Trendsetter to Know: Writer Jenna Medlin-Roark

Name: Jenna Medlin-Roark





Age: 22

Title: Freelance Journalist

Married/Single: I am married to my high school sweetheart of 6 years. Our wedding was postponed until September due to COVID-19 but we decided to elope on June 7th, 2020 with our family’s blessings.

Kids: I do not have any children but hope to start my family within the next year!

City you live in: Phoenix

A typical day in my life includes… talking to my family, I have seven siblings and four parents, working from home, writing on my blog, working on articles, watching The Office, and of course spending time with my cats!

I was born… on March 31st, 1998 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina to my parents who were both active-duty soldiers at the time.

My favorite thing about Arizona… is looking out into the beautiful landscape as I am driving down the road. I have always grown up around a coastal landscape so being in Arizona is something so much different than what I have ever experienced.

I’m listening to… Taylor Swift’s Folklore album at the moment. It reminds me of childhood fantasies and is so easy to sing along with. I find myself replaying the song “Peace” on the album while riding in the car.

My family… is the most important group of people in my life. They are the craziest bunch of people I have ever known but they are incredibly special to me and I would give anything for any of them. We are a blended family, I have two stepparents, 2 stepsiblings, 2 biological siblings, and 3 half-siblings. Those are just the technical terms. For me, they are mom, dad, brother, and sister. I love them all the same and it is the greatest gift in life. 

If I could have dinner with anyone… it would be Taylor Swift, for sure. I am a hardcore Swiftie. I admire her songwriting abilities and her humility towards her fans and others. Her poetry inspires me as a journalist, and she empowers me as a woman. “The Man,” from the album “Lover,” is one of my favorite songs. Her work ethic and determination are contagious. If I could tell her one thing, it would be that when she adopted her third cat, Benjamin, I decided that I wanted to adopt at cat as well. Now, I have Socks, Hershey, and the newest member of the family, Milo.

One thing I cannot live without… would probably have to be my computer. Not for the reasons you may think, i.e. social media or Netflix, but because it contains all of my written work and pictures. You might say, “Jenna, you can just write by hand” but I write way too often and way too much that I would run out of room in the journal I keep on my bedside table.

When I was younger… I wanted to be a neurologist. I grew up with epilepsy and had eight grand mal seizures. While my case is pale in comparison to others, it still shaped mine and my family’s life in a way we had never imagined. My neurologist said my epilepsy would be lifelong and since I was 14 years old, I have been on seizure medication. At the time, I wanted to help those who living with seizure disorders, as I did. I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a show called “Seizing” put on by students in the University of North Carolina Wilmington Performance Studies program with Dr. Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock, one of the best professors I have ever met. This show told the stories of those living with seizures, verbatim, in black box performance. My role in this show consisted of promotion, media relations, and social media managing. 

I’m inspired by… the strong women in my life. Both of my moms raised their children almost entirely by themselves whilst going to school full time and holding full-time jobs. My dad struggled with alcoholism in the early part of my life, but we are so proud of him that he has been five years sober this year. My stepdad, who has been in the Army for 23 years this November and is a two-time bronze star recipient, was constantly deployed as I grew up.

The one person who motivates me… is my husband. Raised to be an independent and hardworking woman, I always longed for someone to cheer me on through my successes and cry next to me in my failures. I needed someone who supported my endeavors of going to my dream college, enroll in Harvard, and become a journalist. I found that in my husband who I met while in high school where my family had been stationed in Leesville, Louisiana. He was in a band and I was in a color guard. He would cheer me on from the sidelines at football games and the bleachers at my indoor performances. When I decided to move to North Carolina for education at UNC, I told him, “I am leaving to pursue my degree. I know that you will want to stay here with your family, but nothing is more important to me than to accomplish this dream of mine.” Being the amazing man, he is, he told me that he wanted nothing more than to come with me. “There is nowhere in the world I would rather be,” he said. He was and still is quite the charmer. Everything I do is to make him proud. He cheers for me the loudest.

