Last night I had one of those vivid, surprising dreams that, at least for me, only come around once every few years. I’m not one for fantastical dreams, I have never flown in a dream or been a superhero (I did once have a dream where Spider-man had turned evil and was trying to kill me… or maybe I was the one who had turned evil… that could take some psychoanalysis). My dreams are very pragmatic (like me, fittingly) and rarely slip into the sort of surreal, Dali-esque strangeness that others seem to take for granted.
As a child, I was steeped in the mythology of Christianity so thoroughly that my dreams did on occasion include the slightly more out there imagery of the Fundamentalist worldview. In fact, one dream that has stuck with me more than any dream I have ever had was of a time when I was a young boy, first going off to summer camp. At that camp, with my brother and our fellow classmates, we came across Satan. Not the large and in charge fellow with crazy horns and a pitchfork, or the more fearsome, beguiling figure who so often haunts the mind of Christian youth (and some adults, I suppose). Rather, he was a tiny creature, almost a bug, and the boys, as boys will be boys, wanted to stomp on the little creature. However, the girls in the group wanted to spare the creatures life (those sweet, delicate nurturers), as they felt it was cruel to crush such a small thing. I, for reasons that probably explain a lot about me, sided with the girls. Having let the creature live, my brother and I returned to our cabin, and for some dream-logic reason I did so with one of those wooden, elementary school rulers in my hand. As we reached the door of the cabin, the ruler suddenly morphed into a snake (Satan! You Eve-deceiving, Jive-talking motherfucker!) and that snake struck out at me, wrapping around my neck and choking me to the point that I couldn’t even scream out. It made no difference, though, because as I looked to my brother I saw he, too, was choking.
And then I woke up. You can probably understand why a dream like that would burn itself so thoroughly into my mind. The hellscape visions of the Christian backstory (whether you believe in hell or not, it’s a firm part of the mythology) is clearly compelling, and it is no wonder that a child would not only find it frightening, but also a bit fascinating. I would guess that a good deal of Christian children-turned-Christian adults have an underlying fear (and reverence, even) for the fiery imagery from their childhood that forms a foundation for their faith that they don’t even fully realize.
Or, feel free to disagree, it’s really only a tangential point.
Back to the dream I had last night, and why it has spurred me to write this current entry. In the dream, I was a college freshman again. But not in the, “Oh no, it’s my first day of class and I’m naked” sort of anxiety way (I’ve never actually had one of those kinds of dreams… it would seem to me, being naked in dream would be kind of freeing). Rather, I and the guys who I lived with for my first 2 years of college were all back in the hall, meeting for the first time, except that we were all aware that we had done this before. We weren’t nervous about going off to a strange new world, awkward and uncertain of what was ahead of us. We were downright giddy at the thought of having our 26 years worth of knowledge (admittedly, not exactly aged and wizened) in the bodies of our 18 year old selves, ready to take on challenges that we had not only faced before, but successfully passed.
I, for one, felt invincible. The chance to relive college? Fuck yeah! First off, college was a time of parties, late-night food runs and rare class attendance, and even at the time I realized how much freedom I had. Give me a chance to relive those days while also having the full knowledge and confidence that having lived through it all and then some has given me: I say, “Sign me up!”
The actual details of the dream are rather inconsequential, other than to maybe my roommates and cohorts of the time who might appreciate the college redux, but what really matters is the emotion I felt. Much like the fear and utter helplessness that came over me when I dreamed of Satan, what will keep this dream in my mind is the exhilaration and liberation that came with the realization that I had an opportunity to do everything over again, and this time pick out the best results from the possible outcomes. It was a ‘Kid in a candy store’ sort of feeling, except replace candy with crazy parties, horny coeds, ill-advised roadtrips and… well, maybe some candy, too. I’m a sucker for peanut M&Ms.
I have always lived with a kind of ‘No Regrets’ mentality, in that I realize the place I am in my life at this very moment is a product of all the right and wrong choices I have made, the mistakes and missed opportunities. I like where I am, so I wouldn’t change the past, even to get a more desirable outcome for that moment. But what this dream made clear is, it’s not about wanting to change the past to fix what once went wrong (where’s Al when you need him?), it’s about getting a second opportunity to experience something completely different. Robert Frost had it wrong. Two Roads don’t diverge in the woods. Hundreds and hundreds of roads exist before us and we choose just one of the countless opportunities and we stick with that one, and then that choice opens up hundreds more. So much is left undone.
So, while I would not actively change where I have arrived at in my life (it’s pretty much exactly where I wanted to be, even as a know-nothing 18 year old freshman), I cannot help but grow a little excited at the thought of getting to go back and try something new, learn something I missed the first time. If it was a movie, it’d be Groundhog Day meets Big (as I write this, I realize there was a recent movie where the guy from Friends turned into the guy from High School Musical which strikes me as less a movie about a guy getting to relive his youth, and more a film about a guy getting to be way hotter than he ever really was).
As a side note, I wouldn’t want to relive high school, because while there were plenty of missed opportunities (you might say, a plethora), far more than in college, and hours upon hours wasted pursuing fulfillment in something completely empty, I also know that there is nothing about that time worth doing over. It’d be more frustrating than liberating.
It’s an odd sensation to wake up from a dream, something I know to be completely unreal, but be left with the residual buzz of emotion as I enter my day and step out into the life I’ve chosen. Not a bad feeling.