The last five or six years I've had two dreams that recur at least twice a year, if not more often. Generally very vivid and strong. In one dream I decide not to play football my senior year of high school. In the other I'm repeating either my senior year or my entire four years at the Naval Academy. In both cases they've both been, at least once each, so strong and vivid that it's taken me a few moments after waking up to fully remember that I did play ball my senior year and that I didn't do first class year at the Academy twice.
When you read and overthink things as much as I do, you engage in a little pop-psych 101 to see if you can crack the code of why these same dreams re-emerge from time to time.
With the not playing football one... well, the thing is... the 1985 Chicago Bears and the graceful power of the best running back of all time - Walter Payton - notwithstanding... okay, and also the Raiders... I never really loved football. I don't even follow it anymore, to tell the truth. And I didn't start playing football in high school because of some newfound passion for the sport. I started playing ball, really, at the very consistent prodding of my dad and older brothers.
In hindsight, I do appreciate it. It did make me more well rounded, stripped off the baby fat and made me appreciate that aspect of life. It's certainly not an overstatement to say prior to that I was a little bookish.
But here's the thing... I remember feeling, that if I did play football I'd get approval and respect from them. Basically, that they'd like me more. So, in a very real sense I started playing football out of this need for approval from them. I mean, I was never very good. I spent 3 - 3 1/2 years as a second [and even 3rd and 4th] string player, though I was kinda proud of the fact that I actually got decent enough to get a couple starts my senior year. But I always felt I was never living up to the examples and expectations of my All-County, All-Pro, all-jock, all-go, no-quit older brothers. That I was some kind of disappointment for not being more like them.
So the big reason I started playing football, regardless of what positive things I did get out of it, was out of this sense of not being good enough and wanting approval. But as I get older I realize that this need for approval is kind of unhealthy and leads to bad, bad things. And ultimately, whether or not anyone approves of how I live my life doesn't really matter. Which has lead to other complications, but that's a whole nother essay.
Whether it's getting my ear pierced, getting out of the military, not working, not pursuing a lucrative "career" "worthy" of my education, shaving my head, drifting back and forth in and out of vegetarianism... the people in my family have been the ones most likely to give me a hard time of it. And even though I know, for each of them, the motivation for their actions come from different places, it all materializes to me as a sense of disapproval for not fitting into whatever mold of me their perspective thinks I should "be".
But knowing that I was so needful [is that a word?] for approval when I was younger, and probably still am to some degree, instead of finding ways to resolve and integrate it, I find myself psychologically berating myself for being so needy and not and not finding who I wanted to be at an earlier age instead of trying to mold myself into the expectations of those around me.
So when approval issues rear up, be they me feeling needful of approval, or me feeling disapproved of, or feeling I shouldn't feel a need for approval, I think the dream of me not playing football my last year of high school turns up. Of standing up for what I was really interested in as opposed to just going along...
As for the USNA dream, I'm probably a lot less clear on that. Especially since I just had the high school one the other day and haven't had the Academy one in a bit. But I think, despite the fact I went to the Academy really to fulfill the expectations of others and get approval - the same issues as before - I think it brings other things to surface. Primarily of regret. My life at the Academy, encapsulated, is probably in and of itself one I do wish I could redo in a number of ways. Hell, my first class-nearly didn't graduate-ream of unhealthy decision making is the most obvious example. But I think when it comes up - the dream, that is - it probably has some basis in the desire to "do things over". Some sense of regret for paths taken or not taken.
Or when I have these dreams I'm actually visiting parallel timespace dimensions where I've made radically different choices in my life. Even odds, that. Who's to say?