An interpretation of a dream: At first, it seemed as if I was in a busy city, but then it became apparent I was in a school. The dream seems to be telling me that I’m now attending the school of life and I need to keep learning.
Keep Going (A Dream Interpretation)


The Dream in Full

I was walking through a crowded street. It seemed as if I was in a city though I didn’t recognize it. A group of guys my age were up on a balcony that resembled my first apartment. They seemed to be my friends. They were calling me to join them up the short flight of stairs, but I was in a hurry to get somewhere and so declined.

I rounded a corner in a hurry, weaving in and out of people, and then the crowd dispersed a bit and I saw Lebron James. He called to me by name and as I approached he lifted his hand to greet me with a high five. I put out my fist, as though to bump his, but he grabbed my fist instead and shook it smiling as though we were friends. We walked a bit and I asked him for a selfie together and he happily agreed. But the visit was short, as I had to run, to get to where I was going.

I arrived in a classroom. My desk was in the back corner near the door, but there was a boy sitting in my seat. I recognized him from my own children’s school, as a kid who’d been labeled as a troublemaker and expelled. I said, ‘Hey man I’m back’. He looked surprised to see me and asked where I’d been, but jumped out of my seat and moved forward. I told him that I’d been sick, and so absent from class, but that I was back now.

The teacher handed back a writing assignment, so I decided that this was an English class. I looked over the paper I’d written and realized I had received a very poor grade. As I flipped through the pages, I could see that entire paragraphs had been left incomplete, some even ending in mid-sentence.

I looked up to see the teacher gesturing for me to come to her desk. I sat down across from her, knowing she wanted to talk about my poor performance, but I wasn’t flustered. She said something about struggling when we’re poor, suggesting I hadn’t written well because my family has no money. I responded that it probably had less to do with being poor, and more to do with  living in a house with twelve other people, with no space, and where everything is always chaotic. I knew I was lying about the number of people. When I was a kid we lived with my grandparents in high school. There were nine people in my family plus my two grandparents, so only eleven people, though we did have a dog in the backyard. I didn’t know why I said twelve. She told me to correct the paper.

Back at my desk, the class received a new assignment to create an image of ‘a merger of two ships while still floating at sea’. It seemed that English class was now Art class. On a small piece of paper, I sketched a scene of a generic boat in an ocean bay. I showed it to the kid in front of me, and he thought it was decent, but then we realized it was supposed to be on a bigger poster-board size paper. The teacher was handing out our portfolios and the kid offered to grab mine for me. When he returned, I opened my portfolio and found many beautiful, brightly colored images. They were of nature, plants, forests, and flowers.  I was shocked at what I’d done previously, and what I was capable of.

Before I began work on the larger page, I asked the teacher if my boat sketch was headed in the right direction. She looked at it in dismay and said that it was all wrong. She explained the assignment by saying, ‘Picture multiple bowls inside of each other but you can see all the bowls.’ Incredulous, I asked, ‘What?!’ I was confused and frustrated and tried to argue that that wasn’t the original assignment. She placed three bowls on the table. They were different colors – blue, green, purple – but made of translucent plastic. She stacked them from smallest to largest and asked if I could see what she wanted now. I said, ‘Yes’, but wanted to complain that it wasn’t the ‘merger’ assignment. She said that it was.

The bell rang and I had to go. I was carrying my backpack and a gym bag, as though I was headed to basketball practice. The streets were crowded again. As I walked past an old man he said something but I didn’t catch it. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me and so I asked him, ‘Are you talking to me?’ He said, ‘Yes actually.’ He pointed to a bench and asked me to sit with him so I set my bags down.

Suddenly, I was back in the English/Art classroom with several other boys. Perhaps the boys from the beginning of the dream. It seemed I was in detention. We couldn’t leave but the teacher said she had to hurry somewhere. She left her car there and I offered to drive it. As she hurried away she seemed to indicate that that was fine. I walked toward the driver’s door, as though I would drive it, and the other boys watched me as if they couldn’t believe it. But, I knew it was just in jest. Then suddenly, I remembered my bags, which I’d left beside the bench, and I ran away to retrieve them.

Then I woke up.

Dream Analysis

At first, it seemed as if I was in a busy city, but then it became apparent I was in a school. The dream seems to be telling me that I’m now attending the school of life and I need to keep learning.

The group of guys on the balcony are trying to call me away from my task. They seem the type of social group to which I’d be drawn – men who can laugh and have fun. But the apartment was similar to my first apartment, perhaps a sign that they represent the past and distractions I would have succumbed to before. Perhaps they represent desires I need to outgrow, such as social or peer approval. I had a task, though I didn’t know what it was, and I could sense that such distractions need to be ignored. Lately, I’ve even considered joining or founding a men’s group, and it may very well be that this is an ego driven desire, and my subconscious wants me to ignore it.

