Retirement and Dignity

La Voz de Galicia – May 10, 2019 →

Cristina PatoI was on the subway and half-asleep when I opened my eyes and saw him there, sitting in front of me. I took in his hard hat, his paint-splattered overalls, his work bag full of tools resting on the floor and boots that seemed to have hundreds of jobs in their history. He had a small notebook in hand and, with a half-broken pen, was writing down something about the ad just above my head. He seemed to be well into his sixties, rather close to seventy. Three stations later, when I arrived at my stop and got up to exit the subway car, I saw what he had been copying in his small notebook: «Do you want to be a professional musician? Do you want to produce music? X Academy can help you achieve your dreams». And then I thought about the possible story behind this man, about whether he was the one who wished to be a musician or whether he was taking down this information for a child or grandchild. And I visualized the moment this man got home and shared this with his family. And I was moved.

If there is something beautiful about living between two worlds like New York and Galicia, it is the ability to appreciate variances in people’s way of life according to generational differences. New York is a cruel city. It is full of opportunities for those who are strong enough to chase them, but incredibly aggressive for those who are surviving. Being old in New York is hard work. In this city, it is not unusual to see construction workers, librarians, janitors working well into their seventies. Here, living with dignity is a heroic act. Here, retirement is not a right. But based on the way we are going in Galicia, retirement won’t be a right there either by 2040.

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