A few nights ago I dreamed I was admitted to both the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois doctoral planning programs. I hope I am prescient. However, I have a feeling the dream was merely a sleeping manifestation of a daytime fantasy. I am a planner. I love to plan. I design my future life from the classes I’ll take to the way I’ll arrange the furniture in the apartment I have yet to find to how I’ll make great new friends in whatever city I land in. It is, of course, all fictitious, and I try not to spend too much time on it.
Yet even as I remind myself I’ve miles to go yet before I rest, and six classes to pass (including my three incompletes) yet before I graduate, I find myself consistently coming back to the myth. It’s like the mind wandering during meditation then being noticed and brought back to the breath. My mind wanders from the work it should be focused on and must be reined in. Usually the mind wanders to many things – lunch, something someone said, my next column, a nearing due date, the rain – but lately it has been returning to this one thing over and over again, like a dog worrying a bone.
At this point, I’m not just moving. I’m remaking my entire life. I think about the clothes in my closet and what I’ll leave behind and what I’ll replace it with, a new look. I think about starting to search for a sangha in earnest and what denominations I’ll find, a new practice. I think about greener pastures, finally putting myself out there, and what men I’ll date, a new relationship. I think about finding a new exercise regime, what classes or sports I’ll take up, a new body. I think about the great professors I’ll find and what subjects I’ll study, a new mind. The myth just grows in the telling, even though I keep trying to stop telling it.
It is probably a good thing I do not know where I’m going yet. I can’t actually do much. There’s no use shopping for housing online. I haven’t been too ambitious about putting my own place up for rent or sale. I don’t know where I’ll find a summer job yet, as those applications are likewise unanswered. It’s too early to start packing up my books; I might still need them. So I just tug on the reins, give a gentle “Whoa!” and return to the task at hand.
The myth still grows regardless. It is an addiction now even pervading my sleep. My dreams reflect my desires or my stresses, which are really just desires to escape the things that trouble me. However, usually, the object of desire either remains out of reach or comes in an unexpected form.
This time the dream was simple. I was admitted. I made plans to visit the University of Illinois as I’d already been to Philadelphia, and started sending out housing inquiries to both places and packing up my stuff. It was all very mundane, but it made me very happy. There was a sense of contentment in the dream, of accomplishment, satisfaction, but no great excitement. It was stable pervasive happiness, not momentary jubilation that leaves exhaustion and frantic preparation in its wake. I was not suddenly transformed into a newly beautiful, vivacious person, like someone on one of those makeover shows. I was still me. I still had my old, comfy, warm clothes, and my single woman’s independent mindset.
As much as the part of my mind which is subject to momentary boredom finds the myth so appealing, the deeper part of my nature understands this is just one more step in the path – a step, in the end, I may or may not take and may be happy with or without.