The following piece was awarded First Prize in the OU Students Association Freshers Writing Competition for Freshers Fortnight 2022 (10 – 23 Oct). The author, Tish, lives in Devon and is studying Classical Studies.
Content warning: mental health, anxiety, depression.
- The day after today
- The future
As a child you’re asked what you want to be when you grow up, where you think you’ll live, what sort of person you’ll marry and how many children you’ll have. When you’re an adult it becomes a case of when will you do these things society expects of you, when will you get a good job, when will you move out of your parent’s house, when will you get married and start a family. Yet at the same time it’s when will you be happy, when will you put yourself first, when will you stop listening to what others tell you and be your own person and the only answer seems to be: tomorrow.
Growing up I always associated tomorrow with the next day, looking forward to it because of fun activities I’d get to do or dreading it because of school. Now, in my adult life, it embodies the second definition of the word. As a teenager I would tell myself that ‘everything will be better tomorrow, I won’t be so anxious or depressed, people won’t be mean to me, I’ll accomplish everything I want to do’ but it never seemed to make a difference. The next day would be just as bad, or sometimes worse, than the day before so I started to wonder just when this mythical Tomorrow was. Perhaps it would be the day that started just a little bit better and ended a little bit worse. Maybe it was that singular minute after that panic attack I hid in the middle of class when someone asked me if I was ok, and I said “Fine!” with a faked smile that I just about believed was real myself.
When anyone would ask me what I wanted to study at university and what job I wanted in the future I couldn’t decide. It all seemed too difficult to choose when I couldn’t tell where I’d be Tomorrow. So, I’d reply with a light-hearted “I’ll see what looks like fun that I can do” never really believing it but repeating it in my head until it either lost all meaning or I found something else to worry about. At first it was astrophysics, then drama, or maybe something English based, though psychology and sociology are pretty fun topics. Never mind, I’m now studying computing. Guess I’ll apply for a cyber forensics course, that way I can work in the police or even the army. Tomorrow became a thing to look forward to again, learning something new and exciting that would also lead to a good, respectable job at the end of it. Only I forgot that Tomorrow wasn’t going to be a miraculous day where I’d wake up happy and on the path everyone expected me to be on.
So, I decided: ‘Screw Tomorrow I only care about Today. Today I was going to do what I needed to make me happy, not everyone else.’ I dropped out before my failing grades could prompt the university to forcibly withdraw me. I moved back home so that I didn’t have to add the worry about paying for rent and groceries to everything else I worry about. I decided to apply immediately to a course that made me want to study all of it (though part-time so that I could cope with the workload). More importantly, I wake up every day and tell myself: “I have anxiety and depression. Today might not be the best day, but I can help it to not be the worst. One step Today, all the others are Tomorrow’s problem.”
I suppose I might have rambled through that a bit, but isn’t that the fun of it? If my story was a forest, each of the elements a group of trees, or bushes, maybe even a waterfall or some wildlife, wouldn’t you want to ramble around it knowing that no matter where you walk, you’ll always know where the end is, instead of following a boring path? That’s what I want people to experience my story as. A mysterious forest where you can follow the boring path of Tomorrow, or you can explore the rest and find new things as part of Today.
- This day, as distinct from yesterday or tomorrow
- The present age: children of today