I had a peculiar dream last night. I was back in middle school, which was one of the schools I enjoyed somewhat. It was like one of my high school years where I'd decided to drop out but hadn't withdrawn, so I decided to go back on the last day to visit everyone one last time. I went through all my classes but before band I realized I didn't have my clarinet, and that I'd left it somewhere on campus months before. It wasn't in the instrument room, so I went wandering around the school looking for it. Eventually I found it tucked away in a room that was like a small warehouse. But before I found *my* clarinet, I found a bunch of other instruments and kept checking to see if they were mine. At one point I thought I found mine and carried it for awhile, but when I opened the case it had a flute inside. There was also a point where I found a pile of clothes I thought were mine, but when I tried them on they didn't fit and had someone else's name written on the tags.
This school was strange because it had little wings like that where people just hung out all day; maybe by this point in the dream the school had morphed into a college or something, I don't know. Anyway I found my clarinet and wandered outside - where I was now, somehow, on a city street. I stood in the middle of a square and there were various musicians there, all of them better than me, but I decided to start playing anyway. And I realized, then and there, that I didn't need school after all. I had long missed my class by this point, but what did it matter? I didn't need it. I could start my life right there, playing my clarinet in the square.
Eventually I realized it was nearly time to go, so I ran back to the band room where students were lining up to wait for the buses. By this point most of them were gone, but I did find my main group of school friends and we all hugged and said we'd be friends forever or some other thing teenage girls say when they say goodbye. I walked away realizing I hadn't visited my gifted class even though I'd meant to, but it was a nonchalant feeling, like "Oh, darn. Oh well." Then I woke up.
I should note here that the friends in the dream are people who I don't ever see anymore unless it's by chance, although we do always stop and hug and talk when we run into each other. But as far as having people to hang out with, I lost their friendship when I left school. And that was okay, because they were school friends. I had other friends by then, a more diverse group of people I had more in common with. And I've kept those friends for years, because our friendship didn't depend on the forced social environment of school.
I like this dream a lot because it's a series of really beautiful metaphors for what I've been going through internally lately. Spending months not going to school and then at the last minute panicking and going "shit, better visit one more time" is pretty typical of my later experiences in school. Then I realized school hadn't provided me with a tool I needed so I had to go off on a search for it. That search took me away from the school building and into a real place where people really lived their lives; I couldn't find the tool I needed without going into a place (the warehouse) that school had led me to believe was dark, scary and forbidden. On the way I kept trying other things that looked right for me, but realized they were only right for someone else. Once I found the tool I needed, the whole wide world opened up. Then I realized there was still an aspect of school I liked, so I grasped at it one last time, but found it easy to say goodbye. With a final nod to the one place in school where I always felt safe and accepted, I bounced off into the world to soak up life, knowing I'd never go back again.