Dreams of unfinished business

Kim (who promises she will write something in the blog when she has time) was over at my house this evening, and over dinner we did our usual thing in which we discussed life, the universe and everything, but mostly my appallingly bad financial prospects. She pushed me to do some back-of-the-envelope budget calculations, which indicate that a call-center job, which I’ve been sort of halfheartedly pursuing lately, would not be enough to get me out of the woods unless I did it full-time for several months (meaning no new comics for a while). That’s going to make my attempts even more half-hearted… more on money, jobs, and such in another post at a later date – soon, because the problem is becoming just a little bit urgent.

While discussing other lines of work, I mentioned a recurring dream I’d had, in which I am back at University to claim and document credits for classes that I’d passed exams for but which somehow hadn’t end up on my final credit list. In the dream, I’m doing this so I can finally get my diploma. It’s one of those dreams that look and feel realistic enough to convince me, for some time after waking up, that what I just experienced was real. It can take me up to a day to realise that, hey, I did in fact get my University diploma in 1995.

Kim mentioned that she had a similar recurring dream, usually to do with credits from her second year at the University, which was a nightmare.

I can’t help but wonder if these dreams turn up as a result of some barely-registered worry that we have unfinished business at the University, or some rather more obvious low-level worry that we’ve let the side down during and after our University education. Kim is one of the most intelligent and able people I know, and I, ehrm, I graduated from the Praedinius Gymnasium with excellent grades. My progress through University had a flying start, but after the second or so year, I got lazy and disengaged, leading to worsening grades and a final paper that was sort of mediocre. After that, I did a number of things but mostly remained stuck in "I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, but I can’t be arsed to decide now" mode until a disastrous three-year spell at a software company at least gave me a picture of what I didn’t want. Kim always did well, but her final paper became a nightmare lasting a decade, marked by one setback after another. That’s a story that’s for her to tell, though, if she wants to.

And here I am, twelve years after I got a piece of paper saying I was really quite smart and learned, and I’m contemplating taking a low-wage job to make ends meet. Yeah, I guess something went wrong, though if you consider that I held out for six years since quitting that last job, doing creative work all that time, you could argue that something (finally) went right. I’ve thought about going back to school a couple of times, and the fact that Kim’s now pursuing a postgraduate position at the University of Groningen is sort of tickling my interest right now. Do I have unfinished business? Should I try and go back and prove that I’m worthy of that chit after all?

3 replies on “Dreams of unfinished business”

  1. I wouldn’t worry too much about the dream, and would worry instead why it takes you a day to realize you did in fact get your diploma.

    University must have been a big part of your life, and perhaps now it appears inconsequential? What did you get out of that education that you are using today? (Other than being able to write fluently in another tongue, a skill that a lot of people have without having had to study at least four years at university level for it.) When do you look back on your student years and think “God, that was useful!”?

    So what is important to you now? What are your goals, and how are you going to reach them? What are the skills you require to do so?

  2. I wouldn’t worry too much about the dream, and would worry instead why it takes you a day to realize you did in fact get your diploma

    This is actually not unusual for me. I think my dreams can be divided into three categories: the unmemorable ones which fade soon after awaking; the ones that are clearly recognisable as dreams once I’m awake (I mentioned one example from my teenage years to Jelena today: I once dreamed I was trapped in a tiny stable with a wild horse that kicked in all directions. Frightening, but I wouldn’t for a moment mistake it for reality); and the ones that are mundane and realistic except for some aspect that isn’t. The University dream is in the latter category; it has the feel of a rather dull day in real life, and nothing obviously crazy happens in them.

    I’m not going to comment on your other questions now, at quarter past one in the morning, except to say that the fact that skills can be acquired in more than one way doesn’t affect the value of the way a person ends up acquiring them.

  3. That’s clearly something similar to the common dream where you are taking a vitally important examination – perhaps the distinction is to do with different education systems?

    I occasionally dream that I am about to take a public exam, and then the invigilator tells us to turn over the exam-paper, and it’s BLANK!

    Freud discusses the examination dream in The Interpretation of Dreams, referring to several patients. He claims that all the people he analysed who experienced them had one thing in common – they had never failed an exam.

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