For most of my adult life I've had a recurring dream. I suspect many people have this dream, or a variation thereof. In my dream I'm a student and I find myself panic stricken as I realize it's the end of the semester or the school year, there's an impending exam and I haven't attended the class or cracked a book all year. Overwhelming anxiety plagues me until I awake, my heart racing, and after a few disoriented seconds, I am relieved to discover it was all just a dream. I'm spending a week in the town where I grew up, so that may be why I had a variation of this dream the other night. In this episode...
I was my present self, (only with pink hair) traveling happily through life when suddenly I was overcome with the realization that I had never graduated from high school. Once again I was panic stricken as I wrestled with the knowledge that I attended college, (several colleges as a matter of fact) married, raised children and held a variety of jobs, all without the benefit of a high school diploma. Some might have considered this feat quite an accomplishment, but what I experienced was a sense of foreboding and overwhelming guilt. Therefore, my pink-haired, dream-self felt compelled to come clean, and decided to march herself to the high school guidance counselor's office to make a confession.
It was St. Patrick's Day (everyone was wearing green and sporting squirt guns) the day I bravely walked to the school to turn myself in. As I entered the doors (the ones between the gym and the cafeteria) I had to navigate a gauntlet of students and friends, all dressed in green, pelting me with water from their squirt guns. The walk to the guidance counselor's office was excruciatingly long, the hallway seemingly endless. I sheepishly made my confession, only to learn I had been mistaken, I actually had graduated from high school! As she sat there my pink-haired, dream-self felt, not relief or comfort, but a miserable sense of let-down and regret.
When I awoke from this episode my heart was not racing. No, this time my heart felt heavy with
the thought that my dream-self had lived all those years carrying around so much unnecessary guilt.
In the days following, the feelings conjured up by this dream stuck around like gum on my shoe.
And just like my dream-self, I felt compelled to do something about it. So, today I decided to retrace the steps of my dream by taking a long walk to my alma mater. As it turned out, the school district is taking its spring break this week so after arriving at the high school I could only peer through the windows of the doors between the gym and the cafeteria. I couldn't do my 'dead man walking' imitation down the long hall to peek into the guidance counselor's office. So I roamed around the empty parking lot, thinking about my dream and the years between high school and now, and I snapped a few pictures with my phone. But walking along the memory-laden sidewalks leading to my high school, roaming around the empty parking lot, and peering in the school windows was cathartic nonetheless. I felt lighter somehow; less stickiness on my shoes. And, on the walk back to my folk's house I found myself wondering: now that this dream, recurring and unresolved for so many years, has finally reached a conclusion of sorts, now that my subconscious seems to have finally unearthed some of the feelings that may have inspired it in the first place, will I ever have this dream, or one of its variations, again? Has all that guilt and anxiety and regret been laid to rest or will it only resurface in some other dream scenario? I'll keep you posted, but only if you're interested.