24: Taking a New Direction

24: Taking a New Direction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions

Taking a New Direction

Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.

~Frederick B. Wilcox

It was the third time in as many weeks that I had the same dream.

I stroll into a classroom and discover I need to take an algebra exam. After sitting down, I realize I haven’t attended a single class and am definitely not prepared to take the test. My anxiety grows as I look at the paper, clueless what to do next. All I know for sure is that failing the exam means I won’t graduate. I look around the room and notice everyone else moving their pencils rapidly down the page. My stomach gets queasy, I start to sweat, and then I wake up.

In the comforting light of day, the whole dream seemed bizarre. I’m not the type to neglect responsibilities, let alone ignore anything related to an important goal. Though I know everyone has dreams, I seldom remember mine. So why did I recall this one with such clarity?

It bothered me enough to finally discuss the dream with one of my friends. She quickly assured me that all dreams had a meaning and peppered me with questions.

“What’s going on in your life? Has anything been on your mind?”

I pondered my answers. While we were far from wealthy, we were comfortable. No one in the family was having any issues or health problems. Finally I decided the only thing to do was simply let it go.

The next day at work, I weeded through a mountain of e-mails. One jumped out at me: My boss announced he intended to create a new position within our department and he needed a grant manager—someone to write and monitor all of our office grants. I considered the possibility. This could be a perfect fit for me. I enjoyed research, planning, and writing. In my view, such characteristics couldn’t be more fitting for a grant writer. Without another thought I typed an enthusiastic response proclaiming my interest, but with the cursor poised over the “send” button, I hesitated. Something kept me from clicking it.

I’d been doing the same type of work for more than thirty years. I barely even needed to think about it. At this point in my life, why should I put myself in a position requiring entirely new knowledge and skills? If I hated the job, it wasn’t likely I’d be able to go back to the old one. I slowly backspaced to delete every word I’d written. I started over and this time I wrote out a list of questions regarding the job.

I sent the e-mail and stared at the blank computer screen. I noticed my heart was pounding and my stomach fluttered. A fine sheen of moisture dampened my hairline. Something about how I felt seemed eerily familiar. My eyes widened when it came to me: This was the exact reaction I had to taking the exam in my dream!

I called my friend and told her what happened. Her voice rose with excitement.

“Don’t you see? That’s what your dream is telling you. You’re too much of a worrier. Always afraid you won’t measure up. I think you ought to go for it.”

Easier said than done, I told myself at work the next day, yet as much as I tried I couldn’t stop thinking about what she said. I did tend to assume that other people were more capable than I was. Such negative self-talk had often prevented me from stretching my wings in a new direction. I always feared the fall. I swallowed hard and shook my head at the notion. If I was prepared, why couldn’t I be successful at an entirely new venture?

Before I could change my mind I inhaled deeply, squared my shoulders, and marched straight to my boss’s office to let him know I wanted to apply.

“I was hoping you would,” he told me, and I felt as though I might float like a helium balloon to the ceiling. I silently congratulated myself on being so coolly confident, but the edge of my memory prickled as though receiving an unwelcome telegram. My dream. What if my dream turned into reality?

Right after work that day I drove to the bookstore for some instructive reading materials and found more online. I talked to a professional grant writer. I was determined to learn everything I could about grants, and the hours spent studying paid off. On the day of the interview, I didn’t stammer or stutter a bit. I had an answer for every question. A week later I got the news: I had been appointed grant manager for our department.

Initiating a major career change definitely has thrown me some unexpected curves. Yet I don’t regret the decision. Every day I arrive at my office with a bounce in my step, the way I did years earlier, once again believing I can conquer anything the world throws at me.

As for my classroom dream, it hasn’t returned since the day I became the grant manager. Maybe my friend was right. My dream not only forced me to think about my life, it provoked me into taking action.

~Pat Wahler

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