The old, familiar academic conference nightmare last night. I don't recall the details of the dreadful, boring event in the conference rooms of the hotel, though I do remember the feeling of needing to escape. I look for the elevator. It is an old-fashioned affair, roomy, with decaying overstuffed couches. My room is on the hundredth floor, and the elevator is incredibly slow. The higher it gets, the slower it goes, and the more I'm grappling with my intense fear of heights. So far as I remember, I never reach the top. I never find my room...
It has been twenty years since I left academia. I was never meant to be there in the first place. I just thought I needed the job. Oh, I had the qualifications--the years of study, the Ph.D., the teaching experience... And in many respects, I guess I was a reasonably good teacher: a bore to some, perhaps--and happily an inspiration to a few. But I was never fully comfortable in any of the academic posts I held for twenty-five years. I always had the feeling that I was not supposed to be there. And I became an expert at sabotaging my own jobs. The truth is that I have not missed it for a moment, and I have been fortunate in surviving without the salaried position.
So this is a familiar dream. A familiar nightmare. Back where I don't beling, feeling out of place, and lost, and in some way threatened. All very real, of course, while it was going on. I was glad to wake up and realize that it was a dream. Now, looking back on it this morning, I wonder to what extent it might not be about academia at all. Because there was a second tower to the hotel, a second bank of elevators, I remember, and something about the structure of the buildings and the elevators reminds me of a more recent dual elevator experience--which had to do with a financial restructuring that Ellie and I embarked on last week, too shortly before our planned trip to Europe, with the result that we felt unduly pressured into decisions that we finally began to doubt.
Ah, yes, the mind is a funny thing. It speaks to us often in rondabout ways--whether in the form of the bodily aches and pains I have been writing about recently, or of dreams that are actually about something very different than they purport to be. Things, to get back to Carly's question in a recent comment, are rarely what they seem. As always, a lot to observe, a lot to learn.