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  • Writer's pictureLex Enrico Santí, LCSW, MFA

You don't know where you're going

I worked at Cornell for five years. I had a job working in the office of international education. I reported directly to the Vice Provost. The local kid had done something big, scored a nice gig at Cornell University. More than than, I had a landing space where I could begin to pay off debt and take a few international trips every year that would be work related.

I worked in one of the oldest buildings on campus. in the Ag Quad. I was proud to work there. I would dress up in sharp clothes and stroll into the office with a smile on my face. It has now been three years since I worked at Cornell University.

One day, I walked into the building and noticed a friendly white woman on the stairs. I did not recognize her but had the air about her that she knew what she was doing. This could have just been my snap judgement. We began walking up the stairs together. My office was on the third floor. We were going the same direction it appeared. On the second floor there was CIPA, the school of Public Administration and an office called Engaged Learning. On the third floor was my office and the Graduate school offices. The top floor was the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program. I walked up the stairs, bright and chipper. Each floor has a landing with bright and colorful images to announce the offices.

I climbed those beautiful steps along with this white woman next to me when I arrived to my floor. I took a step towards the direction I had gone for 2 years, week-after-week and then as I we were splitting off, she announced loudly to me. "This isn't your floor, is it?" I turned to her puzzled, how did this woman know where it was that I was supposed to go? "This isn't your floor, your floor is upstairs, isn't it?" "I don't know what you mean," I said to her. "Your floor is upstairs, isn't it?" She said to me pointing a single finger upstairs towards the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program. I can still see her finger pointing upstairs.

I had no issue with being confused with being Native American--I know where I work.

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