I have been meaning to start a blog like this one for ages. The little courage and confidence I have in regards to my abilities had done a good job in hindering me from achieving any progress that would have brought me closer to that goal.
Or so I believed. For as long as nine years, I’ve had an unconscious insight to collect pieces of writing I spontaneously produced, in a small wine&cheese box and in journals. My mum, discovering this jewel in her eyes, had helped me built a collection of unpublished poems and quotes, which she enjoyed sending to some of my family members and two of my literature teachers. This was when I was 9. From then on, I was to face the overwhelming pressures of social and academic life which many of us must endure in order to grow stronger and experienced in the art of living in a society. As I grew older, the pressure built exponentially without my resilience alongside it, until the point where I snapped. In reality, I broke many times since then, these overwhelming moments of sadness leaving marks on my skin and memories at every checkpoint. When I opened up to people about these feelings, I came to realise how common they were. Everywhere around me, people were facing their own fears, their own pressure and their own responsibilities. Yet, as I looked deeper, I discovered a small group of people which operated similarly to the way I do. Every source had given them different names, more or less clearly defined or connotated negatively by society. It is these people who I hope to reach the most through my blog. Not because they are the ones who understand best where my thoughts are leading to, but because I am well placed to know how harsh life can be when it is perceived by a highly sensitive individual. Sensitivity in the sense of our biological senses. Emotions feel maximised, there are no built-in defences against stress and primitive fears, the mind is lost in a self-driving network of highspeed trains, ergo the name of this blog.
Thus, I hope to embark on this journey with you, as I go through the years of my life in poetry and prose. I will share some of my experiences, some of my work (I also take a few photographs), and some of my anxieties. You need not to worry about chronology, as this blog is designed for my readers to pick and choose what interest them and avoid what they would rather not read about.
Again, a warm welcome to Railway of Thoughts,
P.S. As it is clearly not apparent in the text above, I am a university student of science (biology and chemistry), young, French by nature and English by upbringing. You will thus see me reference papers and scientific findings (although I am not yet proficient in the practice, so please allow me to make mistake for the time being), and publish in both french and english. Bold font will indicate which text was the original of the two translated versions.
Mon exemple en grandissant
Tu as fait de moi une heureuse enfant
Et je ne sais te remercier autrement
Qu'en rimes simples t'écrivant
Tu as ouvert mon coeur aux plus belles histoires
Des goûters philo aux plus vieux grimmoires
Vers un sens critique à Cronos vomissant ses enfants
A mes tables de multiplications que je récitais en chantant
Sans pouvoir le comprendre ou le croire
Tu es présente face à mon désespoir
Et la nuit tombée, quand les lumières se sont couchées
Que mon blues du dimanche dans mes pensées erre
Je peux te trouver, toujours à m'écouter
Et les muscles serrés de mon coeur se deserrent
Simplement à cette pensée
Devenue femme, bien que jeune encore,
Bien que nous soyons parfois en désaccord
Je t'apprécie, te remercie et t'aime profondément
L’orage explosa aux alentours de quatre heures et quart. D’abord on entendit la foudre, un bruit assourdissant qui dura plusieurs secondes et fit peur au chat qui alla sa cacher dans une des chambres à l’étage. Je suis dans la cuisine, la soupière propre tout droit sortie du lave-vaisselle à la main. Mes membres se figent, tandis que mes yeux se tournent vers le ciel.
Peu à peu, la pluie s’intensifie. Les fenêtres sont grandes ouvertes, l’odeur qui s’était propager dans toute la maison pendant la matinée rendit cet instant phénoménal. Rien n’était plus majestueux, que de voire la nature dans toute sa férocité, cherchée à étendre sa présence sur ces constructions humaines, blanches et rectangulaires. Il semblait que le ciel avait tenu à interrompre le spectacle quotidien et s’éfforcer à abattre son décor en carton peint.
Le torrent de pluie était si enragé, qu’il s’était vite transformé en brume épaisse, à n’en plus voire la cîme de nos maigres arbres urbains. Quelques minutes plus tard, comme si la colère du ciel l’avait épuisé, la pluie s’apaisa pour remplacer l’assourdissement par le doux son d’une fontaine. Je regarde cette danse dans l’émerveillement le plus complet, n’ayant auparavant soupçonné le pouvoir de l’orage à occupér mes pensées, ne serait-ce qu’un instant.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
This was something my math teacher told us at the start of my first year at Uni. The truth it described hit me as soon as I read it. There is however quite a difference between understanding how something makes sense and truly apprehending how it shapes a reality. I only really grasp this when I had to face the many challenges my first year imposed on me in order to achieve the goals I had set out to accomplish. And believe me, I am a very ambitious person, I tend to want to do too many things at the same time. My mind has the constant desire to want to fit 48 hours in 24 (this is also why I need a habit manager app, so I can plan what I want to achieve in a week and give myself a week’s time instead of dealing with the depressing reality that 16h per day is a hella short amount of time). And living in a busy city like London doesn’t help one to slow down. No one really knows where they are going, but people are always rushing everywhere.
