Written by Jennifer from Get in the Car!
It’s been eighteen years since I’ve graduated from high school. In that time span, I’ve earned a college degree, held some pretty challenging jobs, and lived in four different states. I’ve married, had four children, volunteered for countless non-profits, and seen my family grow in ways I never imagined. I’ve traveled all over, including other countries, taking my small children with me, even in crammed subway cars in major cities, a map in one hand, and a sippy cup in another.
I feel successful.
So why do I still dream about high school?
I mean, it’s a pretty regular recurring dream. And it’s always a variation on the same theme.
I’m walking in my high school hallway, it’s between classes. I am at my locker. Sometimes I remember the combination, sometimes I don’t. When I do, it’s the actual combination I had in 1989. When I don’t, I feel a sense of panic come over me. I either manage to get it open and keep it wedged that way for future use, or I spend the rest of my dream trying to figure out the correct number sequence. When that is the case, I wake feeling frustrated and edgy.
Sometimes my locker is in order, my blue trapper keeper just the way I want it, with my Mead lined paper neatly in its three-hole punched place. My homework is done and ready to be turned in, and I make my way to class. Other times, my locker is so messy I can barely make out the contents. And when I do, it’s often something unnecessary for school: a pair of jeans, a stuffed animal, some perfume.
It’s the same for my classes. Sometimes I find them and take my seat, other times I wander around in confusion, racking my brain for what my fifth period class was so many years ago.
I also dream about an ex-boyfriend that I unceremoniously dumped right after graduation. We dated casually during our senior year, and then just when things were on the precipice of becoming serious, I met the man I would marry. I never looked back. I never called him, never closed that chapter, just moved on to college with stars in my eyes over the love of my life.
Then, the other night, I had the high school dream. Only this time, I knew the combination. I also had a key as back-up. I found my ex, and instead of him rebuffing me in anger as he has in every other dream, he hugged me in friendship. My math teacher appeared over my shoulder as I was opening my locker, and she whispered in my ear, “What have you learned?”
I told her that I finally figured out that sometimes it’s luck, guessing the numbers to the combination until you get things right, and sometimes you just need to be prepared and have the key.
It’s taken me eighteen years, but I finally woke from that dream feeling at peace.
Jennifer Magnuson is a mother of four, a volunteer, and a writer. She has been freelancing for online and print publications for the past two years, and before that she was a social worker advocating for victims of felony crimes. These days, you can find her at her blog, Get In The Car! And starting this summer, you will also find her at the Viacom/Nickelodeon website, Parents Connect.