This is a very different sort of August for me. I have a fellowship for the Fall semester, which means I’m essentially getting paid to write my dissertation, so I have nothing looming ahead of me except long afternoons trying to move the blinking cursor on my Word document from right to left and down the page.
Yet somehow my psyche hasn’t caught up to this fact, so the August Dreams have arrived right on schedule. If you are an even averagely anxious student or teacher-type, you probably know what I’m talking about. Every August, I start dreaming that for some odd reason, I have to return to high school and wear my old school uniform, which doesn’t fit anymore. Or I dream that I have to take a graduate level calculus class, except I wander around unable to find the room for two weeks and only finally discover it on the day of an exam. Or I dream that I’ve enrolled for some class and didn’t even remember until after the drop deadline passed. And just last week I dreamed that following a conference, I was whisked away by some friends and colleagues to Mexico, and only once I was in a hot an sweaty van with no cell phone and no internet access did I remember that I had to teach that week and that I desperately needed to find a substitute or risk being fired.
I hate to get too pop-psych here, but considering how common these sorts of dreams are, I think they speak to pretty common fears about school and academic life: breaking rules you didn’t even know existed, forgetting things you didn’t even know you needed to remember, losing control of your ability to meet expectations and excel. I’m not sure I have anything more profound to say about that fact, that some of us who love learning the most (and many who don’t) frequently find academic life to be opaque, antagonistic, and terrifying on some level. Is it just that some of us are so prone to doubt ourselves? Or is there something about the learning environments we find ourselves in that exacerbates a propensity toward jumpiness. Probably a little of both.
But anyway, if you students or teachers want to commiserate, share your August Dreams here.