The short version: dreamed I was back at the university I last worked for, having meetings which led to preparation to reassume my old job. They needed me— we reconciled relationships and agreed that it would be for the best for me to be in charge again. Excitedly, we planned how the reorganization would take place and prepared to announce it to the university and the department, particularly the students. I felt vindicated, on the edge of being restored. As we gathered people for the announcement, my supervisor and a few other administrators entered the room. Pulling me aside, she explained that our plan wouldn't be permitted, that I couldn't return, and that I should explain this supportively for the sake of the students. Crestfallen, I put on my brave face and delivered the party line.
As far as dreams alone go, this is pretty low on the disturbing scale for me. There was, however, a good deal of emotion attached to this one, in part because of its connection to the Year of Hell. As I've alluded to in the past, my last year working in higher education was extremely difficult for me— I accepted a promotion in the midst of a political hotbed, one which took me farther from the students I loved and placed me in a position that didn't play to my strengths, surrounded me with people I couldn't trust, and made me an excellent scapegoat, especially since professionalism bound me from defending myself openly. I walked away from the job and the profession after that year, smoking and full of holes, bridges burning and doors locking behind me. Thankfully, God brought amazing reconciliation with some of my dear students, the very heart of my work. But to say it didn't hurt would be a lie. I've also carried a lingering sense of shame, that what I gave wasn't enough, that I couldn't make it work.
Cut to this morning at church, when I saw a familiar face I couldn't place. After moments of puzzling, I realized she was a student, a freshman with whom I served on a committee during the Year of Hell. I sensed that she also recognized me and was scrambling to place me. I feared what recognition might bring, but reintroduced myself after the service. Our brief conversation was full of smiles and oddly healing: she told me that my successor last year (a Jesuit who had no qualifications and seized the position by stabbing me in the back) had done a poor job and eventually "snapped." I'd heard similar rumblings from my then-student friends, but they would only sink in so far— they were my friends, and would likely see things from a perspective similar to my own anyway. She spoke highly of his successor, the new director this year who is well-qualified and professional.
But she also said three simple, vindicating words: "We miss you."
I needed to hear that.
My dream has other meanings, other applications to my life today. It expresses my desire to make things right, even when that means taking on more than I can possibly handle. It shows the pain of an impossible hope, glimpsed within moments of its loss. It warns of betrayal under cloak of diplomacy and even care. It speaks to the necessity of putting on the brave face and helping others accept reality when no other options exist, even when that means denying my own heart.
"Is there something you're not telling me?" Yes.