Desperate to stop recurring dream

02:13, Nov 13 2012

So, I've been having this recurring dream lately, I wonder if you can help me out. In the dream, I'm back at school, either at high school or university, and I'm screwed.

There's an exam I need to get to (in some cases I'm actually in the exam), and it's for a subject I just haven't bothered attending. As if I would ever do that.

I panic, desperately trying to absorb my notes, but in some cases I'm unable to read them.

In some cases, thanks to my working knowledge of the film Waking Life, I manage to remind myself that I'm actually a 26-year-old journalist, not a 14-year-old student, and that this is all a dream.

Often I'll wake up in a panic, but then realise it was all a dream, and that I have to get up for work in an hour.

Aside from another recurring dream involving my teeth falling out (apparently to do with my anxieties about my appearance, as unlikely as that scenario sounds), the school scene is probably the dream I have most often.


Dr Michael J Breus says in the Huffington Post (the top result for a Google search of "dream explanation back at school"), school may represent education to the dreamer, so maybe they (I) feel anxiety about learning a particular subject.

Other, equally earth-shattering explanations include school representing a social scene, or school representing a time of security to the dreamer.

Assuming I'm relatively normal (perhaps a long bow to draw), let's take the first explanation as an example.

Say I am worried about learning a subject - how can I do something about that?

Well, fortunately, we live in an age where learning about a particular subject is just a google away.

Resources such as Wikipedia, Quora, or online encyclopaedias can give you a brief primer on almost any subject.

If you want to go deeper, it's now possible to take part in complete courses in many university level subjects on your computer.

Sites like Khan Academy, Udacity and edX allow you to watch mostly free educational videos, in some cases from such universities as Harvard, MIT or Cambridge.

So, I've been trying to take advantage of this new age, in a desperate attempt to keep the dreams at bay.

In the same way learning a language helps to inform your understanding of another country, I thought learning a computer language might help me appreciate the vagaries of the technology scene.

This isn't the first time I've tried this.

I've written about online programming website Code Academy before, mentioning it last year in a column about gamification. Unfortunately, its charms faded and I didn't stick with it.

In the meantime I also signed up to another online tutorial, Udacity, but to my shame I never even attempted a single lesson.

Each week I would receive an encouraging email urging me to "keep going" with the course: the horrible truth was that I had never started.

But I've turned a corner, changed my ways, and now I'm back with Code Academy, studying javascript - for no particular reason - and this time it seems to be working.

The course gives you encouraging emails as you log in on successive days, and a few weeks ago I managed to do so seven days in a row.

Once I finish the javascript lessons, I plan to move on to the refresh my knowledge of html, and then maybe try Ruby, after hearing it described in Robin Sloan's Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

I'm pretty sure I didn't put in this much effort in my undergraduate degree. We will see if it continues.

But if programming is not your thing, there is no shortage of alternatives.

Khan Academy is often touted as the leader of open education, and it offers an impressive selection of lecture videos, best accessed through its iPad app.

If you're not into that, try edX - with the collaboration of real universities, you could finally earn that certificate from Harvard you've been meaning to get around to.

It's also worth pointing out that these courses can be useful for younger students too - with high school exams around the corner, perhaps the stressed out teenager in the house could make use of these sites.

Of course, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I sincerely hope that in 10 years time I won't be having nightmares about missing a Code Academy test.

If I do, I'll be sure to look them up.