I Still Have This Dream

This is dead-on, at least for me.


It is odd that I have this dream about college, even at the age of 47, about every other month, but I have never had a similar dream about work, even now that my entire life savings depends on the success of my business.  I wonder why that is?


  1. Flatland:

    I hate this dream. I have it periodically. This is by far the most disorienting dream I've ever had.

  2. Jodi:

    The second frame nails it for me. That's usually when I wake up in a cold sweat with my heart pounding.....and it's been more than 25 years. It's always graduate school, too, which I really liked and found much easier.

  3. RJP:

    Good to know I'm not the only one...


  4. Frederick:

    Strange, I also have that dream from time to time. The second column does nail it. Typically it does involve the final term, when one hopes to be out of school ASAP.

    Having discussed it with other folks with similar stress dreams, it seems to be a very mild form of PTSD. A similar dream is where a divorced guy (or gal) finds themselves back with the ex; the nature of the dream is to wonder how they managed to allow reconciliation once they were free of a bad situation, and the focus of the dream is how they can get out of this situation. Folks with a military background but no combat have similar dreams of being back in basic or some other less pleasant aspect of service, typically early in service where there was some daily stress and they had not yet gotten their sea legs, so to speak. All seem to relate back to periods of long term daily stress.

    The common link in all of these dream situations is that all the situations have some nostalgic memories, be it that final phase of school, early military training and marital bliss intermixed with misery. Our memories have pretty much suppressed the more unpleasant stress aspects of these past experiences. Somehow the dreams are a dragging up those stress memories which we have pretty much dissociated from our memories that are on demand. Why that is it something none of us understand.

    Of course real PTSD for those having seen heavy combat or other such problems is another matter. Not competent to make any remark on that, nor should the above be interpreted to equate these mild dreams with what most folks associate with PTSD.

  5. Matt:

    I totally have this one from time to time. Though not usually associated with graduating, it's ALWAYS like frame 2 - that I completely forgot I had a class for several weeks. I'm kind of discouraged to hear that it might not be going away anytime soon, I'm only 6 years out of school.

  6. Sol:

    I had this dream routinely every few months, but it seems to have stopped recently (knock on wood). Let's see, I'm sure I was still having it as recently as 13 years after grad school.

    I always associated it with anxiety about current projects that I was forgetting about or ignoring. But I don't think I've gotten any better on that front...

  7. Chris:

    I never had this dream during school, but since graduating I get it too. I thought it was strange being 5 years out, but it sounds like I should get used to it...

  8. ElamBend:

    I too have this dream, it's always math class and I am always woefully behind on my problem sets.

  9. Mike:

    It never goes away, folks. I'm 61, I'm a software engineering professor, and I *still* dream I have to take the high school physics final when I didn't even know I was *taking* physics. I just follow my best friend from high school into the test and hope for the best.

  10. MHG:

    Same deal, Officer Candidate School, Fort Benning. The original story ended with a commission and immediate departure without a single glance back. As for the dream . . . I usually wake up yelling.

  11. Shenpen:

    Me too, at 30. I think that the uni was the hardest period of my life, despite having a busy life as an ERP consultant/developer now, and the simple reason is that at work I have much shorter feedback periods and probably you too. Smaller tasks at shorter deadlines, like 1 or 2 weeks and if I forget about one someone will ask how it goes in 3 days and then I remember it again and can set about it quickly.

    Our customers, coworkers or bosses keep much closer eye on our jobs. In the uni it is possible to do completely nothing for 5 months, not even to show up, and have no feedback, no punishment, no repercussions, no reminders, nothing, and then after 5 months all hell gets loose.

    Of course it doesn't mean I did nothing for 5 months but I did forget about some classes... basically the uni gives more freedom and thus requires MORE self-control from young guys than working gives/requires from adults, because at the uni you set your own pace, do whatever you feel like doing, and gain no feedback until 5 months, while at work you get feedback at least every 1-2 weeks so basically you are regulated tighter, the frequent feedback keeps you in the line.

    This is why the uni was a period of fear and loathing and anxiety and this strong emotional impression is why the dreams still keep coming back...

    And I think it's unfair that we give more freedom and require more self-control from young guys than from working adults. Why can't the uni be like either working or like high school: where you KNOW that if you had no negative feedback and no "oh, shit!" moments in the last 2-3 weeks probably you are doing OK?

  12. LoneSnark:

    I have never had this dream or anything like it. I have never been stressed out by school, which might explain why I never bothered leaving. I went through to get a PhD (had some time to kill) and still come back to teach every now and then. I am now 30, maybe it is waiting to start after I quit for good, which seems unlikely anytime soon.

  13. ArtD0dger:

    Interesting, must be something primal. I always thought I got the dream because I actually LIVED it a couple times as an undisciplined undergraduate.

  14. Brandybuck:

    I've actually lived this one. So yes I still periodically dream about it, but it's more on the lines of dreaming about what a stupid idiot I was in college.

  15. A_Nonny_Mouse:

    Wow! I've tried describing this dream to friends and they look at me funny. I thought I was way-out-in-left-field weird.

    The second panel is amazingly accurate but doesn't communicate the deep feeling of panic --maybe "dread" or "onrushing doom" would be better words-- I experience during this dream. (In my version, it's always the final exam: I look at the test questions and NOTHING is familiar; I have no idea how to cope; then I wake up gasping in panic.)

  16. Austin:

    I'm 68 and a former psychology professor. I haven't had "The College Nightmare" for about 20 years, so maybe it does finally do away. My nightmares were always about an undergraduate class, never a graduate class, and usually a math class. My nightmare about forgetting about being enrolled in a class were eventually replaced by a nightmare that I had been assigned to teach an English class!

    I agree with Fredrick, it is a form of PTSD.