Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dream a Little Dream, Revisited

I wrote about this last year, but I need to revisit it.   Anxiety dreams.  Zoo work anxiety dreams.

I AM STILL HAVING THEM.  I haven't been in the field for almost a year.  Do any other former zoo keeps have this problem??

Right? RIGHT???

I think it's safe to say that zookeepers probably have among the most colorful dreams of any profession.  And the anxiety dreams are even weirder.  Just when you think you're safe at home, decompressing from your job and drifting into a delicious, deep sleep....BOOM.  Your brain suddenly creates an elaborate story involving elements such as: flying animals (who do not fly), bizarre accidents, and gates that just will not lock no matter what you do.

You guys, I STILL have dreams about my dolphin trainer days.  Not just like, tra la la la, here I am swimming with dolphins like I used to, but full-blown "OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO GET FIRED AND I WILL THINK THAT WAY UNTIL I WAKE UP" or "WHERE AM I  EXACTLY" kind of dreams.

I'm sure many of you have your own list of cycling zoo nightmares, but here are some of my usuals that still happen to this day:

1.  Being late and/or forgetting what day I am supposed to work

This is why I'm a cat person

AHHHH this one happens to me still, maybe once a week.  ONCE A FRIGGIN WEEK, people.

I have had one (1) anxiety dream about being late to my internship, but guess what?  The reason I was late to my internship in this dream was because I THOUGHT I was supposed to be at Marineland (Florida), so I stopped at Publix, but I couldn't find the food I wanted in there, because for some reason they only sold bolts of cloth (??), so I left, got in my car and realized that I was late to my job at Marineland.  Except, my phone was blowing up from my lab internship mentor, wondering where I was.

But other than that one dream about the lab, all the other late-dreams are about Marineland, Florida.  I have no clue why it is just that facility.

Maybe cuz their dolphins are awesome?

Usually, I oversleep, wake up in a panic, and struggle to get in my car.  I can never, ever, ever use my cell phone properly in these dreams.  I try to call.  I try to text.  But I keep pounding in the wrong number, no matter how hard I try.  Or I can't turn my phone on. 

OR, like two nights ago, I had a dream that I showed up to work as a new hire, but in a relatively realistic context.  I'm not "new" in terms of experienced, but Marineland lets me come back for a period of time to help out.   And I forget what day or shift I am, so I show up (or don't) at the wrong time.   I am always somehow scheduled to stay really late, like well into the evening hours, and that's usually when the dream takes a bizarre turn and suddenly I am flying around, or realize I can breathe underwater. 

2.  Suddenly finding myself in a habitat I am not supposed to be in

Oh well, guess I'll just have to swim with dolphins

There I am, hanging out at Marineland, or Gulfarium, or National Aquarium, or Miami Seaquarium (this has never occurred at Clearwater, for some reason) and BOOM.  I am in the water with dolphins or sea lions.  But I am not supposed to.  It's after hours, or I just fell in.  The dolphins never pull me in or anything, it's just that somehow, I end up there.

This type of dream usually goes one of two ways.  The slightly-less nerve-wracking one is where I am suddenly in the water for whatever reason, and I just swim with the dolphins (also where I realize I can breathe underwater, which is AMAZING) and think about how great it is that I can hide from the rest of the staff.  They always try to get me out, but they never can.  I know I will be fired, but I don't care.

Or, I get in, and it's with the animals who are basically like, "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE" and it gets really scary (you guys know what I mean).  When I get out, I have to go explain to people what happened, which is when I get fired.

3.  Having to do a swim program without knowing anything about WTF is going on

But the hat looks good, so.....

This usually happens in the same dream as what I've already written above.  A few nights ago, I had a dream where I went back to work at Marineland.   I walk in on my first day, and suddenly I have five minutes to suit up and do an immersion program with the dolphins.  I'm freaking out.  I don't remember the SDs, I don't know half of the animals, and I am just terrified. 

