I was held back a level in Spanish. I began in level four, I am still in level four, and there is a small possibility I will graduate in level four. As much as I feel like a tard, it was actually a mutual decision between my professor and I. I seem to have advanced a bit more slowly then the rest of my class. (cringe).
I always thought that languages were my thing- or that's what I told myself…and everyone else. Admittedly, my Spanish has gotten worse since I reached Spain. I seem to have regressed. I spend almost three hours a day, three days a week, on exercises; speaking, reviewing and somehow I managed to forget some of the Spanish I did know. Not to mention the fact that I go to sleep and wake up in a Spanish speaking country.
Instead, I speak Italian. I spoke more Italian in Spanish class than the two Italians in my Spanish class. It’s as if my brain is filled to capacity with all this new information that there’s no room left for another language. Not cool. Not to mention the fact that I cant seem to grasp the vosotros forms of verbs. There’s no vosotros in Cuba, which means there is no vosotros in Miami, which means...I’ve never seen it before.
And how many past tenses do we really need? Come on! Recent past, sort of past, past past, very past, continuing past, extreme past, past before another past event, the past after another past event, ancient past.
The past is the past, isn’t it? At least I had assumed the past would be the past when we speak of languages.
The past is the past. Lets look forward. Period.
Then again, my refusal to accept that the past exists in many forms may be the grounds for repeating a course. And due to my refusal to accept the past- I have to repeat the past. Level four. Dos veces.
I guess, with that understanding, with this consideration of the past- I’ve been forced to believe that maybe the Spanish speakers of the world are right. Because when I look at my own past- there isn’t one single past. There are many- and there are histories within my histories whose characteristics are all relatively diverse. And although my memories- my pasts- all have that one thing in common- they are over, they have happened- the fact remains that some memories are dimmer than others, some are more important respective of time and place- some are all but lost. I wonder if there’s a Spanish tense for this. And then there is the past that was a regular action- a habit, if you will- and instead of just being an event in the past, the habitual activity became a part of who I am…but how do you measure that? With an ending? With a conjugation?
This is where I get lost; trying to define with words, in any language, in any tense. There was a quote I used to repeat as my mantra- mind you, this was in undergrad days of philosophy courses and the days when I had time to preach my ignorant beliefs about life- in the days before I understood that the past I was living then, would only become a small fraction of the entirety of my past. Either way, I truly believed that “the past is history, the future is an idea, and all we have is now- the present.” Or something like that. I really believed this- but beyond personal philosophies, it was a convenient justification of all the stupid shit I did. Carpe Diem, right? I would say that the Diem is all we have…the present is all we have- but maybe that's not so true. Because without the past, our presents would be totally altered. Without our pasts- everything we have done and seen and felt would change- we wouldn't be who we are now. And without the past- we wouldn't know what not to do with the future. So instead of dimming the lights- or as I once tended to do, completely shutting them off- it may be in our best interests to shine a light on those moments that define us as we are now- these dimensions of the past- the ones that exist in Spanish and the ones that exist in my mind.