What Dreams May Guilt Trip

What are your dreams like?

I don’t know about you, but mine tend to be pretty epically insane. And yeah, that’s really the best way to describe them. A typical dream of mine on any given night could easily encompass post-apocalyptic city homebuilding, underground cavern / basement excavation, buses being thrown through the air at a slow arc, flying, dying in numerous interesting yet totally unpainful ways, trips to the moon to watch the earthrise… the list goes on. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. After all, I do spend my days living in other worlds of my own making. When you write speculative fiction for kids, it’s not because your brain is wired for cubicle work. Still, every once in a while I wake up thinking maybe I had a little too much Kool-Aid the night before.

Like this morning, for instance.

Now, this dream wasn’t specifically fantasitical in any way. Really, it was just a typical schoolday for me… in high school. Still, that’s nothing really new, either. Who hasn’t had dreams about being back in high school and missing graduation, or being naked, or something along those lines? Only I was fully clothed, and to be fair it was really kind of a hybrid between high school and college. (The night before last I dreamed of being in college, too, only there were vampires involved, and something about going to Seattle… Whatever.) Last night’s dream started out with me in the school kitchen for some reason, doing something — maybe volunteer work, I don’t know — between classes. A friend of mine asked me to help her with some homework, which involved reading a Cliffsnotes version of ALL of Shakespeare’s plays. By the time we were halfway though, classes had changed (which really is quite a feat in and of itself; I mean come on, halfway through Shakespeare within an hour?), and we were both late for our next class. I ran out and started searching for my fifth period classroom, which was math, a class that I never got along with. Ever. Even in college. Anyway, this class, and the science one after it, have featured in past dreams of mine as classes I am constantly missing, being late for, and otherwise entirely failing. Often I can’t even find the classroom for the math class, and end up skipping it entirely and running for sixth period science instead. This time, though, I did find it. On my way I also found food: a sack of potatoes, a bunch of onions, some eggs that looked like bluebird eggs / Easter decorations, and something else I can’t remember now. The food was just sitting around for people to take, I guess. Anyway, outside the math classroom there were bunches of the food, which I assumed meant the teacher didn’t want us bringing it inside, so I left mine with the others. Inside, the teacher welcomed me back with open arms as I told him I’d do my best to make up for lost time, and try to pass despite always missing class. It was good times. Afterwards, I grabbed the food up again and headed to science class. When I got there, I found that my food had gone bad, and so I had to make a choice: search for better food or get to class.

Yeah… THAT isn’t metaphor or anything.

Which brings me to the point of this blog (yeah, there is one, I swear). Math and science have always been my worse subjects. Thankfully now, as a graduate liberal arts student, I don’t have to take any more of those particular tortures. Still, they remain a subconscious link to my deepest discouragements and self-doubt. Food, of course, is the classic metaphor for providing for ones self and one’s family.  Choosing between something I have been a failure at my whole life and yet refuse to give up on (as is apparent in the re-occurrence of these classes in my dreams), and providing for my family which I am not currently doing (my husband has the job, and yesterday… well… I won’t get into it; let’s just say he needs to find a better job)… Yeah. Guilt trip dreamscape, anyone?

So when I woke up from this blatant self-brow-beating, I had to ask myself: is it all worth it? I’m not too proud to say we are struggling right now, and it’s gotten very discouraging recently for myself and my husband. As an able-bodied, right-minded (mostly ;-)),  adult, shouldn’t I be working to help provide for my family, instead of chasing dreams that might never come to fruition? A master’s degree won’t get me a job writing — publishers don’t look at resumes — so why am I working so hard to get one? Every time I bring this up to my husband, he tells me to stay in school. “It’s where you belong right now,” he says. “You’re working toward the future of all of us.”

My husband is a wonderful man.

Still, I wonder. Sure, my masters work is helping make me a better writer, but is it making me good enough to warrant all the time, stress, and money I’m putting into it? And for that matter, is my dream of being a writer worth another year of struggle, wherein we have to tell the kids they can’t have enough school clothes, can’t order from Scholastic book fairs, and… worst yet… my eldest can’t have her yearbook… again?

Until these questions are answered one way or another, I fear these dreams have only begun. And at the moment, I honestly have no answer.

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