Read about Caroline’s daily inspirations as an Energy Corps member;
“Did you save the world today, Captain Carbon?” asks my housemate.
“Not quite,” I sheepishly respond.
This has become a fairly common end of the day question from my housemate, who is excessively proud of the nickname he has given me. For weeks now I’ve been trying to come up with a snarky response that both acknowledges the absurdity of that question and recognizes the importance of the work that the City of Missoula is doing – I’m still working on it. In all seriousness, I honestly do feel like I’m working with a group of people who have the completely overwhelming and thrilling goal of “changing the world,” as something that motivates them every morning. I was excited when I decided to accept my Energy Corps position with the City of Missoula, but I had no idea that my work would expose me to an infectious energy each and everyday.
Part of this energy comes from the worthwhile and diverse work that I’m involved in on a daily basis. My supervisor has been tremendous in exposing me to exciting projects, and he’s enabled me to take ownership over my work and find a niche for myself within City Hall. A typical day ranges from working with the city’s planners on “Our Missoula,” the ongoing 20-year planning process, throwing an event with the community climate action planning group, or guest lecturing in a university classroom. The work is exciting and dynamic, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to explore many different professions in one AmeriCorps position. Each day I learn more about my professional comfort zone and where I see myself in the future – – now, I can’t imagine going to graduate school without having had this experience. Of course, there are the less glamorous days of data entry or analysis when these feelings aren’t quite as vibrant, but it’s not hard to remember the big picture and why the work is of the utmost importance. For the days when the big picture is hazier than normal, there are always podcasts.
Equally exciting are the culture and people of Missoula. Missoula has proven to be a worthy place to call home, and it’s a city that I’m not fond of leaving for the near future. This city continues to pleasantly surprise me – a most recent example being its score of a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index. The people that comprise Missoula somehow reaffirm all of my life’s twists and turns that have led me to this place. The more people I meet in Missoula’s climate action planning world, the more times I hear myself saying, “I want to be you when I grow up!” It’s wonderful to go home at the end of the day and realize what awesome people are working in your desired field – it’s as if I have a group of floating voices yelling at me, “Yes! This is it!”
A few weeks ago, a group of friends and I were hiking in the Bitterroot Mountains south of Missoula, and someone posed the question, “If you had all of the money in the world, what would you be doing?” Before I quite realized it, I was answering, “I’d be here.” I thought about it more as the day progressed, and the further I reflected on it, the more I realized that the sentiment was true. The rest of that day only confirmed it, with a trip to a brewery on the way home and a folk show at the local’s favorite Top Hat Lounge later that night. There were a few instances that day when I forced myself to stop, look around, breathe, and remember because I knew it would be one of those memories that I would look back on when I needed to conjure up a happy memory. These moments of sublime consciousness have been plentiful since arriving in Missoula, even if Captain Carbon’s world saving mission happens one incremental and slow step at a time.
Caroline Lauer graduated from Harvard University in May of 2014 with a degree in History and Literature. She completed course work at the Graduate School of Design, and hopes to pursue a Masters of Urban Planning in the near future. Caroline is serving with the City of Missoula this year, updating their greenhouse gas emissions inventory.