If I could change anything in the world… it would be eradicating racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and anything else that marginalizes a specific group of people. I have watched my brother bullied over being a gay man, sexism my mother faced as a female soldier, and my stepdad dubbed as the immigrant by other even after giving the ultimate sacrifice to this country. It is devastating to see the marginalization of black men and women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and several other groups. As a white woman, I will never know what it is like to be unjustly judged by others based on my race, sexual preference, or nationality but what I can do is stand with those of these communities for equality and use my voice for good. Within these groups of people lie stories and experiences that I, as a journalist, find fascinating and empowering.

The perfect day… would be with my whole family, sitting around a bonfire with my dad on the guitar and brother on the ukulele or bass. He takes song suggestions as my stepmom, Kristina, belches out the lyrics alongside my sisters and me. There is a certain sense of peace being around the ones you love most.

My first job was… at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC. I was enrolled at UNC as a nursing major and thought working at the local hospital as a nurse aide would give me applicable knowledge into the field. While it did help with my knowledge, I could never have become a nurse. There is no career I admire more than that of nurses and nurse aides. It was a complete wakeup call into the struggles our community faces. Opioid and alcohol addictions were abundant. I oftentimes had to watch as families struggled to face the fact that their family members were near the end of life. As devasting as it was to witness, I have never felt a greater sense of purpose in my life.

My favorite escape is… to write. Most of the time, I find myself journaling or getting onto the computer and writing down my thoughts. I was inspired the other day whilst visiting the beach at how hard the waves crashed right before a hurricane hit the coast. I watched as a woman sitting on the sand was hit unexpectedly by a wave as the tide came in. She spun in a 360 and slapped her hand onto the ground to regain her balance. That moment felt like the year of 2020 all in one instance.

My life… is filled with wonderful memories and people who I love and care about greatly. Things have not always been easy to accomplish but we continue to push forward, accomplishing new things as a family and individuals every day.

I’m currently working on… my blog. I enjoy writing daily but do not always have time to interview new people for stories every day. In my undergraduate, I was dual-enrolled in a graduate class focused on autoethnography. This was the process of looking into one’s self to find stories within their own lives and tell them so that it could perhaps help someone else. This is what I hope my blog will be as I continue to work on it in the coming months.

Always… listen to your heart, brain, and soul. No one knows what you want more than you do. Take the risk or make the jump. You may be surprised by where life takes you. I have learned it is best not to plan as life never goes the way you imagine it will. Live in the moment.

Never… doubt yourself or let other opinions bring you down. You know your worth and your passion for whatever you set your mind on may it be work, school, or even family. Give everything every ounce of energy. When you are tired that is when you find the greatest growth in the depths of despair. When you come out on the other end, you will be stronger, wiser, and happier knowing that YOU accomplished your goal against all odds.

Favorite Quote… “Life isn’t how to survive the storm; it’s about how to dance in the rain.” – Taylor Swift

Biggest Dream… to be a successful journalist able to share stories from those around the world. I am not sure where my life will take me. I think it would be awesome to be an opinion writer at the New York Times or a royal correspondent in the UK. I have always been fascinated by the institution of the monarchy. My husband thinks my extensive knowledge of the British Royal Family is one of my weirdest quirks. I am able to name the first 20 people in the line of succession off the top of my head and all of their titles.

My Pet Peeve… is crunching chips or hard foods. I can hear it from another room. I can feel heat rush through my body because it annoys me so much. When we eat together, my husband tries to get things that do not crunch so that I do not get upset. I know it sounds crazy and high maintenance, but nothing drives me crazier!

More About Jenna Medlin-Roark:
My name is Jenna Medlin-Roark and I am a freelance journalist. I recently graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies focusing on journalism and storytelling. I am now a student at Harvard University working on my Master of Liberal Arts in Investigative Journalism with a certificate in Digital Storytelling. I relocated to Phoenix for journalism opportunities and to be closer to my family who have lived in Phoenix for years. I grew up in a military family having three parents who were all active duty soldiers. Most of my life was spent in Fort Bragg, NC where I call home. We lived in Leesville, LA for five years where I met my husband, Josh who I have been with for six years. My passion is storytelling and writing. I love listening to the stories of others and relaying them to an audience. It is liberating being able to write and inspiring listening to stories.

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