J500 Media and the Environment

About Me: Lauren Keith by Lauren Keith

Mmm, how I hate people with two first names.

I love hearing other people’s stories much more than I enjoy hearing my own, so I usually pare it down to the bone and probably make myself seem much more boring than I really am.

I grew up in the suburbian black hole that is west Wichita. I lived in the same house for 18 years until I moved to Lawrence. I went to school with a very cookie-cutter group of people, nearly all average, white, middle-class Kansans, kids of parents who wanted their children to go to a school whose name was a synonym of the word “corn.”

Since I was young, I’ve developed strange fascinations for things that I’ve “felt sorry for.” First it was the state of Utah, then it was Neptune, and then it was playing the French horn. I didn’t know why, but no one else liked these things, so I figured that I should and that I should show other people that these other things were not as weird or bad as they thought. Okay, except Utah.

Maybe that’s how I ended up a liberal, atheist, German-speaking tree-hugger from a community that prides itself on its ultra-conservative religion, its gun stash and its uncanny ability to forget that the rest of the world exists.

I’ve always loved to write. The first thing that I really remember writing and my teacher being amazed by was a story that I wrote in the fifth grade about traveling on the Amazon River. Just like the game Amazon Trail, I had to cure people who had malaria before my boat capsized or before I got eaten by piranhas or something else bad happened to me in 8-bit color.

Somehow from that, I thought journalism was the natural direction to go in. Somewhere along the line, I grew tired of writing and found something else to feel sorry for: commas. People forgot these poor guys all the time, but I vowed that I never would.

During my senior year of high school, my newspaper adviser told me that I should go to a speech the next day and write a story about it. She handed me a brochure with the speaker’s name on it: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. She said that this was the opportunity of a lifetime and that I was lucky to go.

I laughed. I had no idea who this guy was, but I was glad that he was giving me the opportunity to miss a day of school.

Kennedy’s speech was absolutely amazing and opened up something new in me. I felt his urgency, his passion. I just couldn’t believe that he cared so much about something that so many people didn’t even think twice about.

“An Inconvenient Truth” came out that summer, and of course, it wasn’t playing in Wichita, but I had to come up to Lawrence for freshman orientation. A nice two-fer.

Once again, I was amazed. The first time I saw it, I actually started tearing up when Al says, “We can do this! Each of us is a cause of global warming, and each of us can change it.” (wow, I’ve never actually admitted that to anyone before, I hope no one is still reading this).

So here I am: in journalism (I’m still trying to convince myself that I’m in it for more than the commas) with a nice side of environmental studies.

People keep asking me what I’m going to do with those degrees, and for someone who has had her entire life planned out in to-do-list format, it’s been really difficult telling people that I don’t know.

Saving the world is a nice resume filler, they say, but what are you really going to do?

Thankfully, this class has solidified that a bit more for me.

I’m hoping that someday my brain will become smart enough for the science side of the environment, but until then, I will just stick to informing other people about it.

—Lauren Keith


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6 Comments so far
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God, I loved that Oregon Trail game… wish we had the Amazon one, it sounds even more intense. Did you ever play “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego” – awesome too.

I also teared up during an “Inconvenient Truth,” but I’ll raise you one by telling you I teared up when people were chanting during the caucus at the armory. Yeah, my mom made fun of me.

~ Sarah H

Comment by shemme

But what about when Pluto became un-planetized? Did you feel sorry for it?

I did.


Comment by kimwallace

Ah, the suburban black hole that is west Wichita (where my sister and her family currently reside). Fortunately, I grew up in the suburbs of EAST Wichita…and let me tell you, night and day! First of all, we didn’t stash our guns, we just threw ’em in a big neighborhood pile…and not only did we have a propensity for forgetting the rest of the world, we often had to be reminded there was a “west” side of town!

Meanwhile, I heard RFK Jr., too, when he came here recently (a year or so back…) I, too, thought he had some great things to say, especially about corporate accountability (and the current lack thereof).

Anyway, as Wichita survivors, we need to stick together…and I’m here to tell you not to worry, the “Wichita” wears off after about five years of living in Lawrence (that is, until we turn Lawrence into the next Wichita).


Comment by rarab

What’s wrong with Utah? I loved living there.
Ok, maybe not the religious overtones, but the rest of it was quite nice.


Comment by Adam Bowman

I’ll tell you what’s wrong wtih Utah…they have a pro franchise called THE JAZZ?!!! Who was the last jazz great to come out of Utah? (And The Osmonds don’t count as jazz). That’s just wrong. Really, really wrong.


Comment by rarab

[…] don’t know if this “about me” post can ever kick more ass than my last one (now buried in the archives of yester-semester), but we’ll […]

Pingback by About Me (again): Lauren Keith « J500 Media and Environment

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