This experience got me thinking about how changing not only needs to hurt you a little bit (for example hurt your pride when you need to recognise that you are wrong) but also that it takes time. It takes time to try, fall, reflect, and try again. And if you are constantly running everywhere, or on the opposite trying everything last minute (oh how many students have become cramming geniuses) or giving up too quickly, how are you able to truly change? Change takes time. You need time to fail and learn from your failures. I need time to try inefficient ways to revise my courses, realise that they were inefficient, do not so good on my first set of exams, and improve my revision technic for next year’s exams. Why do most University’s make the first year count for a 13th of your final degree? For several reasons I’m sure, but the one that matters the most to me now is so I can fail and try again and do better.
This is the beauty of university: when you’re on vacation, you’re on vacation for a long time. You have time to rest (Netflix baby!), but also to get bored. To try things you didn’t really have the time too while studying. To practice what you studied (practice makes perfect are not just pretty sounding words). To go and learn new things (whether it’d be while interning somewhere, or reading a book, or watching youtube). Why does a month of vacation go by slower than a month of studying? Because you have time to not only learn but also to reflect on what you’ve learnt.
I have to agree, changing asks for a bit of conscientiousness, a bit of determination to improve and a bit of pain. But this is all that is meant by independent learning. It’s a skill that you start to develop at University, and that serves you for the rest of your life. It helps you become a better child, a better parent, a better friend and sibling, a better worker. Generally, it helps you become the person you thrive to be. But for that to happen you need to accept failure and self-reflect on your actions and thoughts. And accept that becoming is an active verb in that it’s a never-ending process as we are imperfect creatures and that our idea of who we want to be is constantly reshaped by new experiences and knowledge.
Thank you for embarking with me on this journey,
Yours Sincerly, lots of love.
This letter is addressed to a friend who wishes to say sorry for hurting me, and who has told me that she’s been hurt by it as a consequence. I don’t wish for that friend to blame herself or feel terrible about it. Life happens.
One of my friends from school came over to my house a little over three months ago. She was in London for a little while, and we decided to meet up so we could catch up. As I brought back some snacks, she asked me if there was nuts in them. Realising all of them had some, I was afraid she would get angry. However, she told me I had no reason to say sorry and quickly added that her allergies were her responsibility. People don’t realise how easily affected I am by what they tell me. I mean, she got angry at my years ago for giving her almond cake, and it still impacted strongly my emotions that day. It’s amazing how clearly people mature. That thought in that moment truly made me smile. I’ve known her for quite a while now and has probably been one of the people in my life that helped me to grow the most. Our relationship has known many ups and downs, huge fights, lots of tears and pain, but as I said before, these are the ingredients for the most change. For better or worst. Although most changes bring both joy and sadness. For example, my school friendships have pushed me to be a more nomadic friend, as in constantly not feeling like I could belong within the group fully as myself has pushed me to look to express all facets of my personality within multiple friend groups. See how in American highschool movies the characters always evolve within one friend group, with sometimes only one best friend? I’ve grown to not be more attached to one of my friend more than the other. Doesn’t mean I don’t treasure my friends, that I’m not close enough to them to know their beautiful and darker sides, that I’m antisocial. I’m just a different kind of social. A kind of social that I’m sure many people can identify with. The kind that keeps me in contact with a great number of people, allows me to have very diverse friends. The kind that also uses a lot of time and energy to keep in contact with everyone haha. It also makes me a more distant friend. And that pretty much the downside of it you see. But it’s also a way to avoid getting hurt by being excluded physically or because you don’t share the same experiences or opinion as the rest of the group. You know, like avoiding peer pressure into applying for Cambridge when you clearly didn’t prepare yourself enough. Or being within a group of people who are definitly more daring with sex and illicit substances than you are and not feeling like you relate to any of their experiences. I’m so many introvert can relate to that last one haha.
I have many memories of feeling excluded from things. Having a good friend in year 11, making another friend on another occasion, and having those two friends become good enough friends not to need you anymore. Same thing happening again a three years later with the same friend. The freshest one happened to me yesterday. This is my perspectives on the events of last night: Friend wanted to do a barbecue at his house, couldn’t anymore so I reorganised it in a park (more noise, more alcohol, less disturbance to neighbours), then changed his mind last minute, and I having already prepared everything and texted up some other friends of mine apparently ruined they night because they wanted to chill with familiar faces. So at the end of the evening they cut me off and told me to go home as they went and walked the dog. The dog that had eaten my friend and mine’s shoes by the way, without the owner of the dog proposing to pay for it. A good friend for whom I happily went to the shop with only 6 hours of sleep on the meter to buy her a new pair of shoes. See, wasn’t hard was it? Ah. Always love a good rant. Allows you to deal with the frustration without worrying about whether you’re wrong or right. Anyway, back to the subject in question: we’ve all been victims of the situation. We had different expectations for that night. I thought I had managed to avoid the simple misunderstanding by asking the friend in question if I could invite my friends, clearly stating that he could, of course, say no. In all of these situations, I’ve always had conflicting thoughts about who’s or what’s to blame for how hurt I feel. Was there a reason for me to feel this way? Or I am too sensitive, and I just have to learn to deal with these types of situations?
