Last night I dreamed I was back on my old college campus. It was September--the first day of classes. When I arrived at my dorm the other side of the room was empty as a bottle. The unoccupied bed was bare, and the industrial, blue and white striped mattress vaguely accusatory. Where was my roommate?
Oh, right--we'd had a fight. Maybe she wouldn't be coming at all. Maybe she’d decided to room with someone else.
I’d have to straighten it out later. My first class was beginning any minute. I ran a hand over my pocket, triple checking that my class schedule was still in it. It was. Good. Last year I’d forgotten it, and as a result had spent the first day standing on line at the registrar because I couldn’t remember which classes I’d registered for.
There was somewhere I was supposed to be. Time to go. My first class was an English class in Building B. Wait--where was that, again?
I wasn’t a freshman. I knew the campus well, so why couldn't I remember where Building B was? Aware there wasn’t much time, I picked a direction, and just started moving.
Campus was alive with clusters of students, exuberant hugs, and high-pitched post summer vacation reunions. Nobody else appeared to be lost. Nobody seemed concerned about getting to class.
I kept moving, and turned down a corner I’d never turned before. Weird, I’d thought I already knew every route across campus. A few steps down an unfamiliar path, it inexplicably became a highway. Traffic whizzed past, barely missing me.
How had that happened? I had to get off this road or I would be hit. Disoriented, and uneasy, I turned back toward the direction I’d come. How had I gotten so off course?
Clearly I had made a wrong turn somewhere. Back on campus, I couldn’t shake my unease. Where the fuck was Building B? Signs indicated Building A, Building H, and Building I, but no Building B.
I remembered that some of the buildings on campus had connecting corridors. Maybe I'd have better luck inside? I walked through the first door I saw. There were no windows. Just brick walls, and the faint buzz of industrial fluorescent lights.
There was a clock on the wall, and just enough jaundiced light to make out the time. My class was already starting. At best I would be late; at worst I’d entirely miss it.
I broke into a run but then stopped.
I wasn’t going to make it. I would not find my way. I would not get where I needed to go.
It was too late.
That’s where panic always wakes me up. In my classic, recurring anxiety dream, I never find the class. I never slide into my seat just before it begins. It's not always college. Sometimes it's high school, or somewhere that I need to be for work, but the underlying theme is always the same: trails are always unmarked, and I am perpetually lost. I fail to get where I am supposed to be.
Do you have a dream like that?
It's no coincidence that I've been having this dream again. I've been stalled on a big project (otherwise known as THE BOOK), unsure of where I'm going with it, and so feeling at a loss to navigate. Like the dream itself, this difficulty choosing a direction has been a recurring theme in my history.
"Not so well. I'm reevaluating the structure. I could go in two very different directions. I don't know what to do, and I'm stalled. I feel stuck. I don't know where I'm going, or how to get there."
Hmmm. Sound familiar?
Then she game me some great advice. "It doesn't matter which direction you pick. Just pick one. Either one. You can always go back and fix it, and the road not taken becomes your next project. Just keep going."
That's exactly what I'm going to do.
Do you have a recurring dream? Can you recognize it as a recurring theme in your life?
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