I keep having variations of the same dream, over and over again. This has never happened to me before – all my other dreams have been stand-alone episodes with neither sequel nor prequel. Yet this one keeps coming back to me.
Freudians, help me out here.
I’m always in school. Sometimes I’m young and it’s high school or college; other times my old, middle-aged self is back at school for some reason. I then reach graduation or the end of the semester or some kind of academic conclusion, and I discover that there’s a class, or a bunch of classes, that I’d registered for and then never attended. Did I forget to go? Did I just stop going? Did I even know I’d been signed up in the first place? Well, it depends. The common thread, however, is that I’ve failed, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I then wake up, and it takes me several minutes to realize that I haven’t had a class at a university since 1999, and that I have no intention of rebooting my academic career. But it’s strange to me that my sense of accomplishment, success and failure, is still rooted in the classroom, where accomplishments are clearly measured, labeled, and rewarded. Nothing in the real world is as clean or simple as getting an “A” on a ScanTron test. By comparison, few things are as emotionally devastating as that big red “F” scribbled across a paper that was cobbled together an hour before it was due, even though you had six weeks to write it.
But this dream isn’t about trying and failing – it’s about failing unknowingly in a system designed to ensure failure. Sometimes, in the dream, I protest that I’ve worked very hard and done very well in the classes I’ve attended, and that ought to count for something, shouldn’t it? Nope. The failure in these dreams is overwhelming and final. There is no recovering from it. My permanent record is scarred forever, and the classes can’t be made up, and the failing marks can never be expunged.
In the waking world, I keep hoping things work differently. Frankly, I’m not sure that they do. Life is a permanent record, and every choice you make precludes a myriad of other choices. I’ve reached the point in my career where the course offerings get scarcer. If I ever wanted to be, say, a professional boxer or an Olympic gymnast, the window of opportunity on those particular classes have closed forever. How many other classes have closed, too, without me knowing about them? Are any of the good courses still open? When’s the registration deadline?
As you can see, I’m still pretty screwed up.