The first of a new series, “let the mind speak,” by fresh graduate Ryan Chung for Floating Teatime… #1 unfolds an unspeakable state of mind… 一個今年暑假剛畢業的大學生用「寫」跟自己對談。是過程,不論成果。《思維自說自話》系列第一篇。

 

May was the month when the very last school assignment was handed in. June was defined by a state of entanglement and intense emotions. If there is any way to navigate through my sentiments, it is through writing. Documenting and reasoning through my thoughts, to be exact.

I am of the type who would just think, think and think. And sometimes thinking is a tricky process. You would expect the harder you think, the clearer the picture would become. But more often I simply fall into a spiral, feel trapped and to a point become tired of struggling. Thoughts do not just come knocking on your door like a package delivered by the postman, waiting to be unwrapped. They come with emotions, and they intertwine; one inspires another, and they breed like cells dividing. As I put together this article from the many “sketches” I had made in my mind into a cohering piece, I started to recognize a certain sentiment emerging and persisting.

What can I say about this sentiment? It is something that I and people around me seldom speak about. But here it is regenerating itself from inside of me on and off. A kind of intense emotion comes with it, asserting its existence. I guess I am better at spotting emotions than naming them. And despite relentless attempts I am far from getting close to its root. In the course of battling with this recurring sentiment, however, I have learned to finesse with it, to prevent it from wreaking havoc in some aspects of life. I know this is not a phase I would just grow out of, nor would it just disappear.

This very relentless mental state had been reigning through the half year of my graduation thesis writing. Not that writing a thesis was such a great burden, but it was more about the anxiety of living through the last semester of my undergraduate education weighing upon a demanding, intense, and mandatory intellectual exercise. As I read and researched, wrote and re-wrote, I also thought and thought again. I have learned that it can at least be tamed in some cases (by neglecting some external factors). One of the ways is through reasoning with yourself. I used to think that thinking is ideally a means to an end. It should be productive in a sense that it contributes to what you are doing. To an extreme degree I had even wanted to furiously disregard emotions, because they often get in the way of decision-making. But thinking and feeling is almost inseparable, and to reason with oneself also requires clarity and honesty. In the past, I learned to take control. I need to be organized, to see the whole picture, to know every detail there is to know about, hence, to settle with myself. You would not believe how truly calming it is to hear from inside myself, “There is nothing to worry about from now on.” But clarity in a moment like this could also be achieved by writing. Therefore, I would write something down, point it to somewhere, write again, draw connecting lines between these isolated thoughts and write again. I “sketch out” these pictures of mind, meanwhile I confront what is on my mind. I would struggle with myself, yet I could detain it — the haunting sentiment I could probably call “insecurity” for now.  I could regain a brief moment of freedom as I made attempts to focus. It felt like I was having a conversation with myself.

I realize that anxiety is a façade, because the more I “sketch”, the thinner the wall gets. Through that wall ideas start gushing out and reasoning doesn’t hold. From there on there is no more distraction from or disguise of my insecurity. In the end, I just want to be present with myself, making mighty efforts to stay deep with a topic. It does seem that engaging in a discourse with myself helps. And I believe different people have their own unique ways of getting along with themselves.

My recurring insecurity will nonetheless remain a constant personal battle of mine. The month of July really was the start of a different journey. Here I am including one of the “sketches” I put together when I was trying to make sense of what was happening in these recent months:

Imagine being in a bookstore, walking past columns and columns of books. It is not difficult to narrow down the pool of choices, but as normal as it is, wandering around would not hurt. But there must be certain titles, genres, even authors that nonetheless draw your attention more than others on the shelves. You pick one, put it down and pick up another. You lift up the book, feel its weight, its texture; look at the cover, turn it over and read the synopsis. This process entails the feeling that we always have a choice. At least we like to think that.

This journey is over, you think, and the start of another follows. This way of thinking that every journey marks an interval on your timeline is reasonably exciting and optimistic — an end anticipates a new beginning. And novelty is unfamiliar and unprecedented, I understand. But every bit of memory reminds me that life is also a continuum of incidents and events, consecutive and additive. Categorizing the events by, for example, their time of occurrence, creates intervals. These intervals bring out the analogous nature of experiences even if they each reside within their own timeframe. I start to see how similar and repetitive experiences are. I could not help seeing how we have been driven by an impulse to make sense of life, or to find solutions for problems. This impulse connects experiences and does so over time. A book is still a book. A novel is a novel. What it offers to the readers is somehow merely a projection of their expectations on the story. At the end of the day, we like to see the favorable side of the story. The question is: how much of a choice do we think we have before entering a new journey?

As I open the book that I eventually grab from the shelf, I find it empty, page after page of blank slate, so plain that even the finest wrinkle can be spotted. And as I attempt to unravel my confusion, I strangle myself harder and harder. Neither the past nor the future could grant me an answer to this mystery. The only thing left with me is the present. And I am struggling through it. But this present and these feelings are vividly real, and they have their roots in the past. This book I have in my hand is unlike any other book; its story has yet to exist. I let my mind wander off, drifting in the air as I let go off my focus.

If I could make meaning out of these “sketches”, this article would be my kind of art: an excerpt of my thoughts, raw but seasoned.

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**featured image: courtesy of author

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About the author:

Ryan Chung (Chung Shu-yan) graduated with a Bachelor of Art & Science in New Media (2019) from the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media. He will be a regular contributor to FP’s Floating Teatime in the coming season, in a dedicated series titled “let the mind speak.” He is also assisting Winnie Yan and Linda Lai in FP’s strategic project “Elemental Dynamite: Research on the Intermedia Practice in Animated Pictures”《原格破裂 – 動畫的互媒實驗綜覽》.