“Estas listo para dejar la vida, si todas tus metas fueron alcanzadas y si supiste apreciar cada momento de tu vida. No, no la creo. Más bien creo que has vivido sin saber que tienes vida. No has comprendido el significado de la vida. Te la has pasado ignorándola, y sabes que desperdicio.” — Lectura en la clase de Palmira, Pontificia
Amazing our ability to create routines no matter where we go in this world. Creatures of habit, the shock of the new will always give way to the comfort of the familiar. But now, the nervous of the anticipation of this trip has given way to a different type of anxiety.
What will I do when my session at the Pontificia ends?
I suspect it will be yet one of another small deaths whenever change occurs in life. If you ponder how literary styles must change out necessity, so must we. Perhaps not exactly change, but evolve.
When I quit my job at a media company last August, the intent was to change the stagnant narrative that was my life. I did not envision having this experience in Salamanca at all. (Funny how some people assumed I was going to Santa Monica when I would mention the possibility of this trip.) Now I am here and my life has become a variation of a theme:
Rise, shine, breakfast, walk, sit in class, break, converse in class, sit in class, walk, eat, write, do homework, eat, do more homework, sleep, repeat. That is my life in Salamanca.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is filling in the gaps. I’m not partial to siestas, so that is when I choose to write. The city slows down to rest its heart rate and mine starts to beat a little bit faster. Ergo, the inevitability of creating a routine. Many students pack their nights and weekends with revels and travels all over the place. But I’m actually quite fine being still. In fact, I only this week found the moment to engage in one of my essential joys: going to the movies.
Seeing “Ocho Apellidos Vascos” (Spanish Affair) was heaven. A variation of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” this wildly popular Spanish comedy has touched a national nerve. It’s been a cultural sensation with its broad slice of humor based on the stereotypes to be found in the south of Spain (Sevilla, Andalusia) and in northern Basque territory. It seemed so fitting, two people trying so hard to conform to predisposed notions of self that they lose track of their own identities. It may have been for laughs, but its nuances were universal truths. (Even if the Spanish was at times divinely vulgar and incomprehensible.)
This slight change of routine notwithstanding, I am in the midst of the second of four weeks in Spain. Order has restored itself and it has allowed for a sense of clarity. I know what my life was back in L.A. I see now who I’d become. Here’s the realization I didn’t anticipate: I’m not so sure I want to go back to that version of me.
I thought this blog was going to be about confessing my days and nights, a picaresque narrative told in my inimitable MediaJor way. But that’s not how this is turning out, at least not during the week. (Dare I repeat el tope of Orgullo 2014?) Like a confessional, I feel I can say (or write) without judgment. I do not want to be absolved of anything, nor do I feel these admittances require any penance. Before this last year of self-reflection and self-realization, I’d spent quite a bit of time manufacturing a persona that required a lot of attention and validation from everyone around me. Perhaps it was a symptom of wanting a “Hollywood Life.” But the message and messenger are distancing themselves a faster pace here.
“Cosmo Castorini: A man understands one day that his life is built on nothing, and that’s a bad, crazy day.
Rose: Your life is not built on nothing! Te amo.”
From “Moonstruck” by John Patrick Shanley
When I turned 40, I was consumed with the idea of wanting to do it all over again. I’d convinced myself that the struggle of reaching a dream was infinitely more rewarding than basking in the joy of its successful completion. That malaise permeated into so many aspects of my life. Each year took on a darker shade, man. What was I thinking, wanting to repeat a dream? Why couldn’t just come up with a new one?
Living in the shark tank of the “Industry” means you know how NOT to become the victim of someone else’s ambition. Today, I told a young classmate during break, the adorable Kolby, “I want to let someone else take a turn in the tank. They can have my place. I don’t want to go back to that aspect of my life anymore.” Now, the question is what sort of life will I go back to nurture?
Oddly, I don’t even have an answer to that and it doesn’t even faze me. It’s like that age old question we ask college students, “What are your plans after school?” Right now, all I can say is “Piss off, I’ll tell you when I know, alright?” But I do know what I don’t want to at this stage and that’s wonderfully liberating on its own.
Like art, narrative styles change to allow for innovation in documenting our time. If we view our own lives as art, then we should engage in the power of invention. If we can’t find the words to express who we want to be, then we should just make them up, dammit. All the pressures we inflict on ourselves to subscribe to an outdated ideal of what is “proper” is such a waste. Why must we mark time? Why can’t we be a free-flowing entity, without page numbers or chapter headings? Why can’t we allow for realism to exist with a little magic, too?
My favorite moments on the daily? My classes are never without surprise, as I’ve already stated in earlier entries. I don’t even the mind the homework, but it is fascinating to hear the pressures felt by the other students who just want to go home already. (They are being graded, I’m not. Makes a big difference since I’m genuinely doing this for my own pleasure. Pero hombre, the diversity in intent and focus warrants its own blog and soon! I hope not naming names is enough. Haha!)
I look forward to having meals with Manoli and my housemates Krystal and Brianna, two young girls from Georgia U.S.A. who are beautiful old souls with honest hearts. We’ve become a family, this odd quartet of Spanish, Chicano and Black Americans. We share as much of our lives with each other in Spanish as we can, English if we must (despite Manoli’s stern protests otherwise) and laughter no matter the combination. You want connections? We are living them daily, around the table as it was before phones and other iRealities broke us all apart.
Then I start my day, walking through the calm of the Plaza Mayor around 8:30am, just before I enter the Pontificia. The café staffs engage in their ritual, a pas de deux of returning tables and chairs to their normal spots. One by one, other human forms enter this tableaux. But the poetry comes from seeing the tiny ripples of water gathered in the cobble stones. Cause and effect. Forward motion. Life in color. Truth in black and white.
That’s what I see happening to my life in Salamanca.