Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
We've all had them: high school dreams. Not the kind that involve graduating as class valedictorian or being named to the homecoming court. I'm talking dreams as in those adventures we experience while our bodies are asleep and our mind is doing its nightly aerobic rapid eye movement workout.
I've always been intrigued by how the mind operates. Much of my interest has to do with the fact that the brain is responsible for dream activity. The whys and hows of dreams can certainly keep one wondering.
I picture the brain like a big filing cabinet, with different drawers labeled with dream topics. There's one section dedicated to childhood memories, and another set aside for events during our adult years. Finally, there is a drawer twice as big as the first two combined. This third drawer holds all things high school.
The high school years are a brief blip in the scheme of a (hopefully) long life, but they hold a significant place within our gray matter. High school occurs within a critical window of time: when our hormones are waking, the paths to the future seem infinite and we stand at the precipice dividing youth and adulthood. This combination leads to a large accumulation of information, which is stored in the filing cabinet of our brain. I am convinced the drawer containing our high school information is labeled, "Permanent.
Do not destroy," because I am decades past high school and, on occasion, I still experience high school dreams.
They have common themes, which are not unique to me. Many of us have experienced similar high school dreams. This only increases my interest in brain and dream activity.
Let's start with the prom dream. In it, my dress is stained or torn and I am trying to fix it. Often, my efforts make the damage worse, and I am left wondering what the heck I'm going to wear to prom. My 16-year-old son recently rented his first tuxedo. The next night, I experienced a prom dream.
Another of the theme dreams pertains to high school schedules, which if you remember are routinely defined by something as logical as 13-minute increments. Here, I have misplaced my schedule and am looking down a long hallway, wondering if I should go to math or history class. I think about going to the office to get help, but I don't know how to get there.
A first cousin to the lost-schedule dream is the I'm-not-prepared-for-the-test dream. I come to class, and realize I haven't studied for the science/English/geography test. To further increase my discomfort, I look down and realize I am wearing pajamas.
In keeping with the theme of ill-preparedness, there's the locker combination dream. Learning one's locker-combination is akin to high school 101. Forgetting it is the thing dreams (or perhaps nightmares) are made of.
I went to a large high school, and getting in and out of the parking lot must have struck a nerve, because I still suffer from parking lot dreams. There are variations on this theme. I am either stuck in a parking lot traffic jam; or, I am driving up and down rows of parked cars, unable to find a spot. A third alternative has me walking throughout the parking lot, looking in vain for my car.
Finally, there is the dream that includes some obscure student who I haven't seen or thought of since graduation day. I don't often dream of good friends from high school; I'm much more likely to meet up with the guy I sat next to during half a semester of biology. I probably don't even remember his name, but there he is, making my acquaintance in a dream. And, of course, in the weird way that dreams unfold, I often feel some sort of REM kinship with this person, as though we're long lost buddies. The next day, I look him up on Facebook. It makes me wonder if anyone's searching for me on Facebook because of an obscure high school dream.
The workings of the mind are intriguing and mysterious. What makes the brief high school years have such an intense impact on our dreams (and our future selves) is subject matter worthy of PhD hopefuls. Me, I just chalk it up to the teen years being impulsive and impressionable, formative and formidable. Besides, no one said coming of age was supposed to come easily.
And it doesn't, as we relive it over and over, in our high school dreams.
Jill Pertler, award-winning syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" is collecting fans on Facebook on her Slices of Life page. E-mail her at
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