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Dream: 4.7.18

April 7, 2018

I’m somehow an adult near my own age, that is, middle-aged, but I’m also repeating my high school freshman year. For the 3rd time. And it’s not going well.

I’ve apparently been procrastinating all year [in the way of school nightmares everywhere], and now that I’m looking ahead to the last push before the year ends, I’m in a heap of trouble.

I’m talking with someone, telling them how I’ve calculated that, for the next several weeks, I will have to work on my pent-up assignments every day from 8 AM to 9 PM. And finishing in time to be graded will still be cutting it quite closely.


Someone I had hoped to be friends with shows up. She reminds that she’d given me a list of terms for one of her assignments, that I said I would research for her, and now she needs that information back.

That’s when I really panic. Because I know I never did anything — that I’d completely forgotten that I even promised to.

But in my panic, it feels as though if I can find the original piece of paper she gave me, it will somehow prove…. something.

I quickly realize I have no idea where the paper is either. I’m getting evermore frantic, pulling out papers from towering piles — uncovering even more assignments I forgot I still had to do (!), but nothing from her.

She realizes that she will get nothing from me, and graciously excuses herself.

I know I’ve completely blown any chance of impressing her.


Later, I’ve calmed down, and I’m trying to work out the logistics of spending 13 hours a day, every day, on assignments I already didn’t want to do, but now must be done.

I reflect that when I was high school age, I flunked my freshman year, twice. (But somehow was allowed to progress to sophomore year anyway). And now here I am, 40 years later, having to repeat the same crappy year. And I’m gonna fail it again.


Going back to the situation with my would-be friend, I realize that if all my data was indexed, I could find her stuff. I could find anything.

But there are mountains of papers, and books, and data, to be indexed. That would be a truly monumental task, and when would I have time to do it?



In waking life, I did not flunk my high school freshman year, and certainly not twice.

(I did flunk 1 class, an elective, which my parents used as an excuse to wreak havoc on my life.)

Perhaps that is part of the reason that, for 30+ years, my school-nightmare dreams unfold as me having to repeat all 4 years of high school, as an adult (because my parents are insisting), and I’m always failing everything.

In this dream, though, my parents weren’t part of whyever I was retaking the year.


Oh hey, wait a minute. I flunked out of my freshman year of college. Twice. The first time, I was attending most of my classes, at least initially, but I’d signed up for an unmanageable amount of hours (having had no advisors, nor anyone paying attention to me at all), and guess what, I couldn’t magically manage them! So I stopped going to most of them, and just hung out in the college library, looking up random stuff and learning in odd directions. Way more fun.

I was so ignorant I didn’t even know I should’ve dropped some of the classes. I probably could’ve talked to somebody on campus, too, a freshman advisor, or somebody, but… I had no history of an adult actually being interested in helping me with my problems, so it never occurred to me.

So that first semester, by mid-term I really was flunking most of my classes. Then I dropped out.

My second semester, I attended a handful or 2 of class sessions before skipping right to hanging out for hours in the college library. I progressed to driving around OKC, closer than Edmond (where the school was); and finally, sitting at ‘home’ being terrorized by my cousin.

Both times, college was something other people wanted for me — that I had no interest in myself. Going along with what they wanted was not going to gain me anything I wanted, but I had no idea what to do instead.

So I dragged my feet, passively resisting, until I failed their objectives for me.


Is there something in my current life with a similar dynamic?


At college age, if I wasn’t going to continue with school, my parents said I had to join the armed services, or work a fast food job. But I couldn’t do what I wanted, which was noodle around, trying a bunch of jobs until I figured out things that I liked and didn’t like.

I didn’t have any data about myself, and I instinctively knew I would need some before I could generate ideas about anything.

This turns out to be a valid approach, called abductive reasoning, which I stumbled across much later.

After essentially studying myself and my own processes for many years, I now know “having a plan” is not where I start. Instead, I start small, by experimenting with what’s immediately at hand. It generally takes months of experiments, if not years, before I get ideas about how whatever-I’m-doing could progress to a next level.

I think this approach is consistent with self-organization.

Along the way, I may come up with labels for what I think an umbrella overview seems to be, but none of those labels are equivalent to a plan. I don’t naturally generate plans, and I’ve never really figured out how they are generated.


The indexing seemed significant.

I’ve long been considering indexing my daybooks, which I’ve now been keeping for 10+ years.

I’ve also created a spreadsheet with metadata fields for my 200+ poems, but haven’t yet hit on an ideal system for displaying that data.

I’ve long had a remote sensing poster of the Chesapeake Bay on a wall in my studio, along with a map of the Great Lakes. I recently began an information design assemblage on an adjacent blank wall.


I’ve also been reading and thinking a lot, and researching various gaps in my knowledge.


Maybe it’s time to turn from preparing to doing.

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