The trouble with all of this is that it’s very difficult to assess if I am wrong or right, if having this behaviour with my friends hurts me more than heals me or prevents me from harm. Experiences are very subjective, and are prey to memory alterations and how much sleep you’ve had and what you’ve eaten for breakfast. Most of we humans are far less rational than we hope we are. I am. But I’m studying science because I love rationality. I’m in the Effective Altruism society because I believe rationality can help increase happiness in the world. But still, sometimes there’s just no right or wrong. And that’s the human condition darling.
To be honest, I can’t be mad at anyone who didn’t mean to hurt someone. Especially when they send you such a nice message to say sorry afterwards once they realised that they did. I’m fascinated to see people around me grow. I’m fascinated to see myself grow. Wow. I just feel sorry that this has caused you some harm too. We all make mistakes sometimes. I do. Lots. And the best we can do is say that we are sorry, that we didn’t mean, and that we care. And then we all move on.
P.S. I’ve been writing this piece for little over three hours. And I’m damn proud of it.
Thank you for embarking with me on this journey,
Yours Sincerely, lots of love.
Strange… things, aren’t they? We all know what they are. We experience them even before we know how to characterize them. They are so familiar to us, such an integral part of our human condition, that sometimes we forget they exist. I wish I could forget mine sometimes.
I came home on the bus today.
I was listening to one of my favourite artists, enjoying the sun shining through the opacilly dirty windows, inhaling the view of people going about their daily lives. I felt serene, and realising my state of relaxation, an overwhelming warmth traversed my heart, spreading to my cheeks as they stretched to let through a large smile. I felt happy I was there, existing in such a grateful and simple present. I knew that if I could feel this relaxed forever, I could do all I wanted to achieve at the moment, I would start getting better at learning a dance choreography, I would be able not to lose focus during chemistry lectures, I would no longer be clumsy during labs because my head was elsewhere, I would be a better friend, no longer be a weight to my family, sleep better, be more careful and rigorous.
No, it felt like I could accept myself for who I was, regardless of whether or not I master all of these tasks.
I came home, my cats were waiting for me. They were hungry. I fed them. The litter had to be changed, The sink had to be cleaned, The dishwasher emptied and filled, The floor broomed, The washing machine asked for its next batch, the fridge lacked vegetables. As I went out to buy some, the old cat slipped between my legs onto the streets, I gave up chasing after her. I came back, I started working, A friend came over at 1.30pm, We worked for a while. The cat meowled to get back inside, she had eaten grass and started vomiting everywhere, I stayed behind her with tissue and white vinegar, half out of empathy, half out of respect for my parents and their stairway carpet, I took her to the kitchen and kept an eye on her while I worked. I finished one task, started working on another. I felt tired from looking at my computer, I started baking, it was 6.37pm. My friend told me the grades for a biology exam where up, I felt my heart tense up, I knew I was going to have a hard time, my thought raced along their railway tracks, I had to calm down, I had more work to do, why hasn’t the wellbeing service I’ve contacted three days ago answered me back yet?, they said two working days, they said UCL cares, I have it on a badge they gave us, Maybe it’s because I’m ridiculous, It must be because I’m not worth the effort, That I’m a doomed cause, Doing well on the first exam was setting the bar high, I knew I worked very hard to learn the content of the exam, Yet I had trouble answering the questions, I’ll always be the one that works the hardest out of everyone else, But that always gets the same grades as someone who worked half as hard, an eigth as hard, I’ve watched countless videos on how to work more efficiently, I’m still slow and hopeless, I’ve watched an inumerable amount of videos on how to love yourself unconditionally, to accept things as they are, yet I still feel disempowered by such a situation!
My ugly parts slipped away as I lost control of my railway network.
I needed so little to feel happy, yet so much for that happiness to last.
Today, somebody told me I was a model student. It was a student. I had just told her the amount of work I had done as research for a coursework essay due on Friday.
I assured her I wasn’t. Quantity does not equal quality. I fail and fall into despair so quickly and deeply, I need a massive amount of energy to get back up. I may have the best friends in the world, the most supportive family, be the most lucid about the origin of these feelings, nothing is stopping me from having to endure them.
