I’m standing on the side of an Olympic-sized pool. I have a swimmer’s body, and am wearing a blue racer suit. I’m dripping wet and holding a towel. I’ve just finished a heat at the Olympic swim trials and I’m talking to a friend when I hear an announcer over the PA system:
“And in lane 2 of the final heat, Julie Rowse.”
I start to cry. I tell my friend I don’t want to be in the Olympics, and I can’t figure out how I keep swimming fast enough in qualifying heats to make it to the final race.
And then I wake up.
Same dream, five times in the past two weeks, and only when I fall asleep in the afternoon.
I’ve been lucky throughout my life to have dreams that speak to me, dreams that I remember. I’m even more lucky that my friend Marya helps me make sense of them. I told her this most recent dream at lunch today.
“So what do the Olympics mean to you?” she asked.
“Exhaustion,” I said, without skipping a beat.
We exchanged glances that said “Oh, obviously.” We are down to single digit school days. Exhaustion is a given.
I reminded Marya that I don’t know how to swim–something that she said needed to change, and she’s probably right.
“But in my dream, I am good at swimming, even though I know I’m not really good at all. I keep succeeding,” I tell her.
She told me about a friend of hers who often feels like her success is unwarranted. There’s a name for that: impostor syndrome.
At the end of this school year in particular, in ways that I can’t recall ever experiencing before, I am definitely suffering from impostor syndrome. People tell me I am good at what I do, and I just don’t believe it. I have enough evidence to the contrary–students who are failing, a journalism program that I didn’t manage correctly, content that I just didn’t have time to get to, plus politicians and ed reformers who constantly remind me and all of my colleagues just how big fat failures we are–to convince me that in the pool of teaching, I’m middling at best.
But more concerning to me is the part of the dream where I say I don’t want to go to the Olympics. If Marya’s interpretation is in the ballpark (and there’s no reason to suggest it isn’t), then what is my subconscious telling me about my career?
Or maybe it really was just a dream about being exhausted, or even just a nonsensical dream, or maybe I’ve watched that Michael Phelps Under Armour commercial one too many times.