When Your Train of Thought Derails

When Your Train of Thought Derails

Has anyone stopped mid-conversation because they don't remember what they said two seconds ago? Because same.


My train of thought derailed. There were no survivors. Ever heard that phrase before? I have found myself using that comical statement more often than I would like. For example, I would be in mid-conversation or I would be trying to get an idea out of my head and into the air, and then all of the sudden my conductor says sayonara! I would totally crash. Who even knows where my train derailed off to? Could've been in the regions of "I don't know," to "what the heck was I talking about?" To "where am I, who am I?-" Well, not that far, but you get my point.

I am sure I am not the only one that has been through this mental dilemma, and recently I have been asking the simple but understated question of, "Why?" I just started college this year and have been drawing blanks, oh so many blanks. I dread the feeling of not knowing what I am talking about and making a fool of myself in front of a professor, colleague, or even a friend. Why was this happening to me so often? What was my brain doing me dirty like that? There must be an explanation.

My first 'stop' (my first guess. I'm using train analogies here): I was just getting less intelligent. Maybe my IQ was dropping a couple points, which sucks because I just started college and I need all the IQ points I can get. In other words, I wasn't smart enough to hold a conversation or explain myself. Silly, right? This is my train of thought, however, so I won't leave anything out.

Next stop: I wasn't thinking hard enough. Was I thinking too soft? If one could see my thoughts, would they look unshakable, would they be flowing nicely together without any gaps or random pauses, or would they be jumbled and tangled, able to be blown away by the passing breeze? A little metaphorical, but more understandable, right?

Next stop on this depressing train ride: I was just afraid. I have heard stories from so many people telling me how fear caused them to "black out" in certain situations. One of my friends was telling me how she would start a test, complete the test, but afterwards, would not remember what she did or what was on the test due to fear of failure. Was my derailing a symptom of anxiety? For some this may be true. I personally however, have been fortunate enough not to deal with anxiety of this nature, so was this actually a possibility or was I just taking a shot in the dark? That's how I feel actually, when I forget what I'm talking about. Trying to figure out where I was in my thought process is like trying to shoot at something after having lost all ideas of where the target is. It is above all things, frustrating, and I wanted to know why it was happening and where the target went.

Well, now we're getting off here; it's the final stop and it's a big one. The real reason for the conductor's jump off the ship, the true culprit of the reason why my brain hates me: I don't know exactly. Are you disappointed? Were you looking for a more scientific, possibly life-altering answer? I'm sure there is one, and I have done some research. The scientific answer involved things like neuroscience, the basal ganglia, subthalamic nucleus, and other things I am not able to pronounce correctly. If I tried to explain those things though, I would not be fulfilling my purpose for this article. I hope this is not misinterpreted as tossing aside the importance of science, but rather placing my focus on the life lessons to be gathered here.

Throwing it back to high school, if one were to glance at my agenda, my hours at school were the most prominent thing, along with a couple of events scattered here and there. The point of that image is that I was not busy at all. I didn't have a job, I didn't study, and I wasn't involved in any activity that required me to do things consistently. Therefore, I didn't even have the need for an agenda so that image was actually fake. My days were free and I lived life spontaneously. It was great.

Now, back to the present. Currently, I am a full-time student at USF who is fully invested in an internship, learning to be independent, learning to make time to study, and is on an active search for a job which will probably take up the remaining free time I possess. That's going from a little empanada on a plate to a whole Hispanic meal; pastels, tostones, mofongo, all the good stuff. I see my schedule as a new thing, but a good thing. My only problem is organizing it onto the plate. My plate is full, and I can't have any of the foods touching if you know what I mean. This has been a struggle for me. I survived the first two weeks of college without using a planner, but I was hanging on by a thread, to say the least. During that time, my mind was flooded with things I had to do, people I had to meet, places I had to be. I hadn't gotten my groove on yet. The newness of my situation was getting to me. This resulted in an incident in my sociology class. I was listening to the lecture and my professor posed a question to the class. I heard the question, and my brain registered it... partly. He then called on me. Awesome. "What are your thoughts on this question?" he stared at me with expectant eyes. I began to answer but failed to explain. "What was the question again?" I asked. Giggles erupted in the back, and he moved on without restating the question. Humiliating.

Moments like the one in my sociology class were common, and it resulted in a lack of confidence in my ability to process information and uncertainty in my own voice. But it shouldn't have led to that. This is where grace comes in. In the newness of things in life, and in the hustle and bustle of every day, I should have an understanding for myself. Adjusting to a new life, or a new situation is not going to be easy. For some, it is entirely possible to suffer from increased moments of forgetful bouts and the derailment of thoughts. Grace in the midst of the transition is necessary, or what can happen is a series of negative blows to your self-esteem and the transition becomes harder than it needs to be. In all honesty, keeping a positive mindset and a healthy image of yourself when all you should feel is discouragement and doubt is the proven remedy.

To anyone suffering from the loss of a conductor for your train of thought, some useful things to consider would be:

1) A planner

Write down times for classes and events as soon as you get them. Plan EVERYTHING, from when you are going to study, to when you're going to work, to social activities. It's good to have certain times you are doing things so you can actually get things done without rushing and inviting in unwanted stress.

2) Take one day out of each week to Sabbath (rest), gather your thoughts and plan the rest of the week.

Rest, breathe deep, and recuperate. We all need it.

3) Remind yourself of who you are

Be confident in your abilities and know that anything is possible if you work hard enough.

4) Maintain that positive attitude!

Studies show that having a positive attitude about your situation can counteract stress and open the gateway to growth.

5) Have a lot of understanding for yourself.

Your derailment is most likely an effect of your circumstance like mine was. The thing to remember is to not let your circumstance define you.

Whatever the case may be, know that not everything in life will go perfectly, and we will all have derailments at some point. The tips above are ways to combat it. We all have the ability to get our conductor back on board, and properly arrange our Hispanic food onto our plate... you know what I mean. You got this. Keep it on the upside!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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