How Long Is a Year, Anyway?

Reading the emails I sent one year ago today is sad, but also strangely comforting

There is considerable debate as to the exact date of the one-year anniversary of the pandemic in the United States. Is it January 21, when the first case of Covid-19 was discovered in the United States? Or is it February 6, when we had our first death? March 6, when 21 passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship tested positive? I personally think the anniversary is March 11, when then-President Trump gave his wobbly, error-riddled Oval Office speech, Tom Hanks tested positive, and the NBA shut down.

Your date may be different. But no matter what, we’re all in that period of realization that this has all been going on for a full year of our lives. It has long been a chestnut of pandemic wisdom that the world pre-Covid feels like a foreign planet than the one we currently inhabit. But how foreign? How long is a year, really?

To remind myself what my life was like last year at this time, and how much has changed, I decided to go back into my email outbox and see what I was talking about then. Suffice to say: I was not talking about any of the things we’re talking about now.

Here are 10 quotes from emails I sent one year ago:

  1. “It has stopped raining enough for us to have practice. Practice begins at 5:30 today.” I was coaching a Little League baseball team one year ago. We were just about to have our second practice — a gaggle of second-graders jumping around, high-fiving each other, spitting, being outside, making new friends. They were learning how to bond as members of a team, and learning how to socialize with people outside of their home. We had practice after school, which at the time, was a big building that taught children inside of it.
  2. “How is it down in Florida? I’ll be down there in two weeks for Spring Training.” One of my friends who writes about baseball for a living was in Port St. Lucie to cover the New York Mets. This friend’s job was to walk into clubhouses — tight, constricted, sweaty, and smelly rooms — and ask guys who’d just been running around a bunch of questions from roughly two feet away. When I arrived in Florida, I would sit in the stands knee-to-knee with total strangers for four hours.
  3. “I think everyone’s getting pretty exhausted of the politics. I can’t blame them!” I wrote this to a colleague, who had noticed that stories about the election were, surprisingly, not getting as much traffic as she expected. “I wonder if this is the year people just tune out entirely,” she said, and I agreed with her.
  4. “I’ll file my review when I get back later tonight.” I went to see a movie with Harrison Ford, The Call of the Wild, in which I sat in a crowded indoor movie theater sharing the same recycled air with hundreds of people to see a new movie that would be opening to thousands of similar theaters all across the country.
  5. “We found the city lovely.” We flew on a crowded airplane to visit Mexico City, which is in a different country than the United States.
  6. “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen them 10 times, and I think that was their best show.” While in Mexico City, I had seen Wilco, one of my favorite bands, play some of their most popular songs. I had paid money to enjoy the concert in person along with many of my friends.
  7. “I’ll see you in three weeks! Book it!” I did not in fact see this person in three weeks.
  8. “I’m so glad you’re feeling better. I think going to the Y has been great for you both.” My parents, in their 70s, had recently begun working out indoors at the YMCA, a place they could go to socialize and exercise with people their age to stay healthy.
  9. “You know, there is absolutely no way that millions of people are suddenly going to believe that Democrats are Satanic pedophiles who are murdering people and wearing their skin, that’s a completely insane idea, there is no universe where that could possibly happen.” All right, so I did not say this exactly. But you get it.
  10. “I know that this has been a difficult few years. But it’s going to get better. And it’s going to get better soon.” I do not believe this person still considers me their friend.

The point here is not to look at how stupid I was a year ago, blissfully unaware that a pandemic was approaching and was about to upend every aspect of life on this planet. (Though I encourage you to do so. It’s fun.) It’s also not to note how stupid everyone else was back then, though if you’d like, here’s a good place to start:

The point is that a year is not, in fact, a very long time at all. In a year, everything changed. But in another year, or maybe even sooner, it will all change again. There is great reason for optimism right now. And you know what would be wonderful? Getting back to one year ago, again. That really would be just wonderful.

What comes to mind when you think about the pandemic, one year in? Tell us your story.

Writer, New York, NYT, MLB, WaPo, others. Founder, Deadspin. Author of four books, with fifth, “How Lucky,” coming May 2021. https://williamfleitch.substack.com

Thanks to Brendan Vaughan

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