The College Dream

The Bride had to shake me awake last night from a bad dream. It’s a common occurrence around here. This one was so bad it took several seconds to cut through the horror and I awoke with a shout.

I dream all the time.

All. The. Time.

Almost every night, and they aren’t all bad. Sometimes these dreams are recurring, putting me in places so familiar I know where streets intersect in these other worlds. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I dream of houses so often I can draw you the blue lines for construction.

The Bride and I always talk about our nighttime wanderings, for she has them on occasion, too. Many of these dreams find their way into my novels, such as one that became the foundation for my Red River novel, Unraveled. She had to wake me from that one, blubbering like a toddler and unable to discuss it for days.

Others are on the mental stove, bubbling along. She once had a dream about sixteen crosses in a front yard. I’ll do something with it some day and the title will be Sixteen Crosses, of course. That one could go anywhere.

With a hard deadline looming, I’m surprised I haven’t had the dream that fascinates me. The College Dream.

The Bride has her version and the more I investigate…

…and by that I mean I ask others at cocktail parties whether they’ve experienced the same ones by describing my own…

…I find that it’s universal among those of us who have ever been to college.

In mine, I’m walking across a dream campus (again one that I’m familiar with though it doesn’t exist) after parking much farther away than I’d like on the back row lined with pine trees (I guess I’m detail oriented). The features are so clear that if I was an artist, I could draw or paint it. Then I’m inside the building that’s vaguely familiar and I realize I’ve missed all the classes on one particular subject, (let’s say math because I’m not good at it). There’s a test I haven’t studied for, and I can’t find the room, because though it’s been on the schedule, I haven’t been there.

I’m about to fail the class, and likely the semester.

Some online therapists say this dream is our brain telling us that we can get through whatever is stressing us out. One we wake up and realize we’ve already successfully survived college and we survive the stress that’s sparking these dreams.

I’m not a psychologist, but I can give you all the online explanations that I don’t understand such as during dreams, the emotional brain takes over the cognitive brain as we sink into the REM state.

“The metabolic activity is higher in the emotional, involuntary, more primitive limbic system. In addition, there is decreased metabolic activity in the prefrontal cortex involved in consciously directed thoughts, planned behavior, emotional self-controlexecutive function (prioritizing, risk-analysis, higher cognition, judgment, and the focused alert mindful state).” Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed. Radical Teaching, Psychology Today.

I’m not exactly sure what all that means, but these dreams about forgetting something might reflect our mature responsibility towards a job or duty, even though we’d rather be doing something else, like cleaning the garage or binge-watching the newest streaming series.

According to Willis, our collective college dream is “a reminder not to miss an opportunity or take a more active role in one’s destiny.”

No matter how you look at it, we’ve signed a contract for a novel or short story to be delivered on a particular date, or in the case of those still trying to get published, we still need to “show up for work each day,” because our subconscious is telling us to get our butts in that chair and write.

And since I’m on that hard, looking deadline, I’ll quietly back out with this one question. Have you ever had “the college dream?”

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About Reavis Wortham

Two time Spur Award winning author Reavis Z. Wortham pens the Texas Red River historical mystery series, and the high-octane Sonny Hawke contemporary western thrillers. His new Tucker Snow series begins in 2022. The Red River books are set in rural Northeast Texas in the 1960s. Kirkus Reviews listed his first novel in a Starred Review, The Rock Hole, as one of the “Top 12 Mysteries of 2011.” His Sonny Hawke series from Kensington Publishing features Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke and debuted in 2018 with Hawke’s Prey. Hawke’s War, the second in this series won the Spur Award from the Western Writers Association of America as the Best Mass Market Paperback of 2019. He also garnered a second Spur for Hawke’s Target in 2020. A frequent speaker at literary events across the country. Reavis also teaches seminars on mystery and thriller writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to writing conventions, to the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, SC. He frequently speaks to smaller groups, encouraging future authors, and offers dozens of tips for them to avoid the writing pitfalls and hazards he has survived. His most popular talk is entitled, My Road to Publication, and Other Great Disasters. He has been a newspaper columnist and magazine writer since 1988, penning over 2,000 columns and articles, and has been the Humor Editor for Texas Fish and Game Magazine for the past 25 years. He and his wife, Shana, live in Northeast Texas. All his works are available at your favorite online bookstore or outlet, in all formats. Check out his website at “Burrows, Wortham’s outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “The cinematic characters have substance and a pulse. They walk off the page and talk Texas.” —The Dallas Morning News On his most recent Red River novel, Laying Bones: “Captivating. Wortham adroitly balances richly nuanced human drama with two-fisted action, and displays a knack for the striking phrase (‘R.B. was the best drunk driver in the county, and I don’t believe he run off in here on his own’). This entry is sure to win the author new fans.” —Publishers Weekly “Well-drawn characters and clever blending of light and dark kept this reader thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” —Mystery Scene Magazine

