Fantasy,  Stories

Dream Therapy: Impostor Syndrome

“I had a dream last night,” an anonymous female patient said. She put her cell on the cherry-wood end table and propelled herself onto a chilly, walnut-colored leather couch. It made a squishy sound beneath her as she got comfortable.

“Another memory?”

“Kind of, a good one. I had a spell of uncertainty yesterday, about what I do, you know? I took some of my troubles to bed with me but I think the dream may have helped.”

“Tell me.”

I was seven again, playing with a girl in a schoolyard. We looked at the trees, all the pretty little colorful things below, above and around us. For no reason at all, I danced. And my friend danced with me. She wore a white dress and white socks with frilly flowers along the cuffs. Her shoes were black and shiny with a small heel. I didn’t know her name. She pointed in the distance when a man in a dark suit with pitch-black glasses walks through a chain-link fence. He strolled through the garden, gliding his hand over ever flower, absurdly tall ones, and said hello to us, smiling. We smiled back and ran off to hide.

I remember asking, How did he get in?  

The girl replied, The same way as you.

I looked at her, confused. Before I could ask what she meant, she transformed into dust. I followed her trail into the sky where a murky sun sat, covered by the moon. The black dot stared at me with a wink. I followed its gaze to a plump woman with red, cotton ball hair, sweating profusely. She sweats so much she melts into a pool of flesh, sliding down the steps of the school.

“Then I woke up. I went to a catholic school when I was seven, that’s where my dream was. It changed my life, from a creative perspective.”

“Tell me about your school,” the unidentified male therapist said, settled in shadows across the room.

“I wore a red tie, an itchy blue and white plaid dress, white blouse and red knee-high socks, everyone took a picture of me that day, I felt special. Once I got to school, I overheard a whisper from another student that the school was haunted; I started to believe it when I made eye contact with the same plump redhead. I wasn’t sure what her title was, she mostly roamed around watching us kids. It seemed wherever I was, she was. Or vice versa.”

“Is the school still around?”

“No. It used to be a high school, closed, then reopened as a grammar school when I attended in the early nineties. I came across an article about it while doing research for a story inspired by nuns, nowhere near to completion, and felt the same feeling I felt when I attended back then, wonder.

There were girlfriends I had who would sneak down into the restrooms, conveniently located in a basement and dare each other to say Bloody Mary in the old, faded mirrors. I’d stand in the distance near the deep purple painted stalls listening to their whispers, watching their anticipated faces, waiting for this spirit to arrive and kill them, apparently. Nothing happened. What I found in my observations, their constant desire to speak her name, their obsession and thrill for fear, stuck with me. These girls, my friends, were more interesting than the concept of Bloody Mary. Why are they doing this? Do they want to die? What would that look like? I thought, mind blown. The red head caught us down there that time, staring again, void of emotion, we scattered like spiders.

I had nice teachers at that school. One day my dad was late to pick me up, and another teacher found me sitting alone on the steps outside. She took me in, talked and colored with me, then taught me how to make paper chains, and how to fold tape into a doughnut shape to hang our pictures we colored. I didn’t like mine. My teacher told me beauty is in the eye of the beholder and hung it up. She explained the meaning. As I stood there staring at the single oak tree I drew, I understood, I was proud of what I made. My mind was blown away again.

One day we were taken outside to see a solar eclipse. It made me very uncomfortable at first, that black dot in the sky. I remember asking myself if it meant death and trying to find some meaning out of it that I knew was there but couldn’t figure it out. That didn’t happen until I, well… that’s a story for another time. Anyway, everyone stood around, frozen, watching the eclipse, my classmates, my teacher… It felt like I crossed a threshold and bits of innocence within me began to shed. Maybe I realized I was getting older and understanding things more? After that, I kept seeing and understanding, then I imagined on paper, writing wishes at first. I always wanted to go somewhere alone most of the time or with whomever I had a crush on that day, it’d be boys, girls. I’d see my classroom and classmates melt into an ocean. My desk would turn into a boat with everything I or we needed, and I’d float away with a random bird flying overhead, sailing into some cyber punk sunset. And I’m not sure if this were a medical concern. It hasn’t happened since I was a kid, but I distinctly remember making myself spin while not moving. While I was awake. Every evening I’d just lay in bed and focus in silence. It was so cool — blew my own mind. Back to my catholic school. There was a class party we had one time, and someone brought in Batman Returns on VHS for us to watch…”  

“At seven? In Catholic school?” Therapist asked, laughing slightly.

“This was the ‘90’s, no one cared. My teacher watched every steamy scene between Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer with this strange intensity. I felt a heat near her, sitting on that hard wooden teacher type chair still as stone, legs crossed like she was hiding something. Something she didn’t want to open to, probably dreaming of a sensual moment of her own or relieving one in her head. I felt her vibes. So weird. Another mind blow!

When the school year ended, the last person I saw was the stout redheaded woman standing at the top of the steps again. I watched her from the sidewalk through a cascade of other students departing. All faded into a hazy afternoon, never to return. It was the last year the school was open.”

“You mentioned the dream helped with your uncertainty, how so?” he asked.

“I felt like a fraud. I like what I do, I imagine things that people like, at least they tell me so, sometimes not so much with the darker content, but I love to explore those just as much as the lighter ones. But I felt like, even though we all have our unique styles that there was no place for me. It was like any admiration I received was not earned, or as if I weren’t worthy of it, even though I did the work… Then I started to feel strange about the work, you know? I did this whole, ‘Oh God, they read that one? I know I just published it, but I wrote it a very long time ago and thought it was okay, then… ahh the typos! Just close that shit, close it!’ That’s what I was thinking, and I felt guilty then I… I just felt low for feeling so high on a personal accomplishment… until I had the dream. I guess it brought me back to a time where so much had illuminated my heart and mind, and blossomed into my imagination, and my accomplishments. I like to think the universe copied my style, took memories from that school and reworked it to tell me to keep expressing. To remember how I started and hold on to it even in doubt and darkness. I felt better when I woke up.”

“Lemons into lemonade,” he said gently.

Fiction writer. 🌱 Nature lover. Heavy Thinker.

3 Comments

    • Kirsten Curcio

      Oh yes. Speaking for myself, I couldn’t group all of my issues into impostor syndrome (it’s easier for fictional purposes). There’s so many variables that need to be evaluated when one feels this way that may not even be apart of the ‘impostor syndrome’ experience. It could be something deeper.

      • Phil Huston

        Thank you. A character may have a real or perceived flaw but to lump them all into imposter syndrome is crazy. Well, you feel inferior in this minute way, so regardless of what else you are you suffer imposter syndrome. Bah.

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