It’s my first time. Half of my motionless body rests inside the white, clinical, cylindrical machine, in my head resembling an intergalactic coffin. I feel an itch, but I have to resist moving. I want to cough, to sneeze, to yawn, ugh, of course, at the most inopportune moments, for no reason I have to, and I have to keep it under control and be still. My legs are too tense, my lower body feels heavy. I am mentally calm. But my body wants permission to move. Since this is just a brain scan, I try to make a slight leg movement, but it feels like trying to lift an anchor. My mind keeps freezing. There is the buzz. It’s getting louder. And stranger. Then the clanking. The whirring. Suddenly thoughts of the few MRI safety incidents and fatalities I’ve read about vaguely infiltrate my mind in a weirdly serene way. I should have double-checked there is definitely no metal anywhere in or around this room. Oh come on, when something like this enters my mind, I think – what are the odds? and what is the point of obsessing over the odds?- and the thought melts away. I can remember basic aspects about my life, but there is something peculiar about this eerily cold, sterile room, this atmosphere; it’s holding back any specific memories, any feelings, any complex thoughts- I can’t really visualise anything about my past or about life outside this tube. I mean, the noise is quite obstructive, so whenever a thought or a mental image starts materialising, it quickly dissolves. I have a rare, evanescent, uncanny feeling that there is a higher presence or force watching over me. This reminds me of my pre-atheist, childhood days when I had an agnostic belief in animism and in magical thinking- the belief that one’s thoughts could influence reality, which was problematic whenever I had dark, “forbidden”, ungodly thoughts resulting in fear of divine punishment and futile attempts at suppression. There is a surreal atemporality about this space, it’s like reality is suspended. If my whole body slid into this alienating horizontal cylinder, it would really feel like I’m inside an eccentric, futuristic coffin. That’s spine-chilling. And yet, despite my claustrophobic tendencies, I wish I had a full body scan so I could be encapsulated and see what it would be like if my consciousness or my spirit found a way to return to my corpse a hundred years from now. I don’t believe in it, but I like fantasising. My ego is temporarily numb and any vivid memories are gone, replaced by brief, fleeting perceptions, and it’s one of the few moments in which I’m not living in the past or in the future. I’m living in the now. I feel alive and calm, oddly calm. An oddly calm combination of cells, lying down in a tube, with an ego on snooze mode. Oh, it’s time to get back out there…
– Empowered people contribute to the empowerment of those around them.
– Avoid judging things at surface level. You need to dig a few layers deeper without closing your eyes when you find treasure rooms or catacombs. On the surface, you might be trapped in a Fata Morgana.
– It’s true that high expectations often lead to disillusionment with the world; however, as long as you don’t let yourself be disillusioned with your self, high expectations can be used as fuel to build and improve your life.
– Falsity contaminates. Authenticity inspires; it’s contagious, enveloped in light, and arouses kindness. Its adepts are a dying breed, so value them.
– We all have both light and darkness within us. Some will see the angelic, others the devilish, and such judgements are partly reflections of the watcher. I wouldn’t say you should never see yourself through the eyes of another as that could inhibit empathy and diminish your humanity, or simply prevent positive things from happening- instead, be selective of the eyes you borrow, why, and when…
– …and whatever you do, never lose your own vision, lest you be swallowed by the mouth of the world and become a watered-down version of yourself.
– Sometimes you won’t know if something is right or wrong for you until you try it. If you realise it feels wrong, give up. If it feels right, carry on, regardless of external views. Not all compasses for life navigation reveal the same directions.
– Your beliefs, perspective on, or perceptions of many subjects will shift over time. This can manifest in your response to and interpretations of the world around you, which can, in turn, re-shape your world.
– You should create your life, not just react to it. Relinquish fatalistic views.
– Don’t fall into toxic ego traps.
– As you age, years start flying by in a blink. I’m young, and I already feel life slipping away so quickly. Don’t live in the past and don’t spend too much time lamenting the death of past moments or things that are out of your control.
– Don’t become complacent. If you ever feel ‘there is more to life than this’, whether you’re thinking of your job, lifestyle, or experiences, you are probably right. Explore and feel new things, pump up your dopamine and adrenaline levels. Take risks, but have a safety net.
– Embrace who you are. Maybe in your adolescence and your twenties that’s a meaningless or elusive statement since you’re constantly learning new things, going through changes, growing as a person. Well, hopefully your whole life will consist of that. But embracing yourself encompasses that fluidity too, it means giving yourself a break, recognising all aspects of yourself and accepting them (if they’re not harmful or toxic). It’s okay to cultivate happy thoughts and it’s okay to be cynical sometimes. It’s okay to be funny and it’s okay to be serious. Intense and light-hearted and giggly. Sociable and reserved. Impulsive or stoic. It’s okay to explore your provocative side and it’s also okay to be timid. To see yourself as a collection of thoughts and memories. To be made of many things, without any single aspect defining you by itself. It’s okay to be real.
As a fan of Marcel Proust who loves the way he perceives the world as depicted in À la recherche du temps perdu, I thought I should write down my answers to the most popular version of his iconic questionnaire in my first unequivocally personal blog post, even though my answers may very well change tomorrow:
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Time travel. Interplanetary travel. As for a slightly more down-to-earth answer, visiting the most beautiful, inspiring- ethereal or eerie- places, absorbing every moment spent there and feeling connected to the place, living in the present, and having a cultivated soul.
