Spotlight on Scarleteen: Karyn

If you've ever come to the Scarleteen message boards in a jam or just happen to like reading up on expert sex ed advice, then chances are you already know Karyn a.k.a. Karybu from her compassionate, knowledgeable, and very personalized responses in Ask Scarleteen or Emergencies and Crises. In fact, since 2004, Karyn has been lending her ear and dolling out advice at Scarleteen. Since then, Karyn has earned her college degree, turned her volunteer work here into an awesome career and moved halfway across the world for love, but she still finds time to return to her beloved online home-away-from-home, Scarleteen.

As caring and compassionate as Karyn is, there's so much more to this multifaceted "child of the universe", as she once so fittingly called her personal thread on the boards. To continue a theme of alliteration, some other choice "c" words that come to mind to describe Karyn include Canadian, coffee-loving, committed, curious, and creative.

A Canadian citizen who currently calls Queensland, Australia home, Karyn was born in Ottawa but grew up mostly in Minnesota, then headed to British Columbia for university, and currently resides in Queensland, Australia. Committed to those near and dear to her, whether close or afar, Karyn makes sure to keep up with her great friends and supportive family in Canada despite the 17 hour time difference!

Karyn has a natural curiosity and genuine thirst for knowledge, be it reading everything she can get her hands on or planning on earning her PhD and becoming a professor one day.

Speaking of thirst, Karyn is quite the coffee-connoisseur, so much, in fact, that her board username was inspired by one popular coffee chain.

As for names, creative could be her middle name. Through mediums such as dance and photography, Karyn likes to express herself through visual, kinestitic, and verbal mediums. While I have not yet met her in person, I have vouch for Karyn's eye for photos as well as her sparkling eyes and bright smile which so clearly display her authentic affability.

In addition to her valuable responses in the expert areas of the board, Karyn has started many neat discussion topics, such as one on the Pros and Cons of Universal Health Care, another on dealing with mental illness, and this one that encourages users to share the sweet, simple things in their lives. Karyn also posted her first blog entry last week, a first of a series on her experiences with the Implanon birth control device.

Without any further ado, we proudly present to you Karyn's interview!

Hello! Could you please share some basic information about yourself?
Hey! I'm Karyn, almost 25, currently residing in tropical north Queensland, Australia.

What do you do at Scarleteen?
Mostly I'm on the message boards answering questions, and officially I moderate Sex Basics & Sexual Health, and Support Groups. Gender Issues and Sexual Ethics & Politics are also areas I keep a close eye on. I recently finished my first blog entry, and will definitely be posting more in the near future.

How did you get your username? When I was in high school in Minnesota, there was a chain of coffee shops called Caribou Coffee that was pretty popular. As a longtime coffee addict, I spent a lot of time at the one nearest my house, until my friends started calling me Caribou as a joke. I just changed the spelling to combine it with my name. (My younger sister called me K-bu as a child, which is where I got the -bu at the end.)

How long have you been active at Scarleteen? When did you start volunteering?
I first started reading the articles and the boards in.....2004, I think, and lurked for a bit before I actually registered. Early 2006 was when I got an email from Heather asking if I wanted to volunteer – of course I jumped at the chance!

What initially brought you to Scarleteen, and what’s kept you around? Initially, I came to Scarleteen because of a pregnancy scare, and stuck around because it is such a fantastic, diverse, welcoming community. By now, ST kind of feels like my home online, a great group of people I'm tickled to be part of.

Do you have a favorite ST article, thread or feature?
My very favourite article is Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner. It is just so, so important – and I reread it every once in awhile when I need to remind myself to communicate, communicate, communicate!

What’s been the best part of volunteering? What have been some of your most memorable moments here?
There are so many great things about volunteering here – picking the best is almost impossible. I guess my favourite thing is the warm fuzzies I get when I can tell I've really helped someone out.

