the best anxiety dream, ever

Because it was also a wonderful revenge dream.

When I was up for tenure at the University Michigan/Ann Arbor, things were tense. The tenure review process at UM is harrowing. In the humanities the turn down rate (at that time) was about 80 percent. Once I heard the dean say that they would rather err on the side of getting rid of a good person than holding on to a bad one. She said this openly, without apology. As if it were no more important than chosing between chicken and beef on a menu. Of course she was talking about whole careers, about people who (some of them, at least) have all their self worth wrapped up in the tenture decision. She also said: we give negative evidence more weight than positive evidence.

Oh, lovely.

So people tended to get really squirrley when they were up for tenure review. Me, I got defiant. My committee said, should we ask for a year’s extension so your new book will be out? No, sez I. Absolutely not. They can take me or leave me as I am. I was very cranky, during the whole process. If they had turned me down, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I would have gone off to do something else. Angry, yes. But not surprised, and certainly not unprepared.

A few nights before the decisions were announced I had a dream. In the dream I was in the front room at home, reading (always, always reading). There was the sound of a plane flying very low. Very, very low. I went out onto the porch and saw a small plane, the kind that seats about thirty people, circling and sputtering directly over the house. As it came lower I could make out the faces pressed against the windows, and I recognized every one of them. Adminstrative faculty types. The kind who make tenure decisions, particularly the ones who made the process as difficult and depressing as possible. Including the dean.

And the plane crashed, right into my garden, and it all went up in smoke, and all those administrative types? Literally, pushing up daisies.

Then I did get tenure, but somehow my anger never quite went away.