I dreamed last night that I was back in high school and of course there was an enormous science project that I had to do in a class that I only vaguely remembered.
I was in the class and everyone was discussing what sort of project to do–chromatography of various liquids or determining whether some tiny particle had six gears or ten (apparently on some subconscious level I believe that subatomic particles are made of tiny interlocking gears) and I realized quickly that I was simply not equipped to do any of these things.
So I went to the teacher and said “None of this is really playing to my skillset. Can I maybe write a travel guide to the laboratory? A pop science piece explaining subatomic particles? Something?”
He said no. I gritted my teeth and explained again that I had no idea how one did the thing with the gases and the light spectrums and my grasp of the perfect gas laws was shaky at best.
“No,” he said, “and you’d better figure something out, because otherwise you will fail the class and then you won’t graduate.”
And then my sleeping brain said “Wait just a damn minute here.”
“Actually,” I said, “I’m an author. I’m already supporting myself and nobody cares if I graduated or not. I’m just here to get my diploma so all the paperwork’s in order.”
This irritated him. I left the room and wandered off, thinking I am late for another class and I don’t know where it is and then so what? why the hell am I here, anyway, I should probably be writing a book and then even if I fail every class this semester, I am an adult, I am nearly forty, I can go by the office and explain and re-enroll, there is paperwork to handle this circumstance, possibly I can just take a test and opt out anyway, they are not going to take away my books and my house because I did not pass high school physics.
This is the second or third time I’ve had a dream like this and suddenly thought “Wait, this no longer applies to me, does it?”
I suspect that in anxiety dreams we’re the people we believe we are, and perhaps slowly, as I get older, I start to believe that I really am an adult, or at least no longer a person who is a single sheet of paperwork away from failing utterly at life, and that my worth is not hinged on a single grade from decades past.
Sadly, if my anxiety dreams are to be believed, I am still a person who is constantly moving between houses and trying to pack everything on a shoestring, and I am still angry at a number of people from my past, and my teeth are prone to falling out occasionally, but at least I am slowly overcoming my fear of missing class.