Several days ago, my friend Emily posted on Facebook about that recurring dream that so many people have—she’d been skipping English class for most of the year, and now she was going to fail the class and not graduate. Her post reminded me of a bunch that I’ve been having lately, and they’re a little different from the ones I used to have. I first blogged about my own school dreams nearly ten years ago. Back when I was still in junior high and high school, I dreamed about forgetting where my locker was, forgetting my locker combo, forgetting where my classes were, and stuff like that.
For some reason I stopped having them once I got to college, but after I finished college, I started having them again, only now they were like what Emily described—I’d slacked off and skipped class for most of the semester, and now I was about to fail and fail hard. Once I had one where everything that could possibly have gone wrong went wrong—I couldn’t find my locker, I couldn’t remember my combo and had to go to the office to have them give it to me again, I couldn’t find my class, I ended up being really late to class, and apparently I’d missed class for the last few months and was about to bomb the final.
As I said in that previous post, the class was usually calculus, and I always thought that was odd. I actually really liked the class and excelled in it—calculus was the only AP test I got a 5 on—so it’s not like I was constantly stressing out about it. But Emily said something that for some reason had never occurred to me: “Maybe that’s part of the stress of the dream? Knowing it should have been a piece of cake and wondering why you didn’t do it.” Everybody has challenging subjects, but it’s a lot more shameful to fail a class that you should have been able to ace, especially if it’s one you actually enjoyed.
I was good at calculus, but as with a lot of classes, I skated by a little bit. Our teacher said that he’d retroactively raise your grade for the year to match whatever you got on the AP test, so if you got a 5 on the test, you’d get straight As in the class, even if you’d only been earning a B up to that point. And that’s exactly what I did. I knew I could get a 5, so I put in B-level work. It’s not like I was being terribly lazy, but I wasn’t giving the class 100 percent. I decided on the level of work I was willing to do, and let the rest slide.
So I guess that skipping class for weeks or even months is simply that mentality taken to the extreme. You decide, “Eh, I don’t really need to go to class every time—I’ve got this”, but eventually things spiral out of control. You slowly, steadily dig yourself a hole that you can’t possibly climb back out of.
Lately my school dreams have been about art classes. I’ve signed up for one but never went to class at all and for some reason never bothered to drop it when I still had the chance. Now the end of the semester is approaching and I keep thinking, “Oh, yeah, I really should do something about that class so that I don’t fail and delay my graduation”, but I keep putting it off.
This dream is a little more bittersweet than the calculus dream. I always loved art class and seriously considered majoring in art. I decided to just get an art minor, since it would still let me do art stuff while letting me pick a slightly more marketable major (because the career opportunities for an English language major are just endless). But art classes give you only half as many credits as you spend in class, so that a three-hour class is actually six hours per week. And of course your professors all think you should be spending at least that much time sketching out of class too, so even a couple of art classes will consume your life.
My first real semester at BYU, I had six credits of art classes, because they require you to take a block of intro classes when you start the program. And I had a scholarship that required that I maintain at least 14 credits, but I couldn’t arrange my schedule to get it under 16. So that semester I was in class for 21 hours a week, plus I was working 20 hours a week, plus my art teachers wanted me to draw like a million hours on top of that. I took three incompletes and somehow managed to escape with a 2.98 GPA for the semester. I took one more art class after that—figure drawing—before dropping the minor.
That was thirteen years ago, and I haven’t done any drawing or painting since. My portfolio is sitting in the back of my bedroom closet. My art supplies are collecting dust on a shelf on the garage. My oil paints are probably all dried up and worthless by now. The thing that I used to love has turned into the thing that I keep wanting to do and then feeling guilty about not doing. I keep thinking I’ll get back to it, that I’ll make time, but it keeps not happening.
When I started writing this post, I thought it was about stress from work coming out in my dreams—the last few months have been pretty depressing and frustrating, and I’m not sure I see a solution. And while I’m sure that there’s some work-related stress coming through, now I’m wondering if this latest wave of school dreams has a more literal side—I’ve neglected something I used to love, and I don’t want to admit that it’s gone.