As Tom Cruise famously quipped, "The dream is always the same."
I'm on campus at Davidson College. It's a beautiful late fall afternoon with slanted gold light. There's that sweet smell of some blooming evergreen shrub and the soft sliding sound of insect legs rubbing together. I belong there.
Then I have a moment of panicked recognition. I'm about to not belong there. I'm in my senior year, all the tests are taken, profs are packing up classrooms for the summer, and my dorm is being emptied. No one is kicking me out exactly. But it's over.
I become intensely aware that this summer I will not go home and come back. I will just go home. (Dream editor's note: Apparently my subconscious is not concerned with seasonal continuity; I think the opening of the dream in autumn must be a metaphor for something drawing to a close.)
Now I am awash in all that I have taken for granted: the friends, the freedom, the opportunities, the culture of intellectual investigation and honorable debate. My mind races to bargain my way out.........what if I do this, what if I say that, how can I make this not be real. I belong here! This is my life. This is where everything makes sense, where everything has a purpose.
This is where I make sense.
But because the dream is always the same, it always ends the same way. I stand on campus with underclassmen milling around with their backpacks, and see that they are oblivious to my reality. They have one more year, or two or three. My heart feels like a stone in my chest. I know I can't come back, but I don't know where I am going or how I will cope with the fact I can never return, not really. I can come back to this physical place, but this Place is no more.
Like a play the curtain of my mind draws shut. I wake up, knowing full well I will relive this moment over and over again for the rest of my life. I focus on bittersweet gratitude, squeeze my eyes open and closed, and pull myself up.
Photo credit by Muffet: http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/281377918/