I don’t know whether it’s COVID or Trump or time of life or stressful work conditions or all of the above but I’ve been having the weirdest dreams lately.
For a long time, I would have only one dream. The theme was that I had a lot of luggage and a plane to catch. The problem was getting to the airport with all that baggage and getting it on the plane without outrageous excess charges.
Only in the dream I rarely made it to the airport. First-year psychology students could figure out the meaning of that one.
Last night I had a different, rather disturbing dream.
I was in a written exam, something I haven’t done for four decades and the subject, English. The questions on the exam paper were difficult to find and impossible to put into the correct sequence.
It was the weirdest experience as the questions were on different kinds of paper and the words were hard to read. What the questions were actually asking seemed obscure.
I tried and I tried and I tried and in the end, failed to complete the examination.
Me, the ultimate nerd, failing to complete an academic task. It felt like the most incredulous thing ever. After some time deciding whether or not I did actually complete the exam or if I did enough to pass the test, maybe I could reset the examination later on, maybe the next year… After all of that trying to recover from disaster, it was clear that I had failed the examination and would have to deal with it.
Part of the psychology around all this would be that in the real world I have been pushing myself to do more writing and thinking, maybe, I should go back to my educational roots.
The obvious explanation is such a change is frightening. There is something about receiving a comfortable salary that influences your way of being even if you don’t enjoy the work that you’re paid to do.
But it got me thinking about our general state of mind.
Especially how easy it is for people to become unsettled. And there’s no doubt that the COVID crisis is extremely unsettling. Anyone with an eye to global politics or with even a passing interest in American politics has just gone through a terrible and settling period and it’s still going.
Anyone who cares or concerns themselves with equality and egalitarianism is easily in strife because of the continuing racism, misogyny and concentration of wealth that we talk about often.
Given all these stresses on top of the many immediate ones that are part of daily life, there is no doubt that mental health is new cancer. It will affect everybody when they least expect. And, if we were smart at all, then we would be building capacity to help people through such times.
We are helping each other a little. If you go on social media feeds and let the algorithm do its work, having chosen a few inspiring quotes and videos, you can see there are a lot of people engaged with positive messages and this is very powerful. Such grassroots, bottom-up approaches are essential. Empowering the positive messages, maybe with a share or two, is an easy way to help.
Then there is the harder work to make sure that politics can catch up. Maybe something like what Margaret Thatcher did in the first episode of the latest season of the Crown. When she was hounded by the old school, stupid white men, she got rid of them all, replacing them with young white men. So she got halfway there, at least.
Sidenote though, the Johnson cabinet is young, inexperienced and widely considered to be totally incompetent.
Thatcher’s motivations were not pure but that ‘getting rid of the old school’ is something that is imperative in our political systems. We need young imaginative ideas. And it’s time to get those. They’re there, all we have to do is empower them.
But back to my slumbers. Bad dreams are part of life and they send subliminal messages.
Throughout my career, I’ve tried many different obscure paths, and the odd blind alley, only to end up in a very traditional workplace. So in a way, I’m challenging my own response to being innovative and to support the changes that we have to make. Dreams have the uncanny knack of pointing it out with a poke around in the dark corners in the closet of life.
Obviously, to learn is the key.
And in this instance, I think the dream is giving me the courage to pursue this return to education. And to try and pass on some of my experience to the next generations so that they can forge their own paths with a little more confidence.
And obviously to ban all forms of academic examination as they really don’t help.
Thanks for getting this far, a share would be fantastic.