For many years, I had a recurring dream. The details would vary somewhat, but the gist was always the same: I’m at university, it is the end of semester and I realize there is a course that I have utterly forsaken. I have not attended the class for weeks and can not even remember where it is held. There is also a lengthy term paper due that I have not started, and the final exam is just around the corner! Panic ensues.
With relief, I awake and realize – again – that it is just a dream. While this hasn’t happened recently, it did continue to occur for nearly 20 years after I finished university. How strange.
Well, I have just learned that I am not alone – far from it. According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required), what I have been experiencing is a variation on the “exam dream,” which is apparently the second-most common dream scenario among Americans (and, presumably, Canadians). The article reports:
Odds are you’ve had some version of it, too. In this nation of tests, few dreams are so familiar, recurring long after we put away our No. 2 pencils and textbooks. For many of us, the exam dream is an albatross gliding evermore over the dark seas of sleep, calling us back to long ago.
The article quotes various academics describing their own exam dreams. The version experienced by William Durden, president of Dickinson College, is quite similar to my own: he “sometimes dreams that he’s an anxious student who’s forgotten to write a paper. He must finish the assignment to graduate, but he cannot …”
Coincidentally, just a few days ago, I mentioned my old recurring dream to one of my nephews, who’s in his second year at university in Ottawa. He has a couple term papers due in the next few weeks, and final exams are just around the corner. I asked him if he’s had a similar dream scenario. No, he said. Perhaps his answer might more correctly have been, not yet.
Tell us, what is your version of the exam dream?