Thursday, October 22, 2009


Unlike Ision and a lot of other people on this planet, I do not usually dream after I have fallen asleep which means that my sleeps are deeper and more restful. I find this a little strange because I am a person with thoughts constantly running in my mind as it weaves in and out of details regardless of their significance. So by right with such charged up neurons where boundless thoughts could easily get lost, you would think that these wandering brainwaves will continue their journey into slumberland but they do not. Insomniacs worldwide must be very jealous of me as it does not take very long for me to begin the first of my nightly forty winks and I often do not wake up till it is time to. I know Ision, the light sleeper is definitely envious of my ability to surrender my consciousness that easily.

However recently I have been dreaming at night. Being the inquisitive engineer with an eye for details as I am, I would naturally want to psycho-analyse my dreams and see what they show or tell me. To be able to do that, I have cultivated this habit to always jot down all the nitty-gritties fresh from waking up so that as much intricacies are captured as possible before they slip away into the crevices and dark alleys in my head never to be found again. Here are my three most recent dreams in chronological order.

The high school reunion

There I was working away in the container in the Caltex Refinery in Kurnell* called my office and all of a sudden my high school (we call it junior college back home) classmates started gathering and crowding around me. Then appeared my physics tutor (who was also our pastoral care counsellor as well–sort of the teacher in charge of the administrative affairs of our class). This person is an eccentric one. A bachelor past his forties with a weird sense of humour who gave me an impression that he was constantly insecure and starved for attention. I remembered he once gave me a birthday card (a high school teacher giving a student a birthday card–this by itself was strange enough in Singapore) a year after graduation with his very honest thoughts about me. Basically he crammed the card with words describing how pompous and obnoxious I was and how I would amount to nothing (something to that effect at least). Talk about being unstable! This came as an ultimate surprise as he did nothing throughout our time together to indicate that he felt this way. I was anti-social and aloof maybe (as a result of being frequently teased for being effeminate) but was never the way he described me in his diatribe. Fortunately I hated the class and never went to all the reunions and thus did not need to face him after that awkward letter.

Well that was the back story. Naturally I was dumbfounded (and uneasy) that all these people from the section of my memory I would like to annihilate would present themselves at such a location and time. This feeling quickly got replaced by frustration and seeing that I could not ignore them any longer, I asked him why was he here and what was he trying to do. I cannot remember his tone or expression on his face at that time when he replied that he was dying (of what I did not ask). A deluge of embarrassing guilt overwhelmed me immediately. All this while I disliked this person so much and in the end he came especially to tell me he was dying. I reached out and held his hand gently. And that was when I woke up.

The lucky draw prize

It began with a lucky draw prize that I have won–a spot in the Australian Idol finals*. I do not know where I got the impression from but I thought that since I have won this prize, I would definitely win the contest. Because I was armed with this pumped-up confidence, I went to the finals dressed in shorts (I do not remember what top I wore). I felt that I could conquer everything. My mum was there at the event as well and finally it was my turn to shine.

As soon as the music started playing I knew something was wrong–the key was not right. I tried to signal to the judges discreetly by making a face that there was a mistake–what a silly thing to do in a live show. The judges looked at one another with a head-scratching expression and did nothing. I then opened my mouth not to sing but to say that the pitch of the song was wrong and to request the track be played again and correctly. The music did stop thankfully but there was an announcement that it was time for a break (not sure if it was a commercial break) and my song would have to wait till after that. And that was when I woke up.

The army camp escape

It was a typical snooze fest of a lecture held in a training shed in the hot and humid Singaporean army camp where I was and it all started with a mealtime break (I have no idea if it was lunch or dinner). Strangely it was a potluck and everyone was allowed into the camp including friends and family. Some woman brought chicken rice* and I was so looking forward to savouring that but we were instructed to first wait for some typically meaningless thing before eating. The woman feared that there might not be enough rice to go around and she said that she could cook more if necessary. It turned out that people did not follow instructions after all and by the time I got to the rice, there was only a scanty amount left. I got so filled with ire at that instant that I decided to break out of camp to find my own food.

The scene then cut to me on the bus as it travelled along Anzac Parade* past the landmarks made familiar to me during my student exchange in Sydney in 2001. The journey ended in Chinatown in Singapore and as I was getting off the bus, the female driver made a comment to my reply to her previous question (which I have forgotten) that my skin would improve*. As I rummaged the streets, I found no food and was faced with a decision to either continue searching where I was or go elsewhere to hunt for grub. I distinctly remember a big grassy hill that made me think twice of venturing out of the region. I got increasingly lost as the minutes passed and began to get very worried–how could I book in at the camp gate if I did not officially book out? At the peak of my distress I made a desperate call to my then best friend back in camp for help. As reliable as I remembered him to be, he took an umbrella* and told me he would see what he could do. At that moment, the memory of seeing a camp mate flip through a bus service guide for the route that led to the camp shot through my brain. The scene then finally cut to my best friend and I back in camp where I told him why I always feared losing out to the rest and rushed to eat first (the perfect adjective here would be kiasu–a Singaporean slang) for all this would not have happened if I simply defied commands and ate that chicken rice before anyone else could. And that was when I woke up

So does every element in a dream pertain to something specific that is happening in our lives at that moment (indicated by * in the earlier paragraphs)? If so, it would be rather easy to sort and tidy our nocturnal reveries by matching every occurrence in the dream to its corresponding real-life representation. This phenomenon certainly rings true with respect to the three dreams above. But this still does not explain why of all the parts that make up your life and memories only a handful gets manifested in dreams.

Maybe not everything in our dreams matches up to real life and the odd pieces are just there to distract you from something perhaps more foreboding and severe. Or maybe we are supposed to look for a pattern or some kind of running event that threads all the seemingly discrete and incredulous bits into a coherent and sensible big picture.

At the end of the day whatever messages your dreams are trying to tell you, as long as they do not get more frequent causing you to increasingly lose sleep over them, these wondrous insights into our mental state can serve to spice life up a little or at least be used as good small talk fodder as you prepare your morning coffee in the office pantry the next day.

All this dream talk is making me really sleepy and I know I will sleep well tonight for sure, that is if dreams do not come knocking on the door to my subconscious and leave me asking for more.