What is your greatest fear?
Death. Non-existence. Annihilation. Oblivion. Aging. Bugs.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Literary figures: Virginia Woolf & Sylvia Plath.
Which living person do you most admire?
Tilda Swinton. Richard Dawkins. David Lynch. Plus anyone who positively influences the world, who is aware of the whole picture and manages to focus on the good rather than the bad in the world, overall.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I will mention a few, although I have conflicting feelings about these traits as I don’t always deplore them: cynicism, the low-key need to be in control, fickleness in some respects, ricocheting between emotional frostiness and impulsiveness, scepticism to the point where I start being sceptical of my own scepticism, and taking myself too seriously (but otherwise I probably wouldn’t be able or feel propelled to write!).
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Duplicity, hypocrisy. Prejudice. Lack of empathy and inability to listen. Arrogance. Wrong life values. Underestimating me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My luxury perfume collection. Not sleeping at night.
What is your favourite journey?
towards self-awareness and self-development, through self-indulgence and creative fulfilment.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Sympathy (not empathy). Contentment. Humility and prudence in women’s case.
On what occasion do you lie?
When the conversation doesn’t matter, or when I’m convinced that telling the truth wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone involved.
Which living person do you most despise?
anyone who uses their power to negatively influence, harm, ruin, or eradicate the lives of innocent people, either on an individual level, or on an organised level.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
aesthetic. surreal. oh my god. yeah. no.
What is your greatest regret?
caring when I shouldn’t have. not caring when I should have.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
perfume, cinema, music, labyrinthine architecture
When and where were you happiest?
I don’t remember exactly but I’m gonna say it was probably a case of frisson- “aesthetic chills”- that I experienced whilst watching a hypnotic, revealing, or epiphany-inducing film or piece of art.
Which talent would you most like to have?
a mesmerising, emotion-inducing, magical singing voice.
What is your current state of mind?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d give myself an infinite dose of productivity and the capacity to love the world freely and unconditionally. Getting rid of grudges. Being less fickle/wishy-washy in some respects.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
rising from the flames like a Phoenix.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
a fairy or a nymph.
What is your most treasured possession?
my perfume collection, my films collection, my velvet dresses collection,
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
not living the life you want, letting obsessions or demons consume you, feeling trapped.
Where would you like to live?
in a beautiful place adorned with paintings and different styles of decorations on each floor or in each room (Gothic, minimalist, dreamy, airy fantasy style etc). Also in the distant future, maybe on a different, ultra-advanced planet. Either that or in one of the many film fantasy worlds I love.
What is your favourite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
being artistically-inclined. being headstrong, perceptive/astute, experiencing derealisation and zoning out (this sounds contradictory to the astuteness, but it’s actually not!); inquisitive, independent-minded, and a freethinker. looking sad or annoyed when I’m actually in a neutral or thoughtful mood.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intelligence (including emotional intelligence), genuineness, confidence -not cockiness, self-awareness
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
strength, genuineness, intelligence, confidence, self-awareness
What do you most value in your friends?
kindness, authenticity, having my best interests at heart, trustworthiness, & respecting confidentiality
Who are your favourite writers?
Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Vladimir Nabokov, Hermann Hesse
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Jessica Jones, Vanessa Ives, Violet Baudelaire, Rogue
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I like my appearance overall, but there are two or three things I would/will probably change if I can.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Inspiring women who are unapologetically fierce and do whatever they feel like (unless they are psychopaths or something equally worrying).
What are your favourite names?
Morgana, Diana, Ariadna, Artemis, Mordred, Crystal.
What is it that you most dislike?
pity, prejudice, labels.
How would you like to die?
Knowing that I will be revived as an immortal goddess, mostly because I want to live forever, but all the other perks would be fun too!
What is your favourite motto?
Do no harm, but take no shit. // C’est la vie. //
Incantation-“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
Quotes-“I stopped explaining myself when I realised other people only understand from their level of perception.”
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”
Write your own answers to all or some of these below, I’m interested to see!
Quiet and frozen:
A reflection approaches
within the glass
I seek meaning
in a meaningless palace
of empty eyes and half-hearted smiles.
Statues of philosophers vis-à-vis-
From expresionless to sad,
their face changes mood:
nor pleasure felt-
My mindless mind projects
filling a void of thought and
Their music submerged my body in cold waters- red, blue, and purple lights piercing into the depths. Their voice embraced me, the melody wrapped me up in a liquid swirl, whilst my mind was surrounded by the haze of the late 90’s when I was a child and the very early 90’s when I was not born yet, but it somehow made sense. The fabric of the universe, the condition of being human and of simply being, were reflected in the icy singing. It could be the soundtrack of a trip to the moon, or a trip into the underworld. Of running and never stopping, following an endless white line on the ground, or running and jumping off a cliff not knowing what is on the other side and whether you will survive the crash. Of brides saying ‘I do’ in glittery white dresses inside Christian churches; of a little girl’s tears on her grandfather’s coffin. That moment extended into infinity, the music encompassed everything, and that is how a thousand experiences enriched my mind in an instant.
That memory of snowdrops, fountain pens,
and spring dew
made my world shiver this morning