There’s nothing like erasing the 58 posts that have accumulated in your draft folder to make you reflect on your journey of blogging. Let’s start at the beginning…

BORN AND RAISED IN FRESNO, BUT I KNEW LITTLE ABOUT MY HOMETOWN

The idea for That Fresno Blog didn’t happen overnight. It started with one of my favorite economics classes at Fresno State: Regional Economics. It was taught by a lawyer-turned-college professor who had recently moved from Atlanta to Fresno. The door of his office had one piece of decoration: a fortune cookie that read, “you’ll make a great teacher some day.” He told me that he received that fortune the day he quit his job to become a teacher. He was a great teacher, indeed.

Regional Economics focused on urban development and how the free market and the public sector shape a city’s landscape. He tied what we were learning to Fresno. Towards the end of the semester, my professor asked the class to write one page on why businesses should relocate to Fresno.

This assignment should’ve been a breeze. I was born and raised in Fresno. If you’ve ever met my father, chances are you’ve heard him say the Stumpf family has lived in Fresno since 1898. I was planning to start a career where my job was to convince people to invest in Fresno.

But when it came time to write, I froze. My hand hovered over the keyboard as I struggled to start the essay. Minutes later, I managed to type on sentence: “Fresno is the gateway to Yosemite.”

That’s all I could think of — one sentence that’s hammered into our heads from birth but has little to do with actually living in Fresno.

Fresno had to be more than just a pit stop.

Fresno State Economics Club Photo -2011- By Alex Larralde (1)
I hold up a sign I painted for Fresno State’s Economics Club.

Like any decent college student, I only had a few hours before the assignment was due. I feverishly researched on the internet.

Okay, that sounds a bit dramatic.

I actually took breaks to check how many “likes” my latest selfie on Facebook got and contemplate whether I had enough time to take a nap.

Drama aside, I did not expect one sentence to turn into eight pages. Now I struggled with cutting my essay down!

APPRECIATING, CELEBRATING, LEARNING ABOUT FRESNO

I doubt my professor expected any of us to have some sort of revelation, but I did. The assignment made me realize that I knew little about Fresno. I had settled on this idea that Fresno was just a pit stop, and I had never bothered to learn more about my hometown. I knew I wasn’t the only one.

Instead, I – we – should work towards appreciating, celebrating and learning about our city.

We’re expected to be embarrassed for choosing to live in Fresno. I still felt that way months later when I was awarded Outstanding Student for the economics department at Fresno State’s end-of-the-year banquet.

Fresno Graduation & Banquet - Veronica Stumpf - That Fresno Blog
Top: My dad and grandma sit with me at the Fresno State Outstanding Students’ Banquet. Bottom: My siblings (from left to right), David, Alex, and Erin pose with me for a photo after my college graduation.

I was grateful for being recognized, but I was far from comfortable. I wore a stiff vintage dress with tights — not the most forgiving outfit when you’re chowing down on appetizers loaded with salt. My frugal grandmother unfolded aluminum foil from her Mary Poppins sized bag to save food for later.

To top it off, I was in a room full of over-achievers. One was going to grad school in San Francisco. Another was moving to the East Coast for law school. I was the only one who didn’t have plans to move out of Fresno or continue my formal education.

For me, the logical next step was to get my real estate license. “If you fail, there’s always real estate,” my dad, a real estate broker, says. It’s meant as a joke but, that day, I felt like a complete failure.

MAKING THE MOST OUT OF STAYING IN FRESNO

The day I graduated, I promised myself I would sleep for at least two days. No homework. No responsibilities. Just sleep. I woke up after two hours and wondered what the heck I was going to do with my life. I was a 20-year-old having a midlife crisis.

All of this free time felt foreign to me, so I finally decided to start a blog. Better make the most out of staying in Fresno.

I was shy about the idea at first. No one would want to read about what makes a city commonly on “Top 10 worst cities” lists great.

I revealed the idea, one evening, to Ben (Ben later had a tremendous part in helping me start That Fresno Blog, including coming up with the name). Ben wasn’t born in Fresno but made his way to Fresno for school.

Fulton Mall - 2011 - Veronica Stumpf - By Benjamin Baxter
Ben captures me writing down notes during my first visit to the Fulton Mall in downtown Fresno. My experience, that day, turned into content for my first post on That Fresno Blog.

As we were walking around his neighborhood in River Park, I mused that there was a lack of people talking about Fresno in a positive way. I wanted to share the stories of the people who live here. He thought it was a good idea. Perhaps he was being kind, but it was the support I needed to start. I would later find out that my assumption no one was blogging about Fresno was wrong, but that’s for another post.

With the money I was awarded for being an Outstanding Student, I purchased a domain name and a WordPress theme. That was the easy part.

I started That Fresno Blog knowing little about blogging. When you’re an econ major, you spend more time graphing your diminishing rate of marginal utility from eating a bowl of ice cream than learning about digital media or writing. There was so much more to learn…

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Coming Next: 10 Things I Learned Blogging About Fresno

5 COMMENTS

  1. Love the new revamped blog, Vern! /swoon, you’re such an all-star! (also, “..contemplate whether I had enough time to take a nap.” story of my life)

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