Julia L. Nelson: An auto-ethnography

Long, long ago, in a kingdom far away, there lived a princess named Juliana Maria. Despite her privileged lifestyle, she was always going on adventures and learning life lessons that made her more down to earth.

“I totally made them up as we went along and you loved them,” my mother, Amy Louise Bobchek, said. Juliana Maria was a fictional girl that she used to represent me in a series of bedtime stories when I was little. In our kingdom, she was Queen Almandine.

Perhaps it was those stories that sparked my over-zealous love for fiction as a child, but when I was younger, I knew I wanted to be a writer — I just didn’t know what kind. I used to spend hours on my first ever laptop when I was in middle school, pounding away at the keys, writing stories for me, myself and I. There was a sort of romanticized feeling I got when I was writing, although now, the more practical side of me much prefers to write non-fiction.

My mother confirms this.

“You did a lot of essay type writing, argumentative writing, less creative writing,” she said. “One thing I remember is you writing an essay argument about why you should get a cell phone. I gave it to my management team at work to make a decision – they voted unanimously in your favor and I got you one.”

I wrote that essay prior to entering 6th grade. I’ll never forget receiving my first-ever cellular telephone, a hot pink Razr flip phone. Man, could I type on that thing.

Although Amy is obviously my mother and therefore inherently bias, she has told me that she thought my writing stood out among my peers as I moved along through the public school system.

“I remember being so impressed with how little superfluous BS you had in any of your writing,” she told me.  “Typically teenage writing is full of flowery garbage, but your style was so to the point, but expressive at the same time.”

When I entered high school, I decided to take the Introduction to Journalism Class my freshman year of high school on a whim. After all, I wasn’t talented enough to play in the band or to paint beautiful pictures in art. Writing was something I could do.

I still, to this day, consider registering for that class a turning point in my career. It was in that class that I learned how to be confident, which I was forced to do when interviewing my sources. It was also where I learned valuable lessons like integrity in journalism and the significance of AP Style and the inverted pyramid — I have one tattooed on my left wrist now, seven years later.

My mother has told me that I have an intuitive nature about storytelling. I have harnessed that intuition in my college career and poured my heart and soul into working for The Breeze, the student-run multimedia news platform of JMU. It is the greatest team I have ever been a part of.

I recently searched my own name on The Breeze’s website and 53 hits came up — since my articles average around 650 words a piece, that means I’ve written around 34,000  words for this publication. I have loved each and every one of them.

I asked my mother what kind of career path she thinks I would be suited for, and she told me “I think you’d be fantastic in any communications role – journalistic, blogging, whatever.  You’ve got a great talent for writing and it can be leveraged in any environment that has an audience, in my view.”

While it seems incredibly self-serving to include all of these quotes about what a special snowflake I was when I was in grade school, it’s still interesting to see myself through the eyes of the adult who raised me.

As a testimony to my own recollection of reading, writing and learning, I made this timeline to commemorate the turning points:

But alas, time is still ticking.

There are many things that could have gone on that timeline that never made it on there, though, like my first social media accounts. I began using Instagram fairly early, before it was a mainstream social media platform (aren’t I so cool?).

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This is the current header of my Instagram profile, nuliajelson. In the eight plus years I’ve been using the application, I have posted a grand total of 1,035 pictures. However, my following is incredibly underwhelming, at only 352 followers. One would think that after all this time, I would have at least hit the 500 follower mark. Oh well.

My other favorite social media platform is Twitter. Unlike Instagram, I don’t really care if I have followers on Twitter because I consider it a space to just freely express myself in words. I joined Twitter in February of 2012, when I was a junior in high school, and have since tweeted 1,737 tweets. These are mainly made up of mundane thoughts, silly song lyrics or retweets of articles I find interesting. But every once in awhile, I decide to take part in a popular hashtag. It makes me feel more connected to the world, like I’m participating in history. For example, the #ImWithHer hashtag that I recently used will be fun to look back on in a few years and remember the day before Hillary Clinton’s election.

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All in all, my reading, writing and learning habits have a long way to go. That’s the beauty of life — there’s always something new to read, something new to write about and of course, without fail, there is always something new to learn.