23 thoughts on “The College Dream

  1. Sometimes I dream that I’ve missed all the classes for one subject, but more often, I don’t know what classes I’m supposed to take that semester, no one will tell me what they are, and I’m afraid I won’t graduate because I missed something essential. Another one I have is that I can’t find the apartment I’m living in.

    I also have the high school dream where either I can’t find my locker or I can’t find my classes. Sometimes I have the elementary school dream, but I’m the teacher (I taught second grade for three years) and I don’t have lesson plans for the day.

    • Funny how all that sticks with us through the years. Two nights ago I dreamed I was back at work (I retired twelve years ago) and had a new boss that wanted to fire me. Told him to go ahead and then laughed….

  2. Not only the college dream, but more often, the high school dream. Or the hotel dream where I can’t find my room.

  3. Definitely the college dream as well as the hotel dream Terry mentions.

    To me, searching for something you know is there but you can’t find it always indicated a fear of failure. Thanks for adding the psychologist’s different slant, Rev.

    Hope you only have the kind of dreams that help you meet your deadline!

  4. I’ve dreamed many times about college, but more often about high school. I’ll describe my High School Dream with the exact words I used in a nonfiction I published last year:

    ‘For more than fifteen years after I left Ogbomoso High School, I hardly lived through a week without dreaming about the place. Even if the story wasn’t about the school, the location would be the school compound.

    ‘And that’s the kind of memory our schools create in us. Because I went there every day for six years, except during holidays, OHS became a bone that got stuck in my throat. Much as I tried to cough it out, it sank further into my velum, until the time was long enough for it to fade gradually into the backstage of my subconscious.’

  5. Great post, Rev. I didn’t know so many other people had the college dream.

    My college dream always seems to occur when I’m trying to do too much and worried that I will forget something. In the dream, I’ve forgotten to study for an exam and even forgot to go to class to take the exam. It wakes me up in a sweat every time.

    Good luck with your deadline.

  6. I have the college dream quite frequently. The most disturbing version goes back to my fire service years when I’ll be at the door to a fire with people trapped and my my gloves won’t be in my pocket, or my air bottle will be empty.

    • Do you think that’s similar to the trigger that won’t pull? Sometimes I can’t get my dream finger into the trigger guard.

      Must be the supposed unprepared explanation.

    • Ah, and now we’ve reached the Other Dream. I’m at work without pants and realized it’s so common for me to be in that condition that people are talking about it.


  7. Despite having spent seven years in college for various degrees, I have the high school dream of missing classes, etc. Weird but true.

    I do dream about my college years including one where I sat in the coffee shop in the Student Union of my alma mater and talked about college life with one of my characters. My first two books were partially set at UNC-G and Duke. UNC-G was fictional because the bad guy was a professor, and Duke was Duke with one of the libraries as the lair of the villain, not a professor.

    • We all need a therapist to explain which one of our education settings is the root of the dreams that plague us.

      On the flip side, it’s a wellspring of material, though.

  8. That no britches dream seems to be more common than I thought. I tend to spend a lot of the night dodging around the old office building, trying to get caught.

  9. I still have the college dream occasionally. I haven’t been to class and it’s time to take the final, but I can’t find the room. I don’t remember having that dream about high school or graduate school. Only undergraduate. It takes me a few seconds after I wake up to realize it was a dream. Whew.

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