The sleeping brain
powerhouse of fantasy
fertile playground of dreams
Many of us experience dreams that recur periodically, not necessarily every night, but from time to time. Here is mine.
I dream that I am about to take a mathematics exam. I know that I have had a year to study for it, but have done nothing about it. Maybe, I can ‘wing it’ without study, but I am sure that I cannot. There are only a few days left to study, but something tells me that neither will there be enough time, nor will I ever get started. I will tell you how the dream ends later on.
Ever since I was about 8 years old, I have been writing examinations. First, there were simple tests to enter preparatory school. At the end of each school year, we sat a series of written tests. Then, there were more (and much more difficult) papers for admission to secondary school to be attempted when I was 12. At age 16, I had to write state examinations in eight subjects, the Ordinary Level (‘O Levels’, now ‘GCSE’). A year later, a few more state examinations, and then when I was 18, I had to take the difficult Advanced Level exams that could make or broke a candidate’s chances of entering a University.
At the end of each year of my BSc course in physiology, there were examination papers, the results of each of them counting towards the quality (grade) of the degree I would be awarded.
Following that, I had a three year break from exams while I researched and then wrote up my PhD thesis.
I entered dental school, where for five years I had to pass endless numbers of examinations of all sorts: practical, written, and viva-voce.
Eventually, I graduated as a dentist. However, there was one more examination to be taken: the driving test!
I have never found writing examinations stressful.
My recurring dream ends as follows. After pondering the hopelessness of my prospects via-a-vis the forthcoming mathematics exam in my sleeping brain, it occurs to me that it does not matter after all, because already I had a BSc, a PhD, and a dental degree. Then, I wake up.
This dream ending might have a basis in reality. When I was ready after completing the dental course, I took the set of dental qualifying examinations arranged by the Royal College of Surgeons. I passed them.
Three month’s later, after I had been working with patients in practice for most of that time, I returned to the dental school to take the university dental examinations. I was already qualified, and did not really need the extra qualification, but I went along nevertheless. The university exams required me sitting a number of written papers along with a clinical test. While sitting on an uncomfortable chair, scribbling exam essays at high speed, I paused for a moment. As in my dream, I asked myself why was I bothering to waste time on attempting to attain this superfluous qualification when I had so many already.