The dream comes every six months or so, and has ever since I graduated university.
I’m sitting at my desk in my basement suite – the one with a decades-old, came-with-the-place couch and the crumbling ceiling tiles – when I realize that the end of the semester of my final year is less than three days away, but I haven’t yet done any of the required work.
As such, I will not graduate. No sheepskin diploma, no mortarboard cap, no summer spent job-hunting. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
It’s at this point I wake up, heart-pounding until I shake the cobwebs from my head and realize it was only a dream, and that I’m now a 37-year-old man who doesn’t need to worry any longer about homework.
It’s never not terrifying.
It always takes me awhile to calm down and fall back to sleep. Not because it’s so horrifying – it’s not like I’m dreaming that my teeth are falling out, or that I’m dropping down a never-ending elevator shaft or being chased by the boogeyman.
No, it paralyzes me with fear because it actually happened.
I was always a good student – honour rolls, dean’s lists and the like – but interest in my studies started to wane by my fourth year of post-secondary school. (It’s also the about the same time I became a regular at the campus pub, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.)
In that final year, I had a two-semester course which focused on the history of photography in Canada, or some such topic. I was the black sheep of that classroom, a non-creative type in a room full of art majors.
It was also my last class of the week – Thursday, 10 a.m. until noon – and the only thing keeping me from putting in a long shift at the aforementioned pub.
Eventually, I realized if I skipped the class altogether, I could turn a three-day weekend into four-days, so that’s what I did. I might’ve showed up three times over the final few months, and even then, I usually ducked out early.
So, in a panicked state – fueled by Diet Coke, Red Bull and a fear of failure – I spent the next two days completing six month’s worth of work. I read three books, wrote multiple papers and even built a (barely) functioning pinhole camera. I finished just under the wire, sliding a folder full of assignments under my professor’s office door with just hours to spare.
I got a C-, which was simultaneously my lowest-ever grade and my finest academic accomplishment.
You’d think after years working at newspapers – a deadline-driven industry if ever there was one – this old dream would have long since vanished from my brain, replaced instead by something work-related.
But no such luck.
Hopefully, in retelling this story, I’ll purge it from my subconscious – an exorcism of sorts – and no longer be shaken from sleep by it every few months.
Or maybe I’ll just finally start dreaming about missing press deadline or my teeth falling out.
Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.
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