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What Frightens Me Most

Dark Classroom

I walked across the campus as I made my way to class. It was a quiet Thursday morning. I thought about the rain from a few hours earlier – how it made the grass and bushes surrounding the entryway turn to a deep vivid green. The clouds overhead dimly illuminated my path as I approached the door.

I was the first student to enter the classroom. I sat down and unloaded my book bag as others began to trickle in. Others talked amongst themselves as I meditated in silence. The room was only lit by the projector screen at the front of the classroom.

The professor entered the room and arranged his items next to the podium. His eyes scanned the classroom, mentally taking attendance of what must have been about fifteen students before him. He then directed his attention to his notes before beginning. The professor again scanned the students in the classroom, then locked his eyes in my direction.

“Mr. Murphy, would you like to start us off?” the professor asked.

“Start off?” I thought. In effort to figure out what the heck he was talking about, I frantically flipped through pages of last week’s notes. The professor gathered that I was ill-prepared to answer the question.

The professor attempted to remind me, “Would you like to tell us what you thought of the book?”

I hadn’t read the book – at least not most of it. But I’m a good bullshitter. So I adjusted myself in my seat and did the best I could to recall the some of the details at the beginning of the book while concluding with a broad summary of how I knew the story ended. My short and sloppy synopsis maybe took a minute.

The professor didn’t respond to my feedback, but rather held his chin up as if to say “I see”. The other students’ eyes laid upon upon me as they spoke to themselves – surely about my lack of performance. One of the students sitting near me leaned towards my direction and said quietly, “Dude, you were supposed to present.”

A female student walks to the front of the classroom and delivers a polished ten minute presentation on the book – aided of course by a clean Powerpoint. Her research on facts mentioned in the book must have taken weeks to prepare.

I knew I had failed the class at that point. My heart sunk to my stomach.

The next day – my eyes opened and I slowly crawled out of bed. The first thing on my mind was thinking how miserably I had failed. As I the sleep wore off, I questioned myself silently, “Was all of that just a dream?” The details were so clear.

I’m 36 years old, married with children. I just presented just a week ago in an MBA class that just ended. I should add that I have a near perfect GPA in the program. It took a couple minutes for me to realise that my next class doesn’t start until another two weeks. It was after all – just a dream.

I’m still trying to analyze my dream.

I have two undergraduate degrees, I’ve attended three different colleges, and I am working towards my MBA at a fourth college. Ironically, I also work at a private university as a web developer. It is fair to say that education is a major part of my life. It’s no surprise to me that I would have a nightmare in a class setting.

Obviously, the MBA program is taking a toll on me. I’m halfway through at this point. This dream is most certainly a nightmare that has found its way to two things that frighten me most: the fear of failing and the fear of being unprepared.

Fear of Failing

I work with undergraduate student workers in my department every day. They sometimes feel like my own students – and in a way they are. But they are more than students to me. They are my friends and coworkers. The student workers look to me for advice and direction. The possibility of failing in the classroom as an MBA student, to me, means that I might also fail the students, coworkers, and family around me.

Fear of Ill-preparedness

When I was an undergraduate, I worked part of those days as a bartender. I would often close up at two in the morning and do my best to wake up for the 8 a.m. class the next day. When I did make it to the early morning class, I was ill-prepared for what the course had demanded. I barely passed that class. Today, I am much wiser in my ways – or at least I like to think so.

Stress is a product of fear. A healthy amount of stress is what drives us to perform at our finest. Therefore, small doses of fear can be a good thing. But sometimes fear can get the best of us – and sometimes fear stalks us in our sleep.

Feel free to analyze my dream in the comments below. I’m sure others have had similar dreams – please do share.

Photo Credit: Max Klingensmith – Flickr

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