Tomorrow never comes
Milly Earnshaw-White takes us on a motivational adventure with protagonist Lena as she discovers the importance of living in the present.
Lena stared at the words in front of her. Garish, capital letters scrawled onto a cardboard sign in red sharpie. Well, sign in a loose sense of the word. It was evidently the inside of a cereal box; the other side reading ‘Lucky Charms’ or something of the sort. But she didn’t feel very lucky today.
TOMORROW. NEVER. COMES. The three, ordinarily uninteresting words seemed to crash into Lena’s consciousness one by one. Her stomach churning, she was somewhat sickened by the prospect. Had she not been so stricken by this sign, perhaps she would’ve noticed the strangers going about their days around her: the man strolling past her, who bared an uncanny resemblance to his pet Beagle; or indeed the busker, wailing a ghastly rendition of a Celine Dion song. All the while, Lena sat stagnantly. She couldn’t help but feel that these torturous words had been sent down to smite her by some divine being. Then again, God must certainly work in mysterious ways if this message was destined to reach her at 13:16 pm on an average Tuesday, by means of a gaggle of climate activists. Their ranting was serenaded by the piercingly off-key singer down the road, ruining My Heart Will Go On. Lena remained oblivious however, ensnared by the measly six syllables that could change the course of her fate.
Lena O’Brien was trapped in a sort of Groundhog Day. Not literally, of course, she was not the protagonist of a 90s time-loop movie. Nevertheless, each day brought nothing but the same monotony as the one before. Every day would start with the usual longing for when it was already over. The same headache-inducing alarms and the familiar manoeuvre of rolling unwillingly out of bed. She could be depended on to always be running late after the humdrum of her morning routine, and to top it off, having to endure that same wretched walk to her underpaid, uninteresting post-grad job. Today hadn’t started any differently to any other. She spent the morning replying to emails, inputting data into endless spreadsheets and sharing usual meaningless small talk with co-workers (which was a chore in itself). She could practically mouth along to their cooing of “cloudy today isn’t it? But at least it’s not raining!”, which was among their favourite exclamations of polite, office chit chat.
Lena O’Brien was trapped in a sort of Groundhog Day. Not literally of course, she was not the protagonist of a 90s time-loop movie. Nevertheless, each day brought nothing but the same monotony as the one before.
Lena scheduled little variances in her routine, provided by her elongated trips to the kettle for cups of tea (milk, one sugar). She would amble slowly back to her desk, the taste of her short-lived freedom sweet on her lips and in the cup. Working hard at not staining her un-ironed, white shirt, she tried her best to get through the drudgery of the extra paperwork already piled on her desk. By 13:00 the office became suffocating. Like clockwork, Lena, bag in hand, leaves to take her lunch break.
As she walks, Lena untangles her perpetually knotted headphones, shoving them into her ears impatiently, pressing play on her latest self-help podcast. Thus far, however, they hadn’t been any help whatsoever. She navigates her usual route through the High street, swerving to avoid the gossiping young mothers with prams, and the rebellious teenagers who ought to be in school. At last she reaches her preferred lunch spot and is pleased to nab her favourite bench in the park. It was at 13:16 however that those dreaded, blood-red words distracted her from the unbearable, forced positivity of the podcast: TOMORROW NEVER COMES.
What a cruel twist of fate, she thought. To become aware of being condemned to so small a life. She had had such ambitions. She felt sure that the universe had not intended for her to end up back in her dreary little hometown. Especially working at an entry-level position, which her mother continually described as a dead-end job (behind her daughter’s back and often to her face). She was always so sure that this was just the beginning. Something to start her off. That her bright future was just around the corner. But what if there wasn’t a corner to turn at? No pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. She may just always be stuck in the rain.
But what if there isn’t a corner to turn at? No pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. She may just always be stuck in the rain
Struck by the words’ blatant pessimism, she couldn’t help but see a clear-cut, beige existence laid out ahead of her. “I’ll do it tomorrow” had always been her excuse. It was her way out of forfeiting responsibility and putting off taking the risks that would put her on a different path. She would do it when she was promoted. She would travel when she had saved enough money. But the fated ‘tomorrow’ never arrives. Only the stress and worries brought over from yesterday.
Lena felt the weight of her worries bearing down on her, trapped in existential panic as she stared down the perpetrating placard. It was akin to her betrayal at eight years old, when she discovered that Santa Claus was not real. The safety blanket of tomorrow had been ripped away. A false promise like all the rest. Through the chaos of her mind, however, it became ever present that she had to make the most of today.
Thinking back to the ups and downs, the deadline stress, meaningless small talk, friends, family, tears, laughter; she had always been so certain that more was to come. The monotony had made her forget the value of the day-to-day. That the small talk didn’t have to be meaningless. That she didn’t have to stay in this town. Tomorrow wasn’t a given. Life was full of yesterdays, laters, soons and tomorrows; but oh how eager Lena now was for today. She didn’t have to decide on everything now. She had twenty-four hours to enjoy, make plans, even make small talk. But she decided she would live them to the fullest.
Tomorrow wasn’t a given. Life was full of yesterdays, laters, soons and tomorrows, but oh how eager Lena now was for today
Lena watched the climate activists walk away and, steadying herself, got up to take a new direction. Pulling out her headphones and turning off the self-help podcast, she looks upon the world with new eyes. Though only moments have passed, Lena feels changed yet more truly herself than ever. Perhaps she would find a new favourite spot. Who knows? Maybe she would be inspired to take singing lessons by the busker down the road. Why wait until tomorrow to enjoy the opportunities waiting for her today.