Anxiety Dreams

I finally got rid of my college anxiety dreams, the ones where I can’t find my class on the first day, or where I lose my schedule and don’t know where to go, or how I failed to realize I enrolled in a class and still had to sit for the final exam…

It was hard to get out from under them, but I did. The trick was to not care.

Let me explain.

There I’d be on the quad, with my backpack, holding a map or a schedule or whatever, and the panic would set in.

What if I miss class, what if I’m late, what if I fail, what if, what if…

Too many what-ifs can ruin you.

So, in the moment, in my dream state, where I’m somehow in my 40s on a campus with a backpack and I care about what 20-year-olds think, I fold up the map, put in my pocket and walk into a building. The goal in Dream-Cliff’s brain is to find someone and ask for help, but it seems like the folding of the paper works by itself, and I usually end up someplace else, off campus, in another dream, a safer, funnier dream.

The last couple of nights, though, the college dreams have come back: it’s the first day, and I’m meeting people, and I can’t remember their names. They all seem to know how to do the school thing, and I don’t.

WTF! I thought I figured this shit out already.

Then I realized what was going on.

My oldest daughter is going off to college this year. This year!

I’m anxious for her.

This was a relief to realize — that it’s her, not me — but then my parenting gene kicked in (oh that big ‘ol heart will do it to me every time!) and I began to worry for her.

What if she can’t get to her classes, what if she gets lost, what if she doesn’t find a friend?

It’s almost harder because I’m not in control of the outcome. I can’t fold up the map this time.

She has to.

But, I suppose can help her realize that being late to class on the first day isn’t the end of the world, that the first people you meet may not be the best people you meet, that friends come with time and teachers are forgiving.

Or maybe she’ll learn that stuff on her own.

Maybe I need to stop trying to ply her with advice and, instead, let the world do some teaching in my absence.

In my absence…


That’s the real source of the anxiety, isn’t it? The thought that she’s going to be out there — somewhere — without me, that I can’t clean up behind her, that I can’t make introductions, draw a bright red line from her dorm to her classes, build a robot suit made of thick metal plates and set up an alert system to notify me in case of failure.

It was a lot easier to solve the problem of getting lost myself.

Letting go of my daughter’s hand and willingly allowing her to get lost is much harder.

Much harder.

She’ll have to find her way to class without me.

She’ll have to figure out the map trick on her own.

And learn to live with her dreams.