I’m fascinated by dreams.  In part because I generally have really vivid and interesting ones, but also because dreams themselves are mysterious.  No one actually knows for certain why people dream.  Nor why we dream about the particular things we dream about.

So I’m going to tell you all about a recurring dream I have.  And in the spirit of the Halloween season, it is actually my recurring nightmare.

My recurring nightmare is this—I am back in high school.  Cliché, I know, but every couple of months, I dream that I am my current age yet forced to go back to high school.  In the dream, I try to tell people, “I DON’T BELONG HERE!!  I went to college and am currently in law school, why are you making me go here?!?”  But they never listen.  Moreover, I never know where my classes are, and no one will tell me where to go.  It is like I am trapped in some Kafkaesque horrorscape where there is no escape and the people exist solely to torment me.

I have had this nightmare for probably eight years, ever since I graduated from high school, and I have no idea why.  I had a good time in high school.  I had a good group of friends, was relatively popular, and classes were a breeze.  I had it easy.  Yet when I dream about it, it is more akin to a prison than a school.

Furthermore, it is really my only recurring dream.  For a stretch of time, I used to have a lot of dreams where I was the leader of small band of survivors battling against an overwhelming enemy ala John Connor in “Terminator” but it has been years since I have had one of those dreams.  But just last month, I had another dream about being back in high school.

But here is the thing I find truly fascinating—most everybody has had a similar dream.  I did a quick Google search “dreaming you’re back in high school” and there were over EIGHT MILLION results.  And no one is ever, “I dreamed I was back in high school—it was awesome!”  No, it is always, “I dreamed I was back in high school, and I was completely unprepared and lost.  I woke up in a cold sweat and was stayed awake the rest of the night just in case I would continue the dream if I fell back asleep.”

I wonder what it is about high school that is so powerful and traumatizing that it has imprinted itself on our national psyche to the point where most everybody dreams about it.  What is so remarkable about high school that it has wormed itself into our subconscious and is there to haunt us years later?  Will these dreams ever stop?

In closing, I would like to ask all of you if you have this same dream?  Is it a frequently recurring dream?  Do you find it as horrifying as I do?



  1. Debra Rienstra

    Yes! I have this dream, almost exactly as you describe it. My theory: hormones. We remember very clearly those times in life when there is a lot of, shall we say, hormonal activity. This is why I can remember with powerful clarity certain meals I ate when I was pregnant. Oh, that Einstein bagel! I’ll never forget it! That one Hardees burger when I was SO HUNGRY. And so on…

    • paul

      I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to craft this question, and I still don’t think I have it right. I am intrigued by your theory, but then it begs the question, “Why do we remember the times in our lives when we were especially hormonal?”

  2. Will

    Maybe this is TMI. I don’t care. My recurring dream is that I start peeing in public places, like under my desk at school or something, and I’m like “whatever, this is normal.” And then, as I continue peeing into whatever I’m peeing into (say, someone else’s shoe, for instance) it slowly dawns on me that “NO. THIS IS NOT RIGHT.” And I become aware of all the people around me watching me pee. The dream ends in dismay, and I spend whatever time is left of the dream wondering “how did I not know that peeing into the guitar case was wrong?!”

    A brief foray into google tells me that dream pee is the “ultimate self-expression.” Maybe I’m over-genuine and don’t like how it comes off? Maybe I’m too honest about myself and am embarrassed by it? Could be! Sharing this recurring dream definitely doesn’t contradict that.

  3. Jessica Anderson

    I don’t think we dream about highschool because it was a particularly hormonal period of our lives. I think we dream about it because it was an abnormal (and possibly traumatic) period of our lives. I don’t think people were created or evolved to learn best or flourish in that sort of regimented, regulated way, and we don’t, for the most parts, live the rest of our lives in that restricted manner.

    I home schooled through high school. I have never had a dream about being back in high school/home school again; I think that is because it was a much more natural, less stressful, less regimented way of becoming educated. It was a period when I was in control of myself instead of being controlled by other people.

    When I had dreams about being back in school it was middle school, during which I did attend a formal school. It had the same basic format of a high school dream, but they would always be set in middle school. I finally had a dream where I was in some 8th grade class being asked to do whatever and I got up out of my desk and said, “You know what, this is ridiculous. I’m an adult. I don’t have to be here. I don’t need this, and there’s no way you can legally make me stay here. I’m outta here.” I got up and left, and I’ve never had another dream about being back in school since then.

    My experience leads me to think that dreams about being back in high school are somehow related to feelings of lacking control and being controlled by others and having value only when we conform and perform in a regimented manner.


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