The whole path from elementary school through to college graduation feels like a career development game where the stakes are raised every year. Fail once off the path, and it's Walmart Greeter for you, forever! It's no wonder I still wake up in a cold sweat over it, 30 years on.
Still today, 30 years later, I get these dreams. Usually when I have a big work or life challenge coming up. And the nightmares still boost my confidence (though the nightmares themselves suck).
For my EE120 review session when we staggered in, the GSI consoled us saying if it meant anything, we’d done as much in one semester as he’d done in two and a half at his school and he was a Berkeley grad student which is insanely competitive to get into in its own right.
This was more or less my theory already. Our first, foundational experiences of anxiety, or at least specific kinds of anxiety.
I'm curious: was anyone here home schooled during high school and then didn't attend college? Where does your mind go to for the equivalent of the "institutional anxiety" dream scenario?
I was pretty traumatized with parental expectations in school. Starting from high school, to college, to graduate school, I always had the same dream at the start of semesters - I'm incredibly late to the first class to the point I basically miss it. It has a cascading effect where in the dream, I basically feel doomed to be behind all semester. I've never had this dream outside of when I was a student, and that includes a very long hiatus in finishing college.
This is story is one of those things where you read it and the explanation is so obvious, but it never hit you until you see it written out.
And then promptly waltz upstairs with my coffee, sit in front my computer, read the news and (mostly) happily write program on computers all day, while playing with my border collies and walking through my hobby vineyard in my spare time.
School sucked for me, and I kinda... turned out despite it... but I somehow have to get my kids through it.
The dreams I have are from the same age range, but are about making sure I get all those entitled Moms their Furbies before Christmas Eve while working at Toys R Us.
It isn't about school.
But my other recurring dream is about being an LDS missionary again. I think that experience in real life was even more stressful than college—definitely more guilt-inducing. In the dream I'm my current self—mid-40s, married, kids, career, atheist—and yet somehow the church has managed to coerce me back into the mission field alongside the 19-year-old true believers.
Almost every other former Mormon missionary I've asked about it reports having similar recurring dreams.
I tried at least 5 times to finish college. I honestly gave it "the old college try" over, and over, and over again. I really wanted to please my father with that piece of paper in my hand. But that path just wasn't for me.
Elementary school and high school were marvelous, formative experiences for me. The schools were truly safe, secure environments where the Catholic faculty and staff respected me and upheld my human dignity, no matter what. I was never hurt or mistreated by the Irish sisters, nor by the priests and religious, or lay teachers. Now contrast that with my home life where I was subjected to endless shame, emotional trauma, and humiliation. I basically wanted to escape to school and stay there forever.
Unfortunately this came apart at the seams in college, because guess what? My parents had always been the ones pushing and cajoling me through homework and projects and tests and perfect attendance. Without my dual-helicopter parents doing all the work for me, I was doomed to failure, over and over in college. So I dropped out again and again. It wasn't for lack of trying.
Years ago, I did have "school flashback" dreams. I was naked in class. I forgot to study for a final exam. I was being teased or bullied by classmates. Yeah, it was all on replay for years, but I worked past that.
I took a final swing at earning a degree and I got halfway to an Associate's. But truthfully, I did finish what I started, because I earned three professional certifications and landed a fantastic steady job. So in the end, my college days weren't wasted, despite all the credits I'll leave on the table.
I'm grateful for the faculty, staff, and admins who always treated me with utmost respect, kindness, and reminded me of my innate human dignity, and through them I was able to discern a vocation as an educator in my own right.
So similar to the stories in the article
School and high school are the formative years of your life where you are essentially building who you will be as a person. College is generally your first taste of independence.
Do people who go to college as mature students have the same dreams?
After my 3rd job out of school, I stopped having those dreams.
I don't think I've ever had a dream like that. I have dreamed I was back hanging out with my friends again, or exploring a weird sub-basement under the school, but nothing like what people are describing.
I eventually got over it. The dreams stopped. Once I got to a certain age, I just accepted I was a stupid-ass kid who made mistakes. Live and learn.
BTW, if you're still in school, don't cheat. Take it from me. I spent more time and effort on cheating than I would have if I just did the work as assigned.
I told my former teammates about this probably two years ago, and as it turned out, many of them have been having this exact same dream.
But this doesn't give any meaningful answer to the question, just some speculation that anyone could make and which doesn't seem to be backed by any scientific evidence (of course, I'm aware there is probably no such evidence, but they could be more straightforward about the answer to the title question being "we have no idea").
So I think this dictum applies: When a title asks "Why" first ask "If".
When I get really anxious, I've learned to notice it not because of how I feel, but because of what I think about. My mind does two things. It will either distract me with soothing ideas (video games, side gigs) or (like TFA) it will go full anxiety and I'll hyper-focus on anything in the past that made me feel helpless, angry, or afraid.
Anxiety manifests as exam dreams, resurfacing relationship issues suddenly, body image woes, or just constantly checking to see if I have my wallet.
There's a much simpler explanation that works for me. Your mind is trying to explain the signals it's receiving, and it is grasping at straws by surfacing memories that triggered similar signals. It's a byproduct of a correlation engine and that's pretty much it.
I understand the obsession with divining meaning in arbitrary shared experience, but if my 350,000 hrs of use has taught me anything, it's that the mind is an arbitrary, guideless storyteller.
There's actually quite a bit of research supporting this, it turns out.
But for me, it is speaking up to the teacher (telling him he is wrong), or confidently not caring about what the teacher is ordering the class to do.
Or event confidently deciding not to go to school today.
I can earn a living with my programming skills, I have 0 reasons to endure school bullshit anymore.