started to take a turn in London, where he was slated to start his three-week journey. Concerned about the coronavirus’s spread overseas, he canceled his flights and stayed put. But his employer told him to still take the time off.

His staycation bled into working from home for the next year.

“It’s become a big blur,” said Haight, a network administrator from Chelsea. “I feel like we are just kind of, ‘Here we go again,’ on repeat.”

As February drew to a close, Christine McCarthy was reflecting on last March and the lead-up to the partial lockdown. At the time, a group of volunteers she had been working with decided to cancel a political event scheduled for March 13, wary of the coronavirus’s spread.

It felt like a lifetime ago, but also like yesterday, said McCarthy, who lives in Jamaica Plain. And although so much has happened and changed, so much has remained the same.

“It feels like whatever the Upside Down is — one long month of just insanity,” she said, referencing the alternate world in the Netflix show “Stranger Things.”


“It makes me want to scream when you think about this has been a whole year,” McCarthy said.

Rhodes Hambrick, a pediatric resident at a Boston hospital, joined the chorus of people on social media comparing the past year to one long and grueling month. He said because we haven’t yet achieved “a new normal” even after all this time, it feels like we remain caught in a bad dream.

“The larger majority of the US population is not vaccinated, and it still feels like the goal posts are months away,” he said. But “I’m hopeful that this spring will be something towards a resolution.”

While some put their feet down, refusing to accept that nearly a year has passed, others became somewhat philosophical about this strange transition from one March to the next, a span of hundreds of days that seemed to exist outside of time.

“How is it March again, when March never ended,” one person wrote on Twitter.

After all, time is a flat circle.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him @steveannear.