There’s a dream I’ve had in the past few years that always disturbs me. I’m back in college, starting out for the semester and while I know there is a certain required course on my schedule, I can never remember what day and time I have to attend the course, or in the instances when I do remember, I can not find the classroom, or else I've missed so many classes that there's no possible way to catch up. Sometimes this missing course is English, sometimes math--but the subject never plays a huge factor. Despite these variations, the outcome is always the same: I don’t complete the course, which means I can not graduate on time.
The closing scene is a review by the academic board. Somehow I make it all the way to right before graduation before anyone catches the error. By then the answer is that I have a few days to catch up on a semester’s worth of course material or else I just won’t graduate. Given the time crunch, there's no way for me to catch up. Will they take pity on me or give me the boot? Let me skip a few lessons in the interest of time or make me suffer for being an idiot? Or will honor come into play as I am fully aware that I've missed the course and yet I tried to deceive everyone around me into thinking I had taken it? Who knows. I never find out my fate before I wake up. I emerge from the dream in limbo.
I know this is a completely unrealistic scenario. If I can’t find the classroom, I can ask someone before an entire semester passes me by. If I don’t remember the day and class period, I can pull out my schedule and verify it. If I miss the class, the professor can contact me. There is no way that at West Point a cadet could go without being missed for one class period, never mind an entire semester’s worth of lessons. It just wouldn't happen (not without extreme consequences, anyhow).
Knowing this, I still wake up feeling like a fraud. As if four years of courses (and three summers of making up for failed courses) did not result in a legitimate diploma. As if the ring came from a Cracker Jack box. As if the dream (with its inaccurate academic building layout and multiple variations) somehow trumps reality.
It happens like that sometimes. There have been times when I’ve woken up dazed and it takes a few minutes to accept that what I remember either is not how things happened or that those things never happened at all. Sometimes it takes longer. Have you ever had a dream where you witnessed your significant other cheating on you? “What’s wrong?” he or she will say in the waking hours that follow. “Nothing” you mutter in response, though you want to say "How could you?" Despite knowing it was only a dream, you're absolutely disgusted with them. Disgusted!
Imagine my surprise when I received an official looking envelope from West Point’s department of admissions. “Oh no, it’s a letter revoking my degree” I thought when I saw it there on my dresser. I looked over at my husband’s mail pile and noticed that he did not have a similar envelope. Well, duh. Of course he didn't get one! He’s not the fraud.
Heat rose through my chest and throat as I tore it open.
Inside was an update on the numbers of minority cadets in the current and incoming class. And after that, a request for me to volunteer to be a field minority recruiting representative for the academy.