Ducks, Dinosaurs and Sharks

I am a mess. I have been having these bizarre, anxiety-packed dreams every night for about eight weeks now. Every night. I’m not exaggerating.

And they feel so real (despite being ridiculous) that I’m surprised when I wake up and realize that they were only dreams. I’m at the point where I hate sleeping because I know it’ll be a miserable experience.

Some dreams are easier to interpret than others. For example, in one, I went to a carnival and saw three brightly-colored paper-mache sculptures of ducks that represented my professors’ impending judgment of my first-term papers. According to a gypsy standing beside me in the dream, the sculptures represented “boring, offensive and disappointing”. My internal editor clearly thought my exam papers had been poorly written.

Other dreams are beyond my comprehension. In one, I lived in a system of huge, shark-infested pipes, where I met a lawyer on a raft selling laminated Wills that people could keep with them while they swam around.

I didn’t want one, but he was a good salesman and I ended up buying one from him. I didn’t need it in the end though because I survived in this dream.

In other dreams, I am not so lucky. My fianc‚’s favorite one stars an orange dinosaur with red toenails. The stegosaurus-like beast wanted to step on us, and it chased us across the earth until we were cornered in a tranquil Japanese garden. I woke up when it squashed us. (All you undergrad Psychology majors are drafting emails to me, aren’t you?)
It’s weird because there’s nothing going wrong in my life. I’m engaged, the wedding is still a year away, I have time for friends, I’m getting along with my family, I’m physically healthy, my family is healthy and I have enough (CitiAssist) money. I know what I’m doing after school. I’m already bringing in leads for my business. In my waking hours, I feel fine.

Confident and happy, even. For Pete’s sake, what is my subconscious complaining about?

I finally went to see a woman at mental health services last week. I babbled about dinosaurs, ducks and sharks. Embrace your dreams, she said. It’s a gift to have such a vivid imagination. No, it’s not, I said, and I explained my plan to stop sleeping. That didn’t seem to impress her..

The final diagnosis: stress.

I argued that nothing bad is going on in my life.

Stress comes from change, good or bad, she said.

Well then, I said, there’s not much I can do, is there? They don’t call HBS a “transformational experience” for nothing.

So I was told to meditate. Keep a journal. Try yoga.

In the spirit of being helpful, my subconscious threw me a softball that night. I dreamt that I participated in a series of game shows, but no one would tell me the rules so I always lost by breaking a rule or by keeping one I didn’t need to. I was so angry that no one would tell me the rules!

After awhile I started to panic, thinking I’d never win. And I like to win.

Fine, I get it. I’ve written a few articles in the Harbus that glorify the opportunity we have, here at the Harvard Business School, to make our dreams a reality. I, too, am attempting to achieve my dreams and thus am caught up in a tornado of change, setting new “rules” for my life. But I’ve discovered a nasty side effect to my beloved transformational experience: stress.

If HBS were a drug for change, the television ads would have a voiceover warning: “Some individuals may experience stress. If you suffer stress while at HBS, meditate, keep a journal and do yoga.”

So please don’t make fun of me when you see me in Spangler, spaced-out and scribbling in a notebook with my feet folded behind my head. Better yet, let’s grab a beer and complain about our wonderful lives. And share and sympathize as we move one semester closer to leaving this fantastic nightmare behind.