I had an unsettling dream last week – not once, but twice. The dreams were very different from each other, but somewhat related. The common element was school, and in both of the dreams I found myself totally confused and unprepared.

The first one was a common type of recurring dream. I was in college, and suddenly realized that it was the day before finals and I wasn’t ready. For one class, I wasn’t even sure where the classroom was. For another, I was flipping through the pages of the textbook, wondering how much of what I knew from past courses could help me in this test. I considered hiring a tutor, and hoped that spending all night studying would help me pass the exams. I thought about the consequences of having two failing grades on my record, and I wished I could go back and do the semester over.

In the other dream, I had spent a weekend taking a class at a college that was about a half-day’s drive from where I lived. I was in my car driving home, and suddenly realized that I couldn’t remember packing my suitcase that morning. My car was filled with the kinds of things I would have had if I were returning from a full year of living in a dorm. But I wasn’t sure whether my suitcase was full or empty, or what I may have left behind. So I turned around to drive back to the school. At this point in my dream, it became more like the feeling of having checked out of a hotel, and I was racing to get back before everything I may have left behind got tossed out or given away. After that, the dream became an obstacle course of problems and complications keeping me from getting to the correct building and finding my way to the room I’d been staying in.

What surprises me the most when I have dreams like this, and they’re vivid enough for me to remember, is that they often happen when I’m feeling pretty good about what’s going on in my life. It would make more sense if they came when I was feeling lost and overwhelmed, or like I was in over my head on a project or problem, and feeling totally incapable and inept. I freely acknowledge that I’ve had feelings like that more times – and more recently – than I care to admit, but I’m not going through any of that right now. Just the opposite, in fact.

Perhaps our nighttime dreams and the dreams and goals we’re working on in real life are connected to each other, but out of sync – the way adrenaline takes over when we’re faced with an emergency situation, and it’s only later that the reality and the emotional release of what we did or went through catches up with us.

Whether or not that’s what is happening, I am enjoying the fact that right now I’m wide awake, I have no college exams ahead of me, and I’m fully aware of where my suitcase and my belongings are. It’s true that I’m still learning and exploring life every day, and I hope that never changes. And although I try to plan and prepare thoroughly for whatever I’m doing, I also try to be flexible and capable enough to shift gears and change directions when obstacles or roadblocks get in the way.

And I can’t wait for my nighttime dreams to catch up with that.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on January 30, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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