October
2nd 2009
Dreams: reflections in the looking glass

Posted under: art, book reviews, childhood, European history, fluff

alicewhiterabbitMost teachers and professors I know have had the same dream, or a close variation on it:  you are late to teach your first class of the new semester, and you’re very anxious because for some reason it’s a calculus class and you’re a historian and you’re not good at all with calculus, so you don’t know why someone thought that was an appropriate assignment for you and you don’t have a syllabus yet, or notes, or any idea what you’re going to teach in a calculus class, and you’re naked, besides, but you’re late and you know it’s very, very bad to be late even if it’s to a class you’re totally unprepared to teach!  And you’re naked!  And you can’t find the room, and you keep walking into the wrong classes!  Naked, and very, very late.  (We discussed dreams similar to this one last fall–remember?)

whiterabbitclockIt occurred to me the other day, as I was re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, that its author Charles Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll), a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church College, Oxford, must have suffered terribly from these sorts of professional anxiety dreams.  The whole story is literally a dream, and one characterized by a high degree of anxiety on the part of its heroine, Alice, who knows that she must find the white rabbit (although she doesn’t know why).  The white rabbit himself is terribly anxious too, because he’s late!  He’s late!

What is your anxiety dream?  Has it changed over the years?  Have you caught the white rabbit yet?  (Oh, and stay away from the caterpillar–he’s just blowing smoke.)  Director Tim Burton is completing his version of Alice, but I have no interest whatsoever in seeing that movie when it comes out this winter.  He’s using his usual company of players:  Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter, and Helena Bonham Carter is the Queen.  I saw a trailer and it looks terrifying, and I think very “steam punk,” although I don’t know exactly what that is.  The book is anxiety-provoking enough as it is!

15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Dreams: reflections in the looking glass”

  1. bc on 02 Oct 2009 at 6:54 am #

    It’s no dream, I tell you! Once, when I was in graduate school, on the first day of classes I went out to get the newspaper and the door locked behind me–I was in a robe and flip-flops. Luckily, the stoner undergrads who lived downstairs were awake, so I could use their phone. Luckily, I happened to remember a classmate’s number so I could give him a call, and luckily, he was around and able to give me a ride across town to my landlady’s place of employ (a gym), where I was able to pick up a key to let myself back in. I think she’s still laughing about the story to this day.

  2. Profsweddy on 02 Oct 2009 at 10:05 am #

    I always have the same anxiety dream–not about being late or naked or having to teach out of my area, but about losing control of the classroom. The students are not paying attention. They are not answering the questions I have asked. Sometimes they are doing things like playing a guitar in the back of the room. It absolutely reflects the issues I have in the classroom. I’ve never had anyone playing guitar without permission, but they do tend to be distracted and sometimes getting answers is like pulling teeth. The last time I had this dream, an observer was just about to tell me how to change things, when my alarm went off.

  3. Notorious Ph.D. on 02 Oct 2009 at 10:06 am #

    I don’t even notice anxiety dreams anymore (except maybe the very weird ones). My own actual idiotic actions have so far outstripped my morbid imagination that I think my brain had given up making things up in an effort to scare me.

  4. Roxie on 02 Oct 2009 at 10:31 am #

    Moose is on sabbatical right now, so of course her dreams are all of bonbons and pedicures, but when she is teaching her recurring anxiety dream is that it’s the last day of class and she hasn’t graded the first set of papers yet. I am not sure why she has this dream, given its proximity to reality in a couple frighteningly busy semesters, but there you are. Or aren’t. I hope.

  5. Mary on 02 Oct 2009 at 10:41 am #

    As this is my first semester teaching, I think my anxiety dreams are just beginning. Earlier this semester, I dreamt I was impossibly late for one of my classes, and last week, I dreamt I was teaching my students Algebra. My math skills aren’t horrible, but I just kept thinking about how horribly unqualified I was to be teaching any form of math.

  6. squadratomagico on 02 Oct 2009 at 10:42 am #

    I seldom remember my dreams any more. The most vivid anxiety dream I ever had was when I was approaching my preliminary exams in grad. school. I was having the following conversation with my beloved advisor:

    Me: So, I’m all set for my exams.

