“I’ve been dreaming again.”
On top of being consumed by anxiety like the rest of us, Jorge disclosed to our cohort that he had also been experiencing dreamless sleep. After writing and submitting sixty double-spaced pages of take-home exams, he told us that he was starting to recover.
I was definitely happy for him, but also a little jealous. Not because he was recovering from the nightmare of a semester we just completed, but because for a whole week he was relieved from entertaining the imaginary.
It’s not just the nightmares, although I would hope that those would be the first to disappear.
Even the best dreams are becoming a burden. Laying on a private beach while sipping a Miami Vice isn’t as great as it sounds when you wake up and have thirty minutes to get dressed, catch a train, and go to class for five hours. If I had dreamed of running down the streets of Brighton, Massachusetts in the rain, then maybe I wouldn’t be so disappointed with the discrepancy between the fantasies my mind creates and the reality that I wake up to.
What I’m most annoyed with about dreaming, though, is that even waking up doesn’t solve the problem. There are few moments when I’m fully conscious that I’m not thinking of the imaginary future and what steps I need to take to transform those images into a reality. When I’m asleep I dream about all of these nonsensical storylines with illogical characters and connections, but the same happens when I’m awake. I dream up the jobs I might have, the places I might live, the pets, the spouse, the children—and then spend all of my waking hours trying to make them all come true.
I feel sort of like Cinderella using every available moment to frantically clean up my life so that I might finally get what I want, except I have no animals, no magic, and no shoes made of glass (thank god).
A dream might be a wish my heart makes, but my mind is begging it to quiet down. My thoughts constantly evaluate every aspect of my life, comparing it to my dream life, and reminding me how disparate the two are. The anxiety and self-loathing immediately follows, prompting me to create giant mental lists of all of the possible actions that I could take to get closer to achieving my goals. Stop watching Netflix, get off Facebook, stop playing video games, read a book for fun, read a book for work, take an online course, write every day, go to church more often—and all the rest of the hundreds of things that I could do to get even a centimeter closer to the reality that I want for myself. The list always feels so complete and unarguable until I inevitably have a breakdown and want to give up on it all.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter how done with dreaming I am, because every time I close my eyes the paradises, the demons, and everything in between will all come back again. But I’m hoping after this anxiety-driven semester that at least my daydreaming will look different. I’m hoping that in the midst of figuring out my own fairytale and happy ending, I’ll add two more action items to my list.
- Re-watch Cinderella as soon as possible.
- Live and rest in the present, no matter how desirable, because the dreams will always be there, but this moment is already gone.
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.