But more often than not, the dinosaurs were not the main players in my dreams. They were just there, benign, like props in a play or extras on a movie set. I would wake in the morning and announce to Doug, "Another dinosaur dream", and he would shake his head in amusement.
I started to think about them during the day. Why dinosaurs? Like most little kids, my brother, Ken, and I had a set of plastic dinosaurs, and we played endless games with them outside in dirt piles or on the living room carpet surrounded by pillow mountains.
Two of my favorite books growing up were The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek and The Enormous Egg, both of which featured a dinosaur.
"What's with the dinosaurs?" I kept asking myself. It's not like I loved them as a child and wanted to become a paleontologist. I didn't obsess over them. Then I wondered if my daytime musings weren't begetting more dinosaur dreams!
One night I had a dream where I was in Abu Dhabi in a classroom. A young woman was at a table or desk, a large plastic dinosaur in each hand, and she was simultaneously telling me something and gesturing with the dinos to illustrate what she was trying to teach me. She was very earnest, but I couldn't hear her words. When I woke up I knew the dinosaurs must mean something, and so I put the question to my Facebook friends.
The responses were thoughtful and varied, and gave me pause to dig deep within. But what came bubbling up and felt "right" to me was actually a pretty in-my-face and simple interpretation: I'd been feeling literally like a dinosaur. A fossil. A relic. Not useful of relevant to this place and time.
Kind of harsh, I know, but there it was.
I've been exploring my new home here in Abu Dhabi and very much enjoying it, but there came the day when I was walking about and doing some errands - dropping off laundry, mailing postcards from the NYUAD book store, walking a few blocks to the grocery store - and I realized it was just business as usual. I'd turned that corner and no longer felt like a Stranger in a Strange Land. I felt comfortable. This was now my land, at least for the time being. And it was then that being the Observer was not enough for me. I wanted to find my own place here. I wanted to fit in, and I wanted to do something, to contribute.
But how? It's been years since I've held a "regular" 9-5 kind of job. I've been working and studying acting in NYC, but most people look askance at that and don't consider it "work". And I don't have all the degrees that the people here in the NYUAD community have. I was feeling pretty low about myself and useless, and hence, I think, my Dinosaur Dreams.
So I did what I've done in the past. I saw a need and I volunteered.
On my second day in Abu Dhabi I was given a tour by the woman, Cathy, in charge of Community Life at NYUAD. And that led to an invitation to join the weekly Morning Coffee, an informal gathering at a different cafe weekly, and that in turn led to Doug and I going to a monthly gathering at a local restaurant/bar where we met and mingled with folks from NYUAD and Tamkeen. All these activities were coordinated by the Community Life department. Through conversation I learned that the staff had shrunk from 3 to 1, and Cathy really needed some help. She was in the process of trying to hire a full-time assistant, but I figured I could help out in the interim.
Those of you who remember me from my Baldwinsville and Ithaca days know that I worked for Methodist Churches in those communities. My duties were focused on helping new families feel welcome and to aid them in finding their place in the church community. I helped plan and run programs for children, teens and adults. I helped plan events from small gatherings to community-wide events. And I loved the work. I love working with people and making connections. I realized that Community Life does for NYUAD what I did for the two churches. Minus the religion, of course. I'd found it. I'd found my niche at NYUAD, and I offered to help out in any way needed.
One thing led to another because life is interesting, and I was asked if I'd like to work as the paid part-time Community Life Assistant. I jumped at the chance. Working part-time would still give me my cherished personal time, and I didn't want to give that up. But now I could contribute and participate and (hopefully) make a difference.
And no more Dinosaur Dreams.