Dreams Becoming Reality (Or Is It Reality Becoming a Dream?)

It’s unusual enough to recall a dream you had the night prior, but it’s truly rare to have a dream with more or less the same story which I always recall because it’s literally dé ja vu.

It goes something like this.  It is the last week of classes and I am panicking because it dawns on me that I have a couple classes that I haven’t done any work for.  There’s a math class, for example, that I’ve stopped attending because I figured math is my strength and I can complete and submit the daily homework in the last week of classes.  Or there’s that English class which I vaguely recall had a requirement to submit a major paper at the end of the semester, but I can’t be sure because I’ve also been skipping that class for weeks.

I’ve had variations of this dream where I was in high school and in college, but in both, I can’t recall whether I’m still in these classes or whether I dropped them.  So, my panic doesn’t have so much to do with panicking about not having enough time do 12 weeks of daily homework in a week or conducting research for a major term paper. It’s got more to do with not knowing whether I should be panicking in the first place.

I’ve been out of school long enough that I can now have this dream rather calmly, but in law school, it induced a panic attack.  I once woke up from this nightmare and it took a good minute or two for me to realize that I don’t need to panic about not knowing what courses I was taking.  At that moment, the dream and reality became indistinguishable, which may be because the dream wasn’t so far-fetched from a reality.

In my law school, the exam schedule got released very early in the semester.  I would always check the schedule immediately after it got posted because I wanted to know whether I could go to the dean to demand that my exams be moved to a later date based on the policy that I was only forced to take a certain number of exams within a short period of time.  I never did get that wish, but because of this check, I always knew roughly how many days I had between each exam early in the semester, even if I wouldn’t remember when exactly the exams were.

By the end of the first semester of my last year in law school, I was on cruise control.  At the beginning of the study period–when I decided which classes were worth studying for because I can still catch up and which classes I should just abandon because I had so much ground to cover–I re-checked the exam schedule in order to determine the days on which I can sleep-in late.  I noticed that one exam I thought was on Wednesday was actually on Thursday, and celebrated the extra day that I can sleep in.

On Tuesday night before that exam, I went to bed at a late hour, planning to spend a good portion of the next day studying after waking up around noon.  As I was slipping into bed, I suddenly recalled that, only a couple months ago, I saw that this exam was on Wednesday.  Thinking it was better being screwed tonight than being screwed tomorrow night, I got up to re-check the exam schedule.  Lo-and-behold, the exam was on first thing next morning.  I did not sleep that night.

If memorable dreams are those that hit close to reality, then I wonder what reality the most vivid dream I’ve ever had relates to.  This one was weird because I knew I was in a dream when I was dreaming it.  I was being chased by someone who appeared to have a knife.   I was running hard, which doesn’t necessarily mean I was going fast, although it does mean I was getting exhausted.  Cognizant that I was dreaming, it occurred to me that the way to be relieved of the exhaustion was to simply die and wake up.  So I turned around, ran full speed to the guy chasing me and at the moment that I would otherwise have “died,” I woke right up, exhausted.

As vivid as this dream was, I’m pretty certain, as I write this, that I have not died.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even had a near-death experience.  This, of course, raises an interesting question:  if my recurring dreams on panicking about not knowing whether I should be panicking springs from the reality in which I forgot about a final exam, what does my suicide dream embody, since the unanimous view of the people around me is that I am far too shallow to be suicidal.

This post is a re-write of a post from almost exactly four years ago, titled “On Weird Dreams.”  I think this version does more justice to what I thought was interesting, funny material.  I hope you agree.


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