For the past few weeks, I’ve been plagued by a recurring nightmare.
While each dream plays out slightly differently, they all follow roughly the same pattern:
I suddenly remember/discover that, in order to pass a course/graduate, I need to hand in complex assignment/sit for a lengthy exam/attend an important class.
The deadline/test day is upon me, but I’m both empty-handed and empty-headed. In a last-ditch effort to cram all the information I possibly can into my brain before it’s too late, I set out for the library to find the prescribed book/document containing all the answers.
Inevitably, the book/document is either missing, already issued to someone else or just too difficult to grasp in such a short space of time. This leads to a further bout of panic planning – searching for a friend who can lend me their copy, piecing together information from previous assignments, trying to deregister from the course in question (because that’s far preferable to failing or not showing up) etc. etc. But each possible solution just leads to yet another unsatisfactory conclusion, warranting another spell of wild worry.
The worst thing about the nightmare is that it just drags on and on until I wake up, anxious and exhausted. No dramatic finale or outcome. Just the gnawing feeling of looming failure.
At first, I found these dreams odd. I haven’t been a student of anything academically-inclined for over 10 years. The particular anxiety that comes with exams and assignments due, is one (of very few) I’ve happily shrugged off and left in the past.
So, why now?
I guess it doesn’t take a genius to understand what my subconscious is trying to make sense of: in a shockingly short space of time, the world has changed entirely and we were caught entirely off guard.
Not only that, but also this: we’re being offered a constant stream of information, but no concrete answers.
From official documents and well-researched scientific articles to opinion pieces by acclaimed authors and Facebook posts by far-flung friends and family members – it’s all just speculation. A large pulsating question mark underpinning e v e r y t h i n g.
What is this?
And then, worst of all, those who – with brazen certainty and burning pride – claim to know the ‘truth’. Posting wild-eyed videos from their living rooms in suburban South Africa, middle America or any number of mundane locations, telling us just how badly we’ve been duped. How stupid we all are. How unwoke.
Maybe they’re right. Who knows?
I, for one, don’t. Know anything. Anymore.
And you know what? Right now, for me, that’s fine.
Perhaps it’s time to rest in the not knowing.
To take comfort in the question mark.
To wrap myself in a patchwork quilt, curl up into that inviting curve and let my knees nestle into its bend. Just for a while. Just for now.