I’ve never been anywhere close to meeting Lebron James, but in the dream he greeted me warmly, and by name, as though we were close. When I was in high school, I played on the basketball team with many boys that were much taller, stronger, and more athletic than I was. Lebron is all of these things, and may represent my own version of the shadow character Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt in the movie Fight Club. An external projection into a friend of the physical characteristics I desire. As well as the confidence. This chance meeting reminds me of a specific time I ran into a teammate on my high school campus and he greeted me warmly. This surprised me, as I was new to the school, lacked any social grace, and was not nearly as important a member of the team as he was. 

It may be that he represents my shadow, or an aspect of it. The friendliness indicates that, even if I’m surprised by his knowing me, he does know me well and is excited for me to notice him. The basketball connection is also interesting, because I love the game, with both my mind and body, but I’ve never been exceptionally good. Lebron James is exceptionally good, and so perhaps I’m better than I’m aware of at some things. Things I enjoy but aren’t sure others would appreciate in me. The selfie could be an indication that I need to remember this relationship and not forget that my shadow can be my friend.

The boy in the classroom seems to be an extension of my shadow as well. In my waking life, I’d encountered him as a troublemaker, a Pan character, who’d actually been expelled from school at the age of ten. I’d interacted with him, when I took my kids to the park, where I had to stop him from bullying other kids. I knew that deep down he wasn’t a bad kid, but came from a bad home, just like me. He was sitting in my seat and I had to ask him to move, which tells me that in some ways my shadow was acting on my behalf. By being absent in certain aspects of life (my seat in the classroom), I wasn’t learning something, and so my shadow had to act in my stead. Like Lebron James, he was friendly with me, and seemed almost relieved that I was there to take the seat once again.

This shadow role is further validated by my statement that “I’d been sick but was back now”. Something had been keeping me from accepting my actions or from seeing the truth of what I was doing. I needed to heal something, to overcome something, before I could return to the learning in which my subconscious prefers I be engaged. This may be the weed habit I recently decided to give up (a major part of my decision was to be more connected with my body and the things it experiences), or challenges my wife and I have faced in our marriage, or it may also be the excuses I made this summer to avoid my primary writing project (this is the one that hits emotionally).

This summer (2023) I’ve been traveling with my family in a motorhome, and made the excuse that it’s just too chaotic to work on my novel, as this project has required deep focus, emotional resilience, and a lot of time to recuperate after each session. With four people and a cat in a small space, I decided to wait until we’d settled again at the end of the summer. This was painful but I reasoned that it would be okay. Instead of working on my novel, I spent the summer hashing out other, smaller writing projects that have also been waiting to come out.

Aside from the boy and the teacher, I can remember no other characters from the classroom. My seat was closest to the door and behind everyone else, which is how I’ve always felt socially. Out of sight, out of mind.

The poor grade on the writing assignment is also reminiscent of an actual experience from my high school days. Throughout my life, I’ve always done well on writing assignments, but one time in high school I did receive a failing grade. The teacher handed me back my work, asked why I hadn’t tried hard enough, and insisted that I continue working on it until it was worth an A grade. In reality poverty was a part of the problem. My family had recently relocated from California to Arizona, because of a business failure my dad had experienced, which was coupled with a downturn in the California real estate and construction industries. [Later, while in a university ethics class, I read the book The Smartest Guys in the Room and realized that the downturn was actually artificially created by the Enron corporation.] My first year in Arizona, Junior year, we lived with my grandparents: eleven people and a dog, which makes twelve. Twelve is a much rounder number than eleven and, from a religious perspective, much more significant. Twelve is a quorum, which means that everyone is present, and my using the number twelve in the dream may signify all of the parts of me – chaotic as it may sometimes be. By my senior year, we had moved out of my grandparents home, but we did not have a functioning computer in ours, nor did we have a printer to print my work. Poverty was a challenge. Thus, I was only able to write my paper, when at school, and so turned in a half-ass piece that I reconciled emotionally by blaming the situation.

The teacher likely represents my Anima, a feminine archetype, who insists I stay focused on the most important tasks until they come to fruition. I cannot recall what the teacher looked like, almost as though she changed slightly each time I saw her – her hair color, her disposition, her age – but I have a vague sense that I’m attracted to her. I’ve never had a teacher to whom I was attracted. She’s the one pointing me to my task, giving assignments, redefining the details, and grading my performance.

The excuses I gave feel reminiscent of my novel again. While I have produced much of the work, there is much left undone. Mostly editing and completing ideas that now are only half-spelled out – sentences that end half-way through. I made the conscious choice to put the novel aside, because of the summer being busy, crowded, and chaotic (distractions and excuses). Deep down I’ve ached to return and finish the work, and here my Anima is informing me that I’m failing until I do so.

Back at my desk, my Anima is the one to assign the next project. At first I was under the impression that this was an English class. My waking experience with English classes is that they’re about analysis – fairly shallow analysis at that – examining the works of others for paragraph structure, message / theme, and literary devices. For some reason, in English classes, my teachers have always acted as if ‘foreshadowing’ and identifying the story’s ‘climactic rise and fall’ were the most important aspects to notice and understand within writing. 

