I’ve fallen victim to the quarantine dream trap. My whole life I’ve remembered precisely three dreams a year; the proof is in my notes app. The few pieced together notes about my eighth grade teacher telling me to do her dry cleaning or fist fighting a girl I had unresolved conflict with (I highly recommend it), all for my viewing pleasure. My nights were blank and peaceful. I’d wake up with that wonderful natural lapse in memory, not even remembering when I fell asleep. On the few days I would dream, I would often wake up irrationally pissed off. I’m supposed to be sleeping, not fighting zombies all night! How am I supposed to traverse the complex daily interactions of high school when I’m exhausted!
To my dismay, about a year ago I started dreaming much more frequently. Still all the dumb shit it had always been, just with a newfound intensity. After a few weeks of recounting these idiotic dreams of odd encounters with classmates and rescuing damsels from fantasy realities, my mom sent me an article. It said that other people are also experiencing this heightened dream state. All the extra stress and anxiety from being locked up in quarantine means your brain has to work extra hard to process all these complex emotions. Apparently this manifests in my subconscious inviting a plot line solely about the text size on my phone becoming ridiculously small.
A year later and I’ve yet to return to my pre-COVID mental void. I constantly have dreams that leave me questioning everything the moment my alarm jolts me back to reality. What could I be stressed about this time? What am I not stressed about? Did my upcoming bio test trigger the dream in which I received a package containing 13 hot dogs and 4 copies of Mary Poppins on DVD? Or maybe the stress of making new friends is what made me dream of having terribly mediocre sex with the annoying kid in my anthropology class. Why does a dream about UVM setting up inflatable water slides on the Waterman green make me feel so sleep deprived in the morning? (Terrific idea by the way, if any UVM admin are reading this please contact me about the logistics.) Why am I dreaming about these things?
Why can’t my nights be filled with the things that dreams should be composed of? I’d love to dream about being a kid and playing with old friends I’ve lost touch with. How about a dream where I get to eat that mouth watering crepe I got from a small vendor on the streets of paris in 2019? Perhaps a dream where I get to slow dance in the kitchen with the boy I barely know but have very stupidly developed a massive crush on? At this point I’d take a dream where I forget to wear pants to class. At least in that fantasy we aren’t in a pandemic where speaking to your fellow classmates feels more socially irresponsible than being pantless.
This desire for more pleasant dreams has slowly become harder to ignore. If my nights are filled with dreams of people imitating saw noises (soundtrack provided by my snoring roommate) then my days should certainly be better. Then when my biology teacher is struggling to work the iclicker and reality starts to feel more like one of my dreams, I find myself staring at the photos of my friends back home on the wall behind my screen. Suddenly I’m back in her kitchen, laughing over a greasy cosmic brownie, tears in our eyes. Professor Terry snaps me back to reality when he finally gets the powerpoint back up, but I find myself drifting again in Anthro two hours later. Who cares that some cultures breastfeed children til they’re 5 years old! Let the child drink milk, free the nipple and all that! Instead I’m looking at the tiny painting I did on a date with my last fling. We sat on the grass by the lake as the sun set and did terrible little oil paintings (something we had both wanted to try). He has a girlfriend now, at least according to his Instagram, but that doesn’t mean I should throw away the momento of a good memory.
By the end of the day, when it’s time to climb into bed I start wondering if the universe will show me any mercy and allow me a pleasant dream. I curl up under my weighted blanket (a necessity in these touch starved times) and slowly drift off. The irony here is I neglect the fact that I’ve been dreaming all day. Rarely was I tuned into my lectures, the conversations in the dining hall, or focused on my international relations reading. In reality I was back in France eating that crepe, laughing in my friends kitchen, or even slow dancing with that boy down the hall. When reality becomes as off putting as my dreams I find I’m in a constant state of dreaming.