Editor’s note: LeAnn Blanco is the first of a new crop of columnists writing for the Courier-Herald on a monthly basis for the next year in order to elevate new and diverse voices in our community. Her column series, “Be. See. Do.” will be published the first week of every month.
I am me. If you really want to get to know me, let’s sit and have a conversation. Let’s have dinner or go out for coffee. Those who know me best, know that I am quiet, cautious, at times guarded, and I am very protective of my family.
I can tell you endless cliches of who I am or what “society” labels me as, but those cliches would only describe a part of who others see me as.
Think about that for a minute. What have you allowed others to label you as? When I sit back and contemplate this question, I think of the many ways in which my family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and community neighbors have influenced who I am and how I show up in this community. As a woman, wife, mother, healthcare worker, educator, and proud Latina, I have developed expectations of who I can/should be in each of these settings. It is exhausting!
As I begin to share about myself in this introduction, I ask you to remain open minded, refrain from judgement, and attempt to adopt a perspective that possibly you have never considered. Adopt a perspective that is not your own. Put yourself in my shoes for just a moment.
I grew up in a very small and quaint town in Central Washington. While there are many great memories and experiences of my childhood from my hometown, there are also equally terrible ones – some I felt I could not voice out of fear of hurting someone’s family or potentially being harmed or putting my family in harm’s way. These experiences shaped pieces of who I am and how I show up in my adult life.
I am a lifelong learner, but as a child and well into adolescence, I struggled with school. I was made fun of, called names, and didn’t have many friends. I recall crying to my mom in the mornings, my stomach turning into knots, pleading with her to not make me ride the bus. I do not think that I ever told her the reason behind not wanting to ride the bus. I also do not recall ever being asked why.
As I reflect back, now as a parent, I can’t imagine the weight of life that my mother was carrying. She was in her third marriage, with an elementary education, trying her best to meet the needs of her family. She couldn’t afford to stay home with me, nor could she afford to leave me with anyone. So off to school I went, tears and all.
As I journeyed into middle school and high school, my mind shifted from hating school, to thinking “Maybe I should give this a try.” I learned to love learning, but of course, there were subjects that I wasn’t the best in (namely, math and history – I was the worst at both).
With education now a priority for me, I started learning about careers and began dreaming of what my life could be like if I made enough money – not just for me, but for my entire family. At first, I wanted to be a doctor. And not just any doctor, I wanted to deliver babies! Unfortunately, my new love for learning didn’t extend to the many more years of school that would be required to become one.
But one thing was for sure: I would get as much of an education as I could, because my family never had that opportunity. Recently, I even achieved my masters in education!
I am a fighter and survivor. I’ve survived mental, physical, and emotional abuse. I also choose not to live my life as a victim; I rose from the ashes and got back on my feet and decided that I would be better, do better, and create a better life for my family. I do not carry the weight of someone else’s failures, and I have decided to not carry the weight of my own. Freedom does not exist in the weight of unforgiveness. Freedom, true freedom, is when you can walk in forgiveness and in grace. Making a choice every day to begin fresh.
I am my faith. I am here today because of all that life has given me and, to some extent, taken away. I am resilient, forgiving, loving, kind, full of grace, because I have been given all of these in my journey, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
I am who I am because of all of these experiences: the good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes, I’ve let the “bad” and the “ugly” define me. Other times, I’ve embraced the “good”. On this writing journey, you will see both.
Fast forward to the present: I am married to my best friend of 20-plus years. He is my rock, my supporter, my encouragement, my day one. Together, we have four amazing young men.
We relocated to the Pacific Northwest in 2012 and planted ourselves in Enumclaw. We consider ourselves transplants and have truly grown roots here in the community. I am passionate about community and people. This is what drew me to contemplate becoming a columnist. I care deeply about the Plateau and the people that reside here.
Unfortunately, because of where I reside (outside city limits), I am unable to serve on the city council as there is only one position that is allowed for “out of city limits.” I love to serve. So, in lieu of not being able to serve on council, I am pursuing lifting my voice and the voice of many others through this platform. The next best thing to serving my community is giving a voice to the community that is hidden. In my writing, I am hoping to provide a voice and a perspective that perhaps many do not hear, see or experience.
I am excited to get this opportunity to share my voice with this community in hopes to raise awareness to the many challenges, opportunities, and solutions we can make in this beautiful town I call home. I look forward to the many connections, collaborations and welcome feedback. Cheers to the next 12 months!