Here the assignment is to draw ships that are ‘merging’. We’re all ships floating through the waters of nature or existence, and so I could see the two ships merging as two sides of myself merging – conscious and subconscious, or ego and shadow, or mind and body. This parallels themes in my novel, which again, I’m being reminded to turn back to.

The problem, as I see it now, is that I was treating this assignment as though I was in an English class – creating a literal depiction based on the prompt and analyzing it as such. But, the emergence of the portfolios showed that this was much more than an English class where we draw. This was an Art class and Art is not about literalism, but rather about expression, connection, and healing. The quality and beauty of my previous work showed me that not only was I capable of creating beautiful Art, I’ve already done it in my life. What aspects of my life this art connected to is hard to say, but I have built things in the past that were significant in economic, social, familial, parental, and spiritual ways. It seems that I should return to my novel and approach it from a subconscious angle. Meaning I need to stop analyzing (judging, doubting) and start creating.

It also seemed significant that the young boy retrieved the portfolio for me, again demonstrating characteristics of the shadow. He helped me to see that my work should be much bigger – produced on a poster-board. He gathered the creations that were mine, but of which I was somehow unaware, and even marveled at their beauty himself. He wanted me to see what I was capable of. I have already produced much of the work, and it is beautiful to me, and I cannot deny this. I’ve been brought to tears by the words that have flown through me.

I seem to be learning, because I go to the teacher and ask her for guidance before continuing. My Anima takes this opportunity, now that perhaps I’ve humbled myself a bit, to show me that the real assignment isn’t what’s written on the board, but something else entirely. Something I would have never realized, had I not asked her. This assignment is strange and seems far off from the original. However, in looking at the two, they both seem to be about ‘merging’ multiple things into one – just like my novel. On the first hand, there are the two boats, which may represent body and mind, but the number three is more significant psychologically. Three represents ‘wholeness’ better than just two. For starters, when you merge two things, they become a third thing, so you have three anyway. The number three often represents divinity. In Christianity, the number three represents the Trinity – God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. So a two-figure image may represent mind-body unity, and a three-figured image may represent mind-body-soul unity. We also know that Poseidon, who rules over the oceans (or chaos itself, the subconscious) carries a three-pronged trident. The same trident was later used as a pitchfork by Satan. Satan is just God’s shadow, so again the number three represents the wholeness of things. Becoming friends with my shadow, so I may create a whole self.

At first, I was frustrated that the assignment had changed, but the Anima insisted that it had not, I was just not understanding it before. This is the case with my writing as well – whatever I thought I was doing in the beginning is very different now. My Anima produced three bowls, containers that hold things, and used them to hold each other. What are we if not containers? I could see each container on its own, but due to the transparency, I could also see the bowls as one image – a wholeness of self. But, before I could get started, the bell rang, time called me back into the world. The dream itself could not be the conclusion, it is the call to action, the re-initiation to the quest. By finishing the incomplete sentences of my book, I will become the three-colored bowls, stacked atop each other. Three-in-one, one-in-three.

I was hurrying along my way, head down, rushing through the crowd again, when the man stopped me. At first he spoke in such a way that I wasn’t sure he was talking to me. He wasn’t willing to force me to listen. After all, what wise person would want to talk to someone who didn’t want to hear them? In fact, he didn’t even say anything that I remember, but once I turned my attention to him, then he was ready to speak. All he wanted was for me to sit down. I was rushing off to basketball practice but this seems to have been the wrong thing – perhaps this is excessive exercise, play, or putting other things ahead of my task. Standing up from my desk before its time. The wise-old man, the archetypal Sage within me, noticed that bells (time) was moving me toward other things, and simply wanted me to sit. By listening and sitting, I was immediately transported back to the classroom, where I was apparently not done with my lesson.

The other boys were in detention with me, as though none of them had learned their lessons either. My distractions were my companions, because if I give into their wants, I will be trapped with them.

When the teacher (my Anima) left, I jumped up as if I would take her car. She seemed to be indifferent, but the boys were certainly interested in what I was doing. In the end, I don’t know whether or not I should have driven that car. It certainly would have moved me quicker, but to where? It was that very classroom, where I was supposed to be learning, and the car would only take me away from there. Perhaps I need to be able to work even when there are distractions. The boy’s enthusiasm for me taking the car is also one of the reasons I didn’t do it. Perhaps the Anima was testing me, to see if I had learned to slow down, to stay in the place where I was supposed to be learning, (the present, the task), and to ignore distractions.

My shadow was gone, the old man was gone, and now my Anima was gone. The keys were in my hands, but rather than steal the car, I went in search of my bags once again. The second time in my dream, I ignored the group of boys, and went along my own way.

Then I woke up… but I think I know what to do.

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