• Luis Matte Diaz

Getting old with a social role

Pictures taken and courteously provided by 源淵.

叔叔shushu! He heard passing by, but he didn't react to it. Of course, in his mind, if not still a 小朋友 xiao pengyou, at most he should be a 大哥da ge. But 叔叔, not possible at all! However, the kid trying to catch his attention pushed a bit harder and looked at him directly in the eyes. No matter what he could have thought about himself, clearly, the kid was talking to him.

Driven by pure stubbornness, he kept walking in a straight line, back to the subway station, heading to the typical stop to arrive at 杨浦区Yangpu qu: he needed to study.

Studying for a master's degree was so distant from his previous concerns, such as a high school exam, what to do for the summer, how much pocket money to negotiate with his parents... But thinking about a thesis to graduate? 叔叔 hit back like the echo of thunder. Looking at himself in the reflection of the many shops, he stopped and counted the countless wrinkles on his forehead; he also checked out his colossal eye bags, as purple as bruises! He started thinking, why am I so tired? Is it because of the hours spent studying? Or perhaps, because this last week I was nervous about the internship meeting? Immediately he thought: that actually sounds like something relatively mature, or severe, or old…

His brain could do the simple math: he was, indeed, becoming a 叔叔! I cannot blame the kid, he said out loud with a hefty quota of a scary and nostalgic feeling... When did this happen? Where was I? When did I forget that this slow-motion death sentence has literally arrived half way?! Panicking, the newborn 叔叔turned around and kept walking: should I do something to feel young again?... He reviewed many ridiculous ideas to go back in time, even buying an anti-aging cream popped up in his head. However, an image directly from the street came like a lifesaver...

There, he saw an 阿姨 ayi with her grandchild. He remembered the word “pedagogy,” the one who grabs the students’ hands and brings them to school. Suddenly, he stopped and thought: getting old is not always the same as getting useless, like it is in my third-world country. A lonely life, a lack of purpose, impossible debts to pay, the absence of a role in society; these are not fatalities.

He decided to follow that 阿姨 and her grandchildren until they reached one of the widespread 'training centers.' So, in fact, the 阿姨 was guiding the new generations into knowledge, the 阿姨 had an important role! He kept following her and arrived at the public park. There were tons of 阿姨 and 叔叔 having a great time. The ladies were dancing with smiles on their faces. The men were playing 麻将majiang, smoking some cigarettes, and arranging some marriages.

Some men and women were stretching their limbs in ways that resembled professional Olympic participants before the competition. There he stayed until almost all of them went to pick up their grandchildren from school, the fulfillment of their new role in society! Suddenly getting older, but with such a critical mission to receive, made our newborn 叔叔 a bit calmer; getting old is not the same as becoming a leftover, getting old could mean inheriting the responsibilities of the 阿姨 and 叔叔 of today.

About the photographer 源淵.

源淵 is a first generation Mexican-American Photographer from Texas. He started his photography journey in early 2020, documenting his daily life as a Grad Student in Shanghai during the outbreak of COVID. He primarily takes street photography in his leisure time.