Reclaiming “I am a writer”

When I was 16 years old, I told my father that I wanted to be a journalist. His joy around the news resembled what I imagine a struggling actor who lives in their car experiences when they get their first big break. Pure happiness. Pure pride. Pure excitement.

I could be engaging in my everyday basic rituals like sitting on the couch and watching MTV, doing my homework or simply savoring my last bagel bite when my pops would suddenly interrupt me holding an invisible microphone and staring into an invisible camera. Using his disciplined reporter voice, he would proudly recite “Soy Pamela VIVANCO con Noticias Univision…Desde Queens, Nueva York. Buenas Noches.” Sometimes he would even go as far as pretending he was in the middle of a snow storm, flailing his arms in the air because the invisible wind was so strong and it was, you know, blowing him away. “Sooooyyyy Pammmmmeellaaaaa Vivaaannnccoooo con Noticiassss Univisionnnnn y hoyyyyy…”

The thought of our last name Vi-van-co gracing the ears of Latinos and people all around the country made him proud. His grin when we talked about my future as a journalist would conquer his face and his hyper spirit would come alive as he said…

“Oh man, I can’t wait to see my daughter on TV!!!!”

He was in denial. I did not want to be a broadcast journalist. I had to break it to him several times.

“Papi, I’m not trying to be on TV. I’m trying to write…”

My name as a byline wasn’t as exciting for my dad as the idea of watching me report the news live on Univision but the thought of my printed name accompanying a piece of published writing that I created meant the world to me. I knew that I wanted to write.

And I did it. I joined my high school newspaper, took journalism classes, creative writing classes and walked out of high school with a passion so strong, I made journalism my major in college. I spent almost every Wednesday night with my friends from The New Paltz Oracle in an office with orange walls reporting, writing, editing and designing our award-winning college newspaper. For hours past midnight, we would work, geek out over who could come up with the best, punny headlines and intensely refer to our bible- the Associated Press Stylebook. (Oracle friends, I bet I am butchering some AP guidelines. It’s been years though, give me a break).

College was the last time I remember confidently saying the words, “I AM a writer.” After diving into my second major, sociology, I wasn’t sure that writing was the way I wanted to challenge a system working against people like my family, friends that I grew up with and myself. I began to think that writing was too passive, not a powerful enough “in your face” demonstration of how angry I felt and how intensely I wanted to make change. So, my first semester of senior year, I dropped my journalism major and left the country. The blog I kept while studying abroad in Thailand was the last bit of writing I prompted on my own. That was in 2012.

In the last few days of 2017, I made a choice. Two years ago, I picked up and made time to write in a journal. In October, I posted excerpts from a memoir I wrote in college about my childhood in Ecuador and today, I write to share my goal and the challenge I am setting for myself to nurture the part of me that is creative and eager to share. The part of me that has wanted to be a writer since childhood. The part of me that has reconciled with writing as a tool for all types of change including social, political and personal.

Since my first year working as an educator in 2013, I am finally ready to reclaim my identity as a writer.

My challenge: To write 15 essays this year and post them on my website. Essay topics will range.

My commitment: I am committed to cultivating my creativity and the part of myself that writes. It’s been almost five years since I have taken a writing class or even identified as a writer. I am ready to write, read about writing, learn about writing and find my voice again.

My fears: I have not taken a writing class in over five years so it feels rusty. Sharing is frightening.

My motivation: Writing will make me better. Not writing will keep me exactly where I am.

When I left New York City five years ago, I did not realize I was about to enter some of the most challenging and testing years of my life in Denver. I left New York City during what I still call the happiest year of my life. My weekends in New York were filled with dinners I could hardly afford, pre-gaming at my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn, dancing the night away at queer dance parties, losing it over impressive drag shows and naps on the 4am local A train. So, even though I was working in a school, the sense of responsibility and stress I felt in my life was truly minimal.

It is probably hard to believe the idea that I “suddenly” became a teacher. Becoming a teacher isn’t like “I turned the corner and SUDDENLY a black cat passed by me.” Most teachers get their undergraduate degree in education, take education classes over the course of 2-4 years in addition to observing and student-teaching in the classrooms of experienced teachers. That is not the case when you are a Teach for America corps member. I left New York and it really felt like all of sudden, I was a teacher and I was responsible for teaching and securing the safety of 28 seven and eight-year olds. Not only did I have to keep them alive and healthy, I also had to keep MYSELF alive and healthy. Say what? My life had changed. I no longer felt like “Pamela,” the free-spirited, joyful, energetic and optimistic version of me I had grown to love so much. I had become and completely taken on the identify of Ms. Vivanco. Overworked, unbalanced, stressed. The change for me, the person who knows me best, was drastic.

Getting into the ups and downs of how I got to where I am right at this very moment is difficult to craft.  I feel proud that I have finally created the space, time and energy to cultivate parts of myself that I have suppressed for years.

My hope: That my essays inspire movement whether it is in yourself, in your mindset, perspective or community. That my writing helps you explore your own voice, strengthen it and share it. Loudly and Proudly.

Vamos.

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This was taken during my last couple of days in high school in my journalism classroom.  That computer was my baby.

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This is me and my red pen editing the pages  of The New Paltz Oracle.