Self Reflection

I Was Dreaming When I Wrote This…

A recurring nightmare has haunted my dreams for years. Has it finally been conquered?

Carl J. Petersen
4 min readNov 10, 2021


Photo by Egor Vikhrev on Unsplash

“I’ve traveled the world and the seven seas

Everybody’s lookin’ for something”

- Eurythmics

Shortly after dropping out of college, I began having a recurring dream where I would realize that I had misread my schedule and had missed going to one class for an entire semester. After a torturous process of finding the correct classroom, I would enter and find out that the final exam was about to begin. If this test was not passed I would get a failing grade. It was usually at this point that I would wake up with a start, my heart beating rapidly.

Probably not coincidentally, I stopped having this dream when I finally earned my college degree after attending night school. By finally completing the task that I had begun 15 years earlier, I exercised my demons and paved the way for a more restful night’s sleep.

I am not sure when, but the nightmare that I thought had been robbed of its relevance eventually found a successor. In the sequel, I am unexpectedly called to play the drums in front of an audience but find myself woefully unprepared. In one version I may be missing drumsticks, in another, I cannot get my drums set up correctly. The result is always the same; I wake up suddenly in a sweat with my heart racing.

Unlike my then unfinished schooling, I do not think that my suspended musical ambitions are driving this version of the recurring dream. With my first attempt at college, I failed spectacularly in my senior year, my studies unable to compete with a series of personal challenges. In comparison, I pursued my musical dreams for decades before this interest was pushed to the side by other endeavors. The time spent practicing in the garage and writing lyrics segued into time at a computer writing my blog. I did not lose the book, I had started a new chapter.

A clue to the source of my nocturnal anxiety may have been answered last week during one of my sleep periods. In this version of the nightmare, I was given the chance to play drums…



Carl J. Petersen

Parent, special education advocate and former LAUSD School Board candidate. Still fighting for the children.