Finals are approaching. My course load is full. I remember some of the classes, but others are foggy, as though I attended only the first lecture and skipped the rest. Exams are coming up in a matter of days. This is my final semester. A failing grade would delay graduation. What would I say to my future employer, or my friends or family? I have never failed a course in my life, and even in this uncertain market, my job prospects are better than most of my peers. Oddly, my exam schedule is vague; no mention of day and times for some of these classes, namely the ones that I barely remember attending at all. My fate is uncertain, a feeling of horror combined with confusion encroaches upon me….

Pardon the melodrama, but that is the gist of a dream I had recently, the context of which was senior year in college. I’ve also had dreams, less recently, of high school and possibly even middle school. A similar dream took place in the context of high school, senior year. Very similar in that I was to take finals, and the result of those finals could adversely affect college attendance if my GPA were negatively impacted. I felt similar uncertainty in the high school variant of the dream: classes I barely remembered even attending after the first one, exam schedules that were vague and possibly prevented me from taking the exam at all.

Why these dreams? None of the above uncertainty or feeling of terror ever actually transpired, in high school, college, or any other stage in my academic career. Was school traumatic for me? Well, yes, some years were, though some years were very good (a topic for another time, perhaps). And the “school-themed dreams” aren’t social in nature, but focused on academic future uncertainty (though I suppose the perceived attitude change of members of my social circle in regards to me was a feature of the dream, and source of some transient dread).

Another school-themed dream, separate from the ones above, occurred during an internship. In the dream, I was away from college for two years, in jail, for some crime (left vague in the dream). I returned to college to finish up my degree, but my friends were gone, and it seemed they were reluctant to speak to me again following the time in jail.

What does all this mean? I’ve never studied dreams, formally or otherwise, so consider this all very speculative. The uncertainty in these dreams might represent a time when, more so than any other time, I felt intense uncertainty and anxiety: about school, about my career, friends, life in general. The “jail time” dream was likely the result of my internship, meaning time away from college and my social circle. I was isolated from them, similar to what an inmate might feel during a period of incarceration (never mind that my friends were a phone call or email away; never mind that the internship paid well and was time well spent). Perhaps the content of the dream, or more importantly, how I felt during the dream, points to intense internalizing, feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, not just in the dream world, but in the real world as well.

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