R-E-S-P-E-C-T

For me, the downside of finally getting enough time to sleep is dreaming. My dreams are more like the early MTV videos that I used to describe as nightmares. They are not usually the kind of nightmares where I’m being chased, but they are the kinds of images and scenes that I’m happy to awake from and realize that waking life is much better than these MTV video-like nightmares.

When I remember my dreams, I attempt to relate them to something in my life that I’ve repressed. Sometimes I can make the connection and other times I can’t. One dream recently that involved my blood dripping from my finger was easy to figure out. On that same night I dreamed about Maya Angelou who passed earlier this year. I had not heard her name mentioned or seen a photo recently, so why did I dream about Maya Angelou?

I dreamed that a companion and I wanted to learn about a new group doing some good work. A meeting was being held in an auditorium of some kind, and Miss Angelou was on stage behind a podium directing the activities. My companion was making noise and acting like an idiot and I didn’t want to be associated with him, especially in the presence of Miss Angelou, someone to whom I’ve looked for inspiration for many years.

In the dream, I moved from the rear of the auditorium in order to get closer to the stage to have a better chance of hearing what Miss Angelou was saying. When I found a seat down front, I realized that the other people in the auditorium were all part of Miss Angelou’s entourage or they were all connected in some way because they understood the rules, especially where particular people were supposed to sit. They seemed to be wearing white robes with gold trim and they seemed really self-absorbed and arrogant.

At some point, I realized that Miss Angelou and her crew were chastising me for not knowing where I was supposed to sit. In fact, according to Miss Angelou, I didn’t understand how the system worked and there were questions about whether I should be there at all.

I was embarrassed, shocked, hurt, and completely disillusioned because Miss Angelou was one of my inspirational heroes. As I was being criticized for not knowing the rules, I was thinking that though I might not be important among this particular group, I deserve to be treated with respect. I told Miss Angelou that I had considered writing my Masters final paper on her and her work, and that I was now glad that my adviser talked me out of it. I’m sure that this revelation had no impact on her, but I felt better being able to say it.

In this dream, I was similar to new students who come to find out what the college or university is all about. They think that they want to be part of this college-educated club. What they discover is that there are many rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and cultural norms that make them look foolish and feel out of place. Some of these challenges can be overcome with ingenuity and intuitiveness. Others can be learned over time. But when they bump into challenges that they cannot figure out, sometimes those who can and should help them treat them disrespectfully. They think students don’t hear the sarcasm in their tone or the look of exasperation on their faces, but students do see this and they feel disrespected. A college or university that fosters an environment that disrespects students is not a dream realized; it is a nightmare for students.

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