    Her: Your exams…? Oh you mean you’re actually going through with them? Despite all the rumors?

    Me: Rumors? What rumors?

    Her: You know, all the rumors about you. Haven’t you heard them? Everyone knows!

    Me: What do you mean? I haven’t heard rumors.

    Her: That there’s no chance you could actually pass; that you have no aptitude for this; that in fact, you never should have been admitted to the program in the first place.

    (Oh, and while my outfit is steampunk-y, it lacks goggles and gears, which are quite common in the look. Steampunk is basically Sci-Fi Victorian with an Industrial-Mechanical twist. The point is to look like an adventurer or mad inventor from 1880. It has a lot of overlap with circus fashion, as well.)

  7. Comrade PhysioProf on 02 Oct 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Strangely, in my academic anxiety dreams, I am always a student showing up unprepared for an exam (yeah, naked and late and I have no pen or paper and for some reason I can’t read the exam); I have never been a professor.

  8. Dr. Crazy on 02 Oct 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m with Comrade PhysioProf – I’m always a student in my anxiety dreams. Most regularly, it turns out I’m enrolled in a math class that I hadn’t realized I’d been enrolled in, it’s the end of the semester and I don’t even have the book, but I have to take the test and pass or I’ll be kicked out of school. Sometimes I don’t know where the classroom is, or I think I know but get lost or the room is changed…..

  9. Susan on 02 Oct 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    Just had one this week. I went to a meeting I wasn’t supposed to be at, and decided to hide by lying on the floor. But they found me, and wondered if I was OK. I was mortified.

  10. Sulpicius on 02 Oct 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    I don’t know how common this is, but I never actually take tests, arrive at class, etc. in my dreams. The dream is always set in the very unpleasant period after I’ve realized that I’m hopelessly unprepared and it’s too late to do anything, but before I’ve actually faced the consequences or had to reveal my unpreparedness to anyone else. In fact, this is a general characteristic of my bad dreams (and, actually, my least favorite waking moments), not just the late-for-class ones. All anxiety, no actual disaster. Ugh.

  11. Digger on 02 Oct 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    My school-related anxiety dreams are all that you describe, except I’m the naked student who can’t find their classroom, etc. etc. I’ve been out of school for a decade now, and still have them! I do randomly have work-related anxiety dreams; had one just the other night that involved all of the things that can go wrong surrounding an important conference call, doing exactly that (the other team members don’t show or are very late, other people talking over the conference, me saying something wildly inappropriate to Important Government Client, etc.)

  12. human on 02 Oct 2009 at 4:43 pm #

    My anxiety dreams are about problems way above my pay grade. I had a dream a few weeks ago that the university’s IT unit had begun to charge per incident for tech support calls. My department informed us that for the time being, we could submit the (emailed) bills to them and they would pay, but that we really needed to start figuring stuff out for ourselves and calling tech support less often, or we were just going to be on our own in paying the cost.

  13. Janice on 02 Oct 2009 at 5:40 pm #

    For work, my anxiety dreams are about marking. It’s already piling up and we’re just a month into the term. And the complaints on previous student evaluations about slow return on grading come back to my mind, bubbling up as nightmares.

    Add to that the endless pile of encyclopedia entries to process as well as the hundreds still to assign? Those keep me awake at night.

    Ugh. I have permanent circles under my eyes!

  14. Gwen on 02 Oct 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    Like Digger and Dr. Crazy et al, in my dreams I’m usually the student not the professor. And I have to walk down an incredibly long hallway to get to Art and Math. And I haven’t been to either class all semester and I have a huge art project due to graduate and Math is at the same time and I’m terrible at Math. And then I get lost in the hallway trying to get back to Art class.

    Can you tell I’m a historian and not a math or art person?

  15. Tigurina on 03 Oct 2009 at 1:32 am #

    I’m never a professor in my anxiety dreams; I’m always back in grad school. The worst dream ever had was the week after my PhD exams were over. In the dream I am about to enter my TA office and the graduate secretary comes running after me in a panic. Apparently, I forgot to take my adviser’s written exam. She thrust the exam in my hands, and when I opened it up, I couldn’t make sense of the questions.

    I’m still a little mad at my adviser over the dream.