Aaaaaand usually I just wind up passing my guests off to another trainer, and start swimming with the dolphins.  Or I'll just fly away.   You know, the normal dream things.

4.  Being in a facility that is a bizarre combination of all of the other places I have worked

You're welcome
National Aquarium has appeared to me in the following ways:

a. As a rectangular pool surrounded by stadium seating in the middle of Ohio
b. As the Shedd Aquarium except, it was still in Baltimore
c. With a hidden penguin exhibit
d. As a mashup of Clearwater Marine Aquarium and NAIB

Brookfield Zoo always has underwater passage ways and hidden exhibits.  I've never worked there, but I still have dreams I work there all the time.  My favorite version of this dream is the dolphin elevator that takes the animals to whatever hidden exhibits they want to go, so we can hardly find them.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium has a lot of bizarrely-shaped dolphin pools and  a giant basement filled with turtle habitats and vending machines.


Marineland stays the same

Okay, where is this? I NEED IT

All of my Gulfarium dreams involve a totally unrecognizable space and I am usually fighting with someone (human). Or I'm calling them to tell them I have quit because I forgot I had to work at Marineland.  Last night, I saw the Gulfarium team outside of Marineland letting their penguins surf in the waves of the Atlantic.

A book vending machine.  A BOOK vending machine. 

5.  Animals that turn into people, or other animals

I never know

This usually happens with one of the loves of my life, Tocoi.  One minute, she's a dolphin.  The next, she's a bird perched on my shoulder.  The next, she's some random person that doesn't talk.   But the entire time, I feel this is just how Tocoi is.

6.  Animals who have passed away suddenly coming back to life

I'm gonna need to visit this vending machine after writing this section

Ugh.  This one really makes me sad.  It happens to me a lot with my cat, Andi.  But it's happened with some of the other animals I've worked with.

Every time I see them, I am shocked, because I know they have died.  But magically, they are alive again.  Or, I think I've traveled back in time and I dread going watching them die again.  I hate, hate, hate this dream.

7.  My work uniform is extremely small

It makes me want to hug you forever

Last but not least, this one.  THIS ONE.  This one happens in basically ALL of the aforementioned dream types.  I show up (usually to Marineland again, for cryin' out loud) and all of my uniforms are missing so I have to go through the communal uniform pile and everything is tiny tiny tiny.  Or, my uniforms are just extremely small.

Like, belly-shirt.  I spend half of the dream trying to put my rashguard on (which, as we know, is pretty true to real life).   Just forget about the shorts.  I have to Porky Pig it, which is really embarrassing but I was late to my shift, so I just have to deal.

All you need is a bowtie and a jacket.  Pants are not necessary

I guess anxiety dreams just really dig themselves into the deepest parts of your subconscious mind, especially when they deal with a part of your life that you dedicated so much of your time and emotional energy.  I just figured I'd get over the lame "I'm going to be fired" parts of the dream and just have a jolly time doing the fun stuff. 

You guys gave me some great work anxiety dreams after last year's post on this topic, and I'd love to hear more.  I especially want to hear from you former-keeps; what dreams keep haunting you?


  1. I just dreamed last night that a sea lion show was going on and I hear one of our trainers getting attacked by the animal. I run to help but she is already gating him away. I've also had dreams about animals who have died being people and me just hugging them forever, or gazing into their eyes and they gaze back.

  2. Do you ever dream that you rehabilitate all your captive dolphins so they can live where they're supposed to live, and live a life free of tricks and entertainment?

  3. I know this is like a year old (literally!) and I'm not sure if you still read these but mine always involve either taking work animals home or having to move animals to different enclosures/switch cages but they keep changing sizes.

    So I'm trying to switch one of our tigers but suddenly she's the size of a corgi, so I turn around to try and find something to use to move her and when I turn back she's rhino sized. Almost as bad are the dreams when I take home animals, or I've smuggled them home somehow. My prowess for smuggling knows no bounds, it's been anything from a camel to a lynx that I've somehow gotten home without anyone knowing I've done it.