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I've always been a dreamer. It's not something I choose to do on a conscious level, but as far back as I can remember I have had epic dreams that instigate change in my waking life.
The most significant was a recurring dream that spanned 12 years. The tiger dream started when I was 6 years old and concluded just before I turned 18. This dream had such an impact on my life that it propelled me forward in a way I could only have imagined.
The Tiger Dream
The forest stretches out for miles, so dense that barely a crack of light enters.
I watch a 6-year-old girl running as fast as her little legs will carry her, stumbling over fallen branches, her hazel eyes dart around, she breathes heavily, panting with fear.
Suddenly, the point of view shifts. I am no longer watching this child from above. I am this child. I can feel my chest rising, sucking in thin air. I am panicked.
I sense that I am being followed.
As I turn, I see them for the first time. Two large majestic tigers prowling through the trees. They are coming straight for me.
The tigers are muscular, beautiful, their pupils bright and alive. The golden yellow of their eyeballs glow... as they stalk me.
I begin to run again but this time I feel the presence of the tigers right behind me.
The tigress leaps forward, her dagger-like teeth dripping with drool as she gnashes at my left heel.
A near miss, but I stumble and fall to the ground. My hand hits the soil pushing me back up, willing me to move. Keep on running my heart howls.
But they are so big. I am so small.
The sound of my breathing has all but stopped. Now there is silence. I am beyond fear. I am in true survival mode.
A deep growl echoes through the forest as the tigers move to entrap my body. They are ready to strike.
My heels are ripped, and the dirt around me has my blood on it. I am so tired. I can't go on.
But there it is, a clearing and a bridge up ahead.
On the other side of the bridge stands my family, leaning against our old purple Volkswagen. My father, my mother, four sisters, baby brother, and our dog, Marmaduke. They are waving for me to come to them. Unaware of the danger that I am in.
"Mummy, Daddy, help me!" I scream.
It is now that I realize no sound leaves my mouth. My pleading is unheard. It is only in my mind that my cries ring out. I feel trapped.
The bridge begins to separate as a boat passes underneath. The tiger leaps high, ready to finish the hunt. I know my time is up.
Mid-air, I turn to look the tiger in his eyes.
And I wake up.
It is always the same in the end. I never know if I make the jump to the safety of my family. Or if I fall to the raging waters below. Or if indeed the tigers devour me.
Regardless of the outcome, I was left with a real feeling of helplessness. As the years progressed and the dream continued to recur, my interest in the meaning behind the dream increased.
I was an extremely introverted child and had relied heavily on my family. Inside the household, I was confident, funny and loved. Outside of our fence, I was struggling to express myself in the world.
There was a battle raging between my introverted nature and my ambitious external desires. On one hand I had a very adventurous spirit, on the other hand a shyness that held me captive.
Before I reached the age of 10, my life goals were to travel the world, learn many languages, protect animals and write my stories; all whilst saving children in third world countries. As I sat out on my window ledge in the small coastal town I had grown up in, all of these ambitions seemed beyond my capabilities and certainly not within the realm of possibility.
But while I slept my subconscious conjured up a world of characters that would prepare me for emotional growth, acting as a catalyst to push my inner child to find courage.
With the encouragement of my mother, who had felt limited by her own introversion, I enrolled in drama classes as a pre-teen to aid in developing my confidence. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once to finally stop hiding. Shyness was not going to rob me of fulfilling my potential.
I had to push myself in ways I had never before. I would set challenges to speak my internal thoughts out loud, to force my hand up in the classroom, to volunteer to be a leader even though I was more comfortable in the shadows.
As I faced my fears the recurring nature of the dream slowed right down, instead of weeks it became months before it would return.
Until finally, the tigers arrived one last time. That rainy September day. I lay down for a nap and my mind went straight to the forest.
This time I was a grown-up, not the 6-year-old child I had always been. My breath was steady, still, calm. The tigers were at my heels chasing me, but I was stronger, faster. Then it happened, that pivotal moment of decision before I would wake.
As I turned to look the tiger in his eyes, I didn't hesitate or wait until he caught me. I jumped on his back and rode across to my family.
My efforts towards self-development in my waking life had finally bridged the gap between the scared introverted child and the courageous young woman I had intuitively wanted to become.
The following month I turned 18, and I set off from the safety of the family home to begin the adventure of a lifetime.