I had a dream last night that I still can’t shake from my brain. It was the kind of dream that you don’t want to shake, it’s sweetness so real and vivid you want to lay in bed with eyes shut tight for fear that opening them will make the visions vanish.
I dreamt I was standing in one of my old classrooms at Jasaeng Academy, teaching my favorite level 3 class. Alice is there where she always was, in the front row to my right. I see her doodling in her workbook and arranging her colored pens around her desk and picking at her eraser and twisting up little pieces of wire from her broken pen, dropping her pencil bag on the floor, shuffling the contents back in, noticing a tiny piece of pine cone and an acorn, raising her hand and offering me her gift in the middle of class. It was a dream of something that had already happened. I kept that tiny acorn in my pencil bag all year. I still have a little wire ring she made from her broken pen and insisted that I wear on my finger.
But then my dream changed. Then, I was walking back down the hallway to the front desk to pick up the attendance sheet for my next class. I had this feeling I remember from my first semester of teaching, when I would walk up to the desk and completely blank on which class I had next. I went through a quick process of elimination and found the attendance folder I guessed was mine, and turned to walk back down the hallway to my next class which was a middle school level I had never taught before.
You know how dreams are. The second half of my dream was as strange and unknown as the first half was real and accurate. The school’s name had changed, the students wore yellow uniforms, and the classroom was futuristic with a sheer, colorful wall that made it look like we were outside under a huge tree instead of crammed inside a stuffy hagwon. Here’s how I know this was all a dream: my middle schoolers had great attitudes. They interacted with my lesson and laughed and got along with each other. That’s the real bizarre part. Even more incredible, I remembered all their Korean names! The class went smoothly and the students were most enjoyable.
Now that I’ve processed it, it was a dream that included my favorite and best moments of teaching: the sweet things my students would do, and the moments of stress melted away by the highlights of really good, classroom moments. Laughter and fun and connectedness with my kids.
I don’t know what else to make of this dream. I know it’s so, so easy to look back on certain points in our life and only see the good, the sweet, the easy. I fall for this sort of thinking mostly when it comes to Korea, because that time of life since day ONE was incredibly hard but overwhelmingly good 100% of the time. Most of the time while I was there, it was much easier to see life through the negative lens. There were points when life felt 3% good and 97% hard. Now that I’ve been back and my memories are almost 1 year old, it’s easy to consider life the other way around. More like 18% bad and 82% good.
For fear of losing the memory of getting to be in the classroom again, for fear of the images in my head of sweet Alice slipping away, perhaps I should stop musing over the meaning of my dream and just let it linger for a little while longer. The most clear-cut meaning I can gather from it right now is to remember what became so clear to me this time last year, when my time in Korea was approaching its close: acknowledge and recognize the bad. But relish and soak in and drink up every last drop of what is good. Because clearly, the good is most vivid, even in dreams.