Inequality in America Student Blogger Study USA

On Remembering to Look Down and Back Up Again

Maya stands outside on a gray snowy day looking up at the sky.

Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Maya Ulrich (she/her) is HECUA’s student blogger for Inequality in America Fall 2020. She is student at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, majoring in Art and Psychology. Read on for her final post!

In high school I read a short story that ended with the main character looking out their window. They chose to look up at the snow that was falling instead of the grimy, gray slush that had accumulated on the ground from everyday life. I think of this story often when I feel like the world around me is too heavy to bear. It is a reminder that I often have the privilege to look away, but it also prompts me to remember the fact that there are symbols of hope resting all around us and within us. There are reasons to trudge forward and things to hold onto. There are reasons to keep looking up. 

The Inequality in America program, for me, has felt like a reminder of this, and in a way allowed me to understand the importance of looking down, too. There is much to be learned from what is difficult to look at — what is difficult to reckon with. It is one thing to glance, but what does it mean to critically examine? What does it mean to look at the pain of ourselves and of others? Why do we look away, or why don’t we? These are difficult questions. 

For some of us, these questions may be what inspires us to sustain our journey through the snow that has fallen — paths we will walk that others started long before we were here. 

For others, looking at social injustice might prompt other questions and inspire other paths. Ultimately, we all have hard work ahead of us, but we are not alone in doing it. 

We must look down to know that we have something to look back up at. There are people to inspire that walk in front of us, behind us, and alongside us. We guide each other, and incite in each other the power to hope, to love, and to rise. 

Much like the falling snow in the story, we collectively create a new world. That world is one that will be centered on equity, liberation, and mutual care. For now, we must look up and feel the brightness and warmth of the sun to be able to bear looking down at our feet doing the hard slogging through the snow. Know that I am here. I am reaching down to hold on and lift you up as so many have done for me. And I am here, weaving in bits of hope that I have gleaned from looking up, and from those who have looked up before me. I hope you will too. 

Until we meet again, 

Maya 

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