Back To School


I haven’t been a student since 2007.


HOLY CRAP, I’m old!


And yet, I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t have a dream about going back to school.


I’ve been using the Dream Journal Ultimate app to log my dreams for the past two months, which by the way I highly recommend! The first thing I do when I wake up, the very first thing, is to grab my phone and type out whatever I could remember from my dream the night before. I even do this if I wake up in the middle of the night to pee. Any time I wake up from sleep, I immediately grab my phone and record my dreams. I strongly recommend this.

I know, you’re probably thinking, “What if I don’t dream?” I profess to you, once you start journalling your dreams, you will find you remember them EVERY TIME. I used to remember my dreams maybe 3, 4 times a month? And yet, since the first entry in my dream journal, I’ve logged a dream entry at least once every night every single night since I started. It’s a weird kind of magic!

And speaking of weird…


My “back to school” dream changes slightly every time, but every week or so, I have a dream that follows the same basic pattern:


For some reason, my high school diploma is invalid, and I’m required to go back to school to finish it properly. Sometimes, it’s just me. Recently, I had a dream that my WHOLE GRADUATING CLASS was forced to return to school. 300 or so 35-year-old adults opening lockers right beside adolescents, just trying to get their lives back on track. And in every dream, we all just go along with it. As fully formed adults, with lives and jobs and taxes and health insurance, we all just shrug and say “ok” and slide into those uncomfortable metal desks, resigned. Every. Single. Time.


The overall feeling of the “Back to School” dream is one of powerlessness, resignation, and shocking personal upheaval. While I am somewhat nostalgic for my youth, I can be realistic and say that school was not a happy time for me. I excelled, for sure: I got good grades, I graduated with honors, and despite my dreams, that diploma STILL HOLDS UP.


But aside from the friends I had in extracurriculars and occasionally shared classes with, school was miserable for me. I was profoundly anxious. At the time, I accepted this as “teenage angst” because all the media I consumed had characters I identified with: awkward, unpopular, shy — and they all turned out ok! It was just a phase.

Now as an adult, I’m pretty sure it was just depression. I was terrified to make social connections outside my established group of friends because I convinced myself that everybody hated me because I was ugly and awkward. OUCH! Only later in my senior year did I realize this was a self-fulfilling prophesy: being shy made me unapproachable, and that’s why I felt like people hated me. In an ironic twist, many of my classmates confessed that they liked me, but thought I didn’t like them, because I never reached out! Oh, the foibles of youth.

So is the “Back to School” dream a nightmare?


There’s another common theme in my Back To School dreams: the idea of getting a second chance. Arriving back at school with the confidence and worldliness of a 34-year-old, I actually feel capable of navigating the experience of high school the way I always felt that I should be able to, with the ease that my peers seemed to be able to. In previous Back to School dreams, I’ve been the star of the drama club, the gregarious outgoing person that I longed to be in my youth, the envy of my cohort of classmates — albeit two decades their senior.

So is the “Back to School” dream a fantasy?


Having logged about a dozen of these, I can honestly say, I’m just about done having the Back to School dream. I’m ready to move on. Maybe that’s what the Back to School dream is really about: being unable to move on. Much like you would be in real life if a significant portion of your personal history and identity was suddenly and shockingly invalidated. That’s the whole point of being dragged helplessly Back to School. 

2 responses to “Back To School”

  1. I have had that dream many, many a time, both just me, and the whole class. I’ve sat in my desk wailing, “but I have a B.A.!!!” Sometimes I also find that I’ve missed a bunch of makeup classes (pesky adult job that I need to go to) and my peers will be able to move on while I have to repeat *again*. I’ve also dreamed this about elementary school. I also have a reoccurring dream that it turned out I actually didn’t pass senior English by a point or two and that somehow got overlooked and they graduated me anyway, but if anyone were to dredge up my transcript, they’d find out I am an imposter and take my diploma away.

    In real life I had to quit college a couple of times, so I also dream I’m trying to go back once more and fix that, even though that’s done and checked off. I literally had this dream a few hours ago.

    Dreams are fun!

    • Wow! Sounds like your dreams are a LOT like mine! Congratulations on your B.A. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do (besides act!) after high school, so I went to community college and had a bad advisor, it took me 2.5 years to get a 2-year degree. And then I transferred to 4-year state school and changed my major in my final year, THAT took me 2.5 years too. I was FAR from the only one of my peers to take 5 years to get a B.A., so you’re in good company here! The funniest thing is that my jobs today actually relate more to my “useless” degrees in theatre and literature than most of my friends’ degrees relate to THEIR careers. And the FUNNIEST part is that the classes in High School that I inisisted I’d “Never Use” in life actually ARE things I use A LOT! Math. Home Ec. Shop Class. even GYM, because my job is very physical and knowing how to lift is crucial!

      I think High School pushes you to make decisions about your life that follow a well-trodden path. During those four years when you’re still basically a CHILD, you’re expected to wrestle with Big Questions like “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” and make decisions about things that WILL follow you forever like, STUDENT LOANS! Maybe it’s a stress dream because it scars us so much, feeling all that pressure, that we’ve largely let go of as adults. Anyway, I’m rambling. Thank you for your lovely comment!

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