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the devil is in the details

November 23, 2009

Last night I had a dream I’ve had many times before. In it, I’m my real age, but I’m also attending high school. I’m aware in the dream that I already attended high school, and graduated many years ago, but the premise of the dream is that post-graduation, my parents thought I made such a mess of my life that they are making me go again, for the entire four years. (I attended a private school, so not-insignificant amounts of money are at stake.)

This dream shares events from more common “high school anxiety” dreams in that I’m frequently worried about grades in a particular class, and have scheduled a meeting with the teacher to see if I can get caught up before the term ends, so I can graduate with my class. Not that I’m looking forward to graduating, but if I don’t graduate, my parents will kill me.

When I recall the setting of this dream, it’s not any place I’ve ever been (thankfully!). It’s dark and shadowy, bleak, grimy. People scurry through the halls with their heads down. There’s no light or laughter; no friends, enjoyable activities or classes you look forward to. It’s all unrelenting misery.

I disliked high school, but even my high school wasn’t like this dream. Something that was like this dream is my childhood. And most of the jobs I’ve had (well, emotionally, not literally). I think there’s a connection there that I’ve previously missed – that I’ve unconsciously sought out work environments that remind me of my childhood so I can redeem them and make successes  out of them. That’s not what happens though. Instead, I’m miserable; and the toxic environment poisons me, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly; and when I reach my limit, I leave. It usually takes a while for me to recover my equilibrium, and optimism. And then the cycle starts again.

I think my unconscious mind is trying to tell me that I need to aim higher – that I need to try for something I think I’ll like, not “settle” for the least-horrific thing I can stand. An analogy I thought of this morning was: I’ve been like a jellyfish seeking out (jobs in) desert environments. Even when I find something that matches my background and experience and I have the skills, it’s not gonna end well for me. What if I sought out an estuary or ocean instead? Some place there’s other jellyfish, and the water’s the way we like it, and there’s lots of food to eat, and things to do, and friends to make. What could I do/accomplish/be if I found an environment that sustained me? I don’t know, but I’d like to find out!

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