For the most part you don’t get to do things twice. We live life in one direction, and you can only look at the past for comparative purposes. Chance to do things again are non-existent.
I lived in Greece for about a year back in 2007-2008. I loved it here, for a number of reasons, many of which do not apply now. Oddly enough, there are some similarities between what life was like when I was there then and what things are like now. I think a lot about those times, and one of the things that I remember most clearly was the rigor with which I used to study Greek. I would go out to a cafe in the mornings and study, then go to classes, then have a Greek class, do some other things and then in the evening I would meet with a Greek tutor. And in the intermittent times I would go to bars, cafes and restuarants or wherever, and I would try to speak as much Greek as possible. When people didn’t want to speak to me in Greek, I would pretend not to speak English.
I got a lot of practice in. I didn’t become great at speaking Greek, but I really hammered in the fundamentals. To this day, I get a lot of compliments from people when I speak it.
Let’s fastforward to 2020.
I am back in Greece now. I didn’t notice anything at first, but at some point it dawned on me that I was doing something very different this time. I wasn’t trying to practice my Greek with people. At least, I wasn’t doing it with the same vigor I did a decade ago. When I go to a store I often feel like I do not have the time to fumble about and try, maybe failing, to communicate with the clerk. Frankly, I want to do what I need to do and be on with my day.
I am also not studying nearly as much as I used to. Its hard to find the time to do it.
Ok, it is hard to compare now and thirteen years ago. I was a student then, and there was a whole lot of time available for me to do all those things I wanted to do. Now, I am busy at work. Very, very busy. This job is probably the busiest I have ever been in my life.
So there are two things going on here. I am not sure when it happened, but at some point in my life the days just got a whole lot shorter. In my teens and early twenties there was just so much more time in my day. I managed to do everything I ever wanted to do, with time to spare. I don’t know what spell hit me and when it did, but at some point in my late twenties this changed, and now all my days just seem so god damned full. I think this is a pretty common experience. And I think it also has something to do with the 8 hours that need my attention for work, and all the hours I give to the job pro bono thinking about work problems on my off hours.
But there is something else going on here. Language learning is all about constant repeated exposure (reception) and production of the language. I should be taking every opportunity available to me to try and practice the language. But I am not.
I don’t know exactly why I am not anymore. But it is something that has been on my mind a lot. I can no longer recall if back in 2007-2008 there was no online translation platforms (I mean, there was babbelfish, but it was shit), but I don’t recall looking things up with frequency back then. A lot of the fun of trying to communicate was pantomiming around, and using what words I did not as a gap fill for the ones that I didn’t. But now, on those occasions where I do want to go to a store and I decide to speak Greek in advance, I will often translate the phrase I want before hand.
This might be a bad habit left over from my China days.
Or I just have to accept that as time goes by I change as a person. No one likes to see changes, particularly when they are not good changes. But if nothing else, when you do start to see that things like this are happening, you can do something to change it.