Today is different. It’s the first day in five years that it’s been different like this. It’s unlike any of the 1,825 days that have passed before it.
Today is missing something. Today is missing a paragraph.
Five years ago I was in a very different place. A little lost, a lot lonely, and very unsure of exactly what I was going to do next. I’d been forced to move back in with my parents after leaving my job, was struggling to pay off a big chunk of debt, and had few friends around me to take my mind off it.
I was a bit embarrassed by it all.
I’d been so self-assured before, too self-assured. I was confident in my decisions and my ability. I was cocky, and then it all crashed around me. Who was I if I had nothing to be cocky about? What was the Ash brand when it was trapped in its childhood bedroom, where it had last been a mopey teenager struggling to come to terms with life and with no idea how to use a comb?
I’d taken two steps forward since then, before being dragged back to the very beginning.
The feelings are all still very clear to me now, because I can see them written down.
Five years ago I was given a book that would be opened by me every day until today. It was called One Line a Day: A Five Year Memory Book. In it you wrote about your day, every day for five years. Pretty much what it said on the cover.
I had no idea at the time how helpful it would be, or that I’d be able to stick to it.
For the first few days I felt a little silly. I’ve never been an emotionally open individual, preferring instead to respond to situations with a joke or witty remark. Opening up to a book felt daft, so when I look back I can see what I’ve written is always a little reserved. I’ve written about things as if one day someone else might read it in search of entertainment.
After a while, though, it began to feel natural. I’m a man of habit, and writing about my day became part of that. I’d do it as the last thing every day before I went to bed, keeping the book in my bedside drawer with a pen to hand to ensure I never forgot.
The more I did it, the more comfortable I was with the idea of expressing myself. After all, this book covered some pretty key moments in my life.
I can read about the stress I felt when choosing between two job offers. I can see the excitement when flat hunting, the fun of making new friends, and the despair at falling ill (again and again).
There’s one particular week of entries where I’d been in hospital with diabetic complications. My writing became a lot more… fluid. The lack of consciousness clearly took its toll, and the pain medication made me both elated and miserable at the same time. There’s even a point where I predict more illness will follow – “Been sick all night. This probably won’t end well.”
I can also read about finding a new job – three times – and falling out of love with them twice. I can see how I felt about leaving Sheffield (heartbroken) before returning to it 18 months later (delighted). I can even see my confidence as a person growing again, faltering, returning and flourishing.
I can read about my first date with Grace, and my second, and third, until we moved in together.
It’s weird in a way to be able to analyse yourself like that, but also quite refreshing. It’s easier to learn from your past when it’s there in ink before your eyes, and also much easier to cringe when looking at the mistakes you made.
The most important thing it’s helped me do is get my thoughts out of my head and onto a page.
It’s easy for things to get mangled and confused up in your mind, but when you write them down they make a lot more sense. Putting all your stresses and worries into a couple of lines makes them smaller and less significant, and much easier to overcome.
It’s like every day was condensed into a short story. Looking back to a ‘year ago today’ as I used to do every night made me realise how much I’d grown, how much I’d learnt and how much I’d changed. It was a lovely little pat on the back at times, and at others an embarrassing reminder of who I used to be.
Tonight will feel weird, sitting down and writing nothing. But it will also feel nice, knowing a five year chapter of my life has been closed off and filed away.
Good work, book.