In The Middle Of The Night

A really smart person told me that if you suffer from excessive nightmares you either have too much fear and anxiety in your life or not enough.  By not enough, he was referring to people who take tons of daily risks and rarely think about potential consequences.

Given my aversion to risk-taking, I’d say my nightmares come from the “too much fear” category.

Over the last year a specific bad dream keeps pestering me.

Here’s how it unfolds: I’m in college and have one class left before I can graduate.  In all my previous courses I was fortunate enough to receive an all-important “A” as my final grade.  But in this last class (usually some type of art course, for some reason) I’m failing, thus putting my quest for a 4.0 grade point average in jeopardy.

I never find out if I raise my low mark and earn “perfection,” though.  The power of this recurring nightmare is the fear and anxiety caused by thinking I might pass Art 101 but not get another “A.”

On the surface it appears I’m deathly afraid of failure.  After all, I did procure a 4.0 in college, having convinced myself for four long years that anything less than the best would not suffice.

But why I am dreaming about this—over and over again—today, nine years after earning my Bachelor’s degree?

It’s because success, not failure, is my biggest fear right now.

Any decision that helps me out of the rut I’ve called home since heading into the “real world” nine years ago, frightens me today because, god forbid, I might actually accomplish something worthwhile.

Good outcomes, positive results, steps forward—success creates ripple effects for which I’m unprepared.  

My failure nightmare, then, is not about how I might have messed up in the past—it’s about how I might succeed today.  It’s about wondering if I’m ready to cope with moving beyond college and finally tackling—at 30 years old—my fear of being an adult.

2 thoughts on “In The Middle Of The Night

  1. Michele Maros February 17, 2011 / 12:25 am

    My dream (I guess I never thought of it as a nightmare) is the classic ‘I have a final and I never went to any of the lectures’. I didn’t have a perfect record to blemish and this actually did sort of happen with a Geology class sophmore year, although I made it to some classes and did not blow the final in real life. I think a lot of people struggle with the fear of success. There are many levels and ways it manifests in peoples lives.


  2. Tom Trebswether March 9, 2011 / 6:51 am

    Success. A couple of years after my dad died when I was about 13 years old I was arguing for the millionth time with my mom for no good reason ( I don’t know how she didn’t kill me) about being a millionaire. I told her that when I grew up I would be a millionaire. I told her that if I was a millionaire then I would be successful because I would be able to buy and do what I wanted. She shook her head at me and told me that was not success. She said that success was doing something with your life that you liked and having people that loved and respected you. She was right. By her standards I am happy and successful, Everyone can also be successful. It is all how you look at life.


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