Chances are you have some kind of recurring nightmare that your subconscious tosses up for processing regularly. Some blend of math tests or being naked at a big meeting seems pretty popular. I used to regularly have a dream where I was told I wouldn’t graduate from university as I had forgotten to take some core requirement. But by far the most consistent and upsetting nightmare I have is packing.
I moved a lot as a child. A fun (sad) fact about me is I changed schools every two years for my entire tenure as a student. These moves were generally coupled with moving homes while some just were just me moving by myself. I did first and second grade in Orange County in California, 3rd and 4th in Sacramento, 5th and 6th in Niwot Colorado, 7th grade I was homeschooled (somewhere in there my parents got divorced so my mom and I moved out), 8th was a prep school outside of Boulder, 9th grade was boarding school in Connecticut, 10th was half at prep school and half in France, 11th grade I dropped out and took classes in Manhattan, then for 12th I was back to Colorado and remote classes and prep school. The first and only time I had a consistent schooling experience was at University of Chicago. I did it in three and a half years to save money.
Just writing it out makes me anxious and sad. I wish I could condense it for purposes of the narrative. It feels too long reading it over. It wasn’t just moving schools and houses. It’s actually worse than I’m letting on. My father loves travel. I was put on an airplane at six weeks old for a flight to Hawaii. Many of my childhood memories are of airplanes and cruise ships and motor homes. You name a form of traveling and we did it. We were always going somewhere. I fucking hated it.
Now as an an adult I loathe packing. It brings back all my childhood memories of never feeling stable. Boxes and suitcases take me back. And I don’t just dislike it, I loathe it so much I dedicated several years of my life to making it more convenient to carry your cosmetics with you. I called the line Stowaway. It was all travel sized. I hate packing so much I went to years of trouble to make one core routine easier to take with you. I wanted one thing about travel to be less scary. Less overwhelming. One less thing you leave behind. Childhood trauma sticks.
Maybe only people who love travel should try to improve the experience. Working from a place of childhood trauma is often the road to riches. I guess it worked out fine for me. But I don’t have the fondness for travel that many millennials of my generation have. I only have nightmares. Maybe if I had realized that before I started it would have gone better.
A common theme in my recurring nightmare is trying to find all the basics I will need for some trip. I’ll be searching for underwear or prescription medication. As the dream unfolds I’ll find a key item only to have it disappear. There is always a countdown. Some reminder that a flight is taking off soon. But it’s usually much more dramatic than that. It’s often some kind of unspoken crisis. I won’t remember it when I wake up. Maybe it’s apocalyptic. But it’s rarely a go bag or a bug out situation in my nightmares. It’s just a suitcase or a box or a bag never being filled up.
I never leave on the trip. The dream never lets me finish packing. I guess my unconscious hasn’t figured out how to proceed that it wasn’t the packing that scared me, it was leaving behind the life that I thought was safe. Maybe I’ll get there eventually. I don’t want to be stuck in a nightmare, packing up my life, being afraid of being dragged someplace I don’t want to go.