I got 60 something. As I read my result while my friend decided to leave the room to give me some privacy, I felt a piercing pain running through my heart, down my stomach, the kind you get when the character in the book you’ve been reading suffers a heartbreak. I heard that Oh so familiar voice telling me “You deserve it!” “You’re not efficient, and you will never be.” “SEE. I told you, you are stupid.” “Why are you trying so hard, you’ll never get anywhere.” ‘You’re so stupid nobody will want you to work for them.” “You’re just a disappointment.” It lasted 30 mins. I tried to ignore them as I finished baking, scrubbed the pan my friend had used to cook her eggs, and cleaned the rest of the kitchen. The pain was unbearable, I wanted to end it by any means. Darker yet still familiar thoughts rushed through my mind again. I had to do something. Should I call my mum? She’s not going to answer. I don’t think my friend is going to help either. Ok. Think. No, don’t think, don’t feel… I’ll start writing it out, maybe it’ll go away.
She’s really overreacting.
I am. I’m not denying it. I can’t control it. Nothing gave justification to this train of thoughts.
My friend came into the room. She had left an hour and a half ago. She was worried, asked me if I was ok. My lips and tongue felt heavy, my mouth could not articulate the thoughts that my troubled mind threw at me. I shook my head. She came an sat next to me. I closed the computer where the words I did not want her to see shone brightly. She then began talking, told me what I needed to hear, what I wanted to hear, appealed to my reason, fished her out of the dark sea of emotions into which my mind had capsized during the storm. Her honest questions took on a rhetorical posture as I listened to her and left my thoughts unsaid. “You work hard for this, didn’t you?” “That’s the problem.”, my mind replied. Silence. “Do you know the difference between school and university?” “No” “In school, as long as you worked, you got rewarded for it. In Uni, it’s how you work that matters.” Ah. That makes a lot of sense. It’s not that I’m stupid. I need to find a better way to study. “And that’s ok. We’re still kids after all.”
She spoke for a few more minutes. I joined her in the conversation. I shared my worries. We broke them down and built things up in their place. “They’re going to break again, you know.” “It doesn’t matter, I’m good at pep talking others, though I don’t know how to pep talk myself!” “Humans are social animals, we can at least be sure of that.”
People need so little to be happy. I just needed to get out of my own head.
Emotions are wonderful things. But they are a double edge sword. The stronger they are, the happier you are, the sadder you are, the angrier you are. We may know nothing of their biological origin or how to define them, but by embracing that fact, we can at least break out of this vicious circle.
As always with these early poems, simple play on words between “déménagement” et “dérangeant” quite probably sparked its creation.
Looking at this poem today, thinking about its possible meanings, I see how describing a physical move to a new house can be put into parallel with having to move things around in one’s brain. This reminds me of all the negative emotions I felt when I was being pulled out from a day-dream because I was not concentrating, because I let my thoughts branch out into areas completely unrelated to the task at hand. It’s one of the downsides of having a fast brain: if you don’t have the equipment to help you concentrate that energy, you end up with having to fight constantly your tendency towards chaotic thinking (= theoryon High potential people or HP, differences between laminar and complexes HP ; I’d recommend the use of google translate as a browser extension to access the resources in french that I share.). With time and hard work, I manage to learn to build up concentration which deeply improved the grades I was getting -I tended to, and also inevitable still do today, base my self-esteem and intelligence on these low grades. There came a time when my mom was fed up to see my teachers telling me I was falling behind that she followed their advice and took me to an agency in France to do an IQ test. Apparently, I had previously tried to reassure her by telling her “it’s okay, I’m just stupid.” When the results came, I had been classified as a complex HP, which basically means high potential in verbal and non-verbal reasoning but poor motor skills and short term memory. Children and adults identified as complex HP have difficulties in expressing and managing their thoughts, no matter how mature these thoughts are. They tend to solve problems intuitively while their laminar HP counterparts solve them analytically. Being too young to understand these results, my mum took on the job of teaching them to a child and supporting me in my studies. Even though I never realised it, my friends always told me I was working harder than them. I guess it paid off in the end as I entered UCL, but the problem still persists today and requires me to constantly question my self-criticism -yes, still today, I have moments where I believe I am profoundly stupid and that no amount of hard work will ever fix that.
On first impressions, this poem appears to be very crude, with a possible parallel to an actual person. I can promise you that I was but an innocent child at the time, barely 9, with no possible knowledge of what it means to dance all night in heels. Ha. What did you think I was going to say?
As always, poem born from a simple play on words between the rhyming words “bicyclette” and “fête”.
A typical childhood theme: the carousel. Magical for a child. Once again, the small experimental play on words rhyming fur and sure. I’m so happy I was able to translate it this time. One major difference I realised between the french and english language is the number of syllables in simple words. Just look at line 5: the french version has three syllables, while the english version has only one.