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Naked

Last Thursday night, I dreamt that I went to work naked.

Dreams of public nudity are common and I’ve had them all my life. Typically, I’m naked at school, and such dreams are quite similar to those other classics of the anxiety variety: dreams in which I have forgotten my locker combination or find myself hideously unprepared for a test.

This dream was different, though, in that I was unperturbed by my nakedness. I arrived at the office just in time for a meeting, and, as I prepared to take my seat at a table already filled with colleagues, I removed my overcoat to discover that I was naked beneath it. My reaction wasn’t horror or extreme mortification. It was, rather, mild bemusement: “Huh. How about that?” I thought to myself, “I seem to be naked.”

Upon waking Friday morning, I remembered this unusual nocturnal vision and considered what it might mean. I suspected that it was connected to the fact that I had recently quit my job and that Friday was my last day at work.

I consulted my favorite dream dictionary—there was no entry for “naked,” but I found what I was looking for under the more decorous “nude”—and this is what I read:

Dropping the facade, attitudes or feelings we may mask our real emotions with in everyday life—a child may scream if someone it dislikes gets near it, but an adult will probably tolerate the nearness, or refrain from expressing displeasure; desire to be seen for what one is; revealing one’s true nature.

I’ve worked in an office for something like six years now, and, if I were to anthropomorphize corporate culture, it would be a big, loud, imposing alpha male with shiny shoes and expensive but unpleasant aftershave—exactly the kind of person I dislike immediately on an atomic level, the kind of person who makes me shy and fret and narrow my eyes and flare my nostrils and pull away before I realize I’m being rude. As I contemplate this characterization, my dream begins to make a lot of sense.

This is not to say that I have not loved and admired many of my co-workers, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the experience and opportunities my years with my former company afforded me. As jobs go, it was an awesome job. I got to write about books for a living, and I got to talk to some cool authors (many of my favorite and most recent interviews are available on my work blog). It’s just that a corporate environment is, ultimately, not an altogether healthy one for me. I am not, for example, skilled at thinking as a group—my soul shrivels a little everytime I hear the words “let’s brainstorm.” (My erstwhile co-worker Uncle Grambo can tell you about the time I was chastised—in front of our whole department—for my tendency to critique during these “anything goes!” sessions.) I have made significant adjustments to my professional personality over the years, and I believe that most of these changes were positive. I learned to be a little more sophisticated and a little less blunt, a little more reflective and a little less reactive. However, as of my last yearly performance review, I realized that I had changed about as much as I’m willing to—any further modification of my behavior would impinge upon my actual self.

I’ve been so busy, trying to get my last few assignments done and taking care of the momentous changes in my personal life, that it didn’t truly hit me until Friday morning that I had really quit my job, that, come Monday, I wouldn’t have to be anywhere in particular at 9 a.m. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, practically giddy, as I imagined a future in which I have the luxury of discovering if I can make a life—and a living—by reveling in my true nature.

July 12, 2004 | Permalink

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