The End of the Road, the Start of Another

For the past year and a half, I’ve been having a recurring nightmare that I’m teaching again at the private language school in Los Angeles. I know that doesn’t sound like the stuff nightmares are made of, but it’s far more terrifying than any dream I’ve had of monsters and maniacs. Or it’s more depressing, at least.

I didn’t realize how much that job stressed me until I started having these nightmares. It was the stress of the workload, the stress of putting on the song and dance for apathetic rich kids, and the stress of living on the brink of poverty’s cliff where any unplanned expense would send me over the ledge.

But the darkest part of the dream is that it’s not set in the past, but in the future. Teaching is a career I fell into, not chose. The dream’s backstory is always that I made my best effort to jump to a career field where I fit, but it didn’t work. So I got sucked back in, except this time with the added stress of knowing I had tried to move forward and failed.

The dream opened with getting my car checked at the mechanic. I wanted to make sure it was in good condition before a long road trip from Houston, Texas to Ridgecrest, California for my new job as reporter.

That part was true in real life as well. I really did have to drive to Ridgecrest to start a reporter job.

I was also aware of a backstory in the dream. I was upbeat at the mechanic because the job in Ridgecrest wasn’t just a new job, it was a way out. I felt the inevitability of a career I never wanted sealing me in like wet cement. Every year, as my resume filled with teaching language and nothing else, I felt more powerless to step out.

That part of the dream was also true to life.

So my dream self waited outside the shop, eager to start the road trip and take my first bold step out of the cement. When the mechanic finished, he told me the car’s transmission was shot and would take a lot of work to repair. He may as well have shot me in the foot.

I couldn’t afford the repair, much less another car. The reporter job required transportation, never mind that I wouldn’t even be able to get there without the car. I felt the cement finally harden. I was stuck.

I walked back to tell my family, who my dream suddenly conjured there. They laughed. Not maliciously, but more like the way a family laughs to themselves when the baby brother drops his sucker on the ground and starts to cry. Poor baby Mikey’s car broke down.

I was so mad at them, but the madder I got the harder they laughed. They told me it’s not a big deal, I could just go back to teaching. I walked away.

Through the magic of dreams, the very next moment I was walking into my classroom to start a lesson. I felt trapped. But the moment I crossed into the room, I put on a show of energy and positivity which I didn’t have.

I asked how their weekend was, and they asked about mine. They asked about the reporter job. I said, “Nope, that didn’t work out. Yeah, thanks. It’s a bummer, but maybe next time right? Anyhow, let’s open to page 58 and…”

I had said the same thing in real life after I didn’t get the copywriter job in Boston. Or the reporter job in Nebraska. Or the game writer job in Singapore. Each time, the cement hardened more and more.

The dream faded away as I fell into muscle memory teaching my lesson, knowing I had tried to find a career that I cared for, and I had failed.

When I woke up, I first thought about how weird it is that I keep having dreams about teaching. I wished I could go back to having cool nightmares about werewolves and witches. Eventually, as my waking mind eclipsed my dreaming mind, I remembered where I was.

I was at a Motel 6 in Ridgecrest. Not only was my car working fine, but I had already finished the road trip. I was here and I had the job.

It took years of writing for free or very low pay, a thousand job applications, a score of interviews, and all the while fighting back doubt that I could ever do it.

And now I’m here. The job doesn’t pay much and it’s located out in the middle of nowhere, but dammit, it’s a writing gig. I’ll start climbing up in a field I have passion for and filling my resume with writing experience.

I see this job out here in the desert not just opening up the path to a career in journalism, but also opening potential doors to copywriting, advertising, technical writing or any other writing field I might wish to try later on.

I finally stepped out of the cement, and I’m running. I went back to sleep as relief wrapped around me like a warm blanket.