If you are willing to talk about it, could you please share the biggest challenge you’d faced while volunteering at Scarleteen? My biggest challenge – with any kind of volunteering – is reminding myself that it is okay to step back once in awhile, and remembering that I am not superhuman and can't fix everything for everyone. I tend to stress myself out trying to do waaaaay too much, and that doesn't do anybody any good.

Now that we have gotten to know more about your involvement behind-the-scenes at Scarleteen, let’s move to getting to know the person beyond-the-computer-screen.

Could you please tell us more about your life outside of Scarleteen. What do you do?
At the moment, I'm a university student, working on my honours (the last year of a bachelor's degree) in medical anthropology. How I got here is a long story, but I'm having lots of fun being a nerd and stretching my brain at the same time, which is so so cool. I live with my charmingly geeky marine biologist partner, an equally charming stressed-out med student roommate, and lots and lots of plants. I drink a LOT of coffee, and I tend to talk too much.

How do you typically use the computer and internet? Are there any other sites you like to frequent or recommend? Do you have a blog or something else you’d like to share?
Lately, most of my computer and internet use has been to keep in touch with my family and friends in Canada. Phone calls are tough to coordinate with a 17 hour time difference, so email has become very important! I get most of my news online – from a few different sources. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – of which I am a huge fan - doesn't air here in Australia, so I watch that online as well. And of course, Facebook!

Where are you coming from? Could you please share some of your roots with us? I am Canadian, and was born in Ottawa, but spent most of my childhood and teen years in Minnesota, where I graduated from high school. The university I went to is in British Columbia, so I spent 5 years there, and that's where I really think of as home – something about the Pacific Northwest appeals to me. During my last year at uni, I met my wonderful partner and about a year and a half ago, I followed him halfway around the world to Australia. Craziness!

My family are all incredibly close, but my mum, younger sister and I all have various mental health issues, so there was a fair bit of tumult around that when I was growing up. One of my most important relationships is with my sister – we're very close in age, and although we're complete opposites in pretty much every way, we can talk about anything. I also have a small but awesome and very close group of friends in BC, who I miss a lot since moving to Australia. I also really miss my dad – we are so much alike and get along so well it's hard not talking to him as often.

Whom do you turn to for advice and support? It depends on what I need! My partner is a big source of support in general – he's great about my depression and anxiety issues - as are my friends. My dad is great at giving more practical advice, and he's good just to talk to when I'm feeling a bit down. My sister is awesome for random giggly conversations and relationship advice.

What are some of your hobbies, interests, and passions?
Reading. Definitely reading. I was pretty much born with my nose in a book, and usually have several on the go in different places around the house. The last couple of years I've really gotten into photography, and I've always loved pretty much any physical activity. Politics is also a big passion of mine, and something I'd really like to get more active with.

There used to be a popular bumper sticker that said, “I’d rather be dancing.” What would you rather be doing? Dancing! It's something I've been doing my entire life, despite my extreme clumsiness and distinct lack of grace. I don't have as much free time anymore, but I still take ballet class as often as I can. It's a great form of stress relief as well as exercise. Other than that, I love everything I do now, as hectic as it all is, and wouldn't change it for anything.

Would you mind sharing your plans for the future or long-term goals?
My main goal for the next few years is to finish my honours, get my PhD, and either go to work as a professor at a university, or maybe a non-profit organization. Anthropologists aren't really in huge demand, but hopefully there's something out there for me! My area of research is sex ed and sexual health, which (sadly) seems to throw some academics for a loop, but maybe with time that will change. Ideally, I'll end up back home somewhere in British Columbia. It would be awesome to take a year and travel around the world at some point.

Now that we’ve heard about your involvement at Scarleteen as well as your personal life, could you please share how how your tenure at ST has affected your life offline and vice versa? Scarleteen has affected my life in so many ways. It's helped me learn to express myself better and communicate my needs more in relationships, and I'm an anthropologist focusing on sexual health because of ST. Being able to do something I enjoy and am good at has helped my self-esteem's cool being the go-to girl for information for all my friends. Plus, I've met so many cool people this way!

Is there anything that you’d like to share?
There's not much left to say! This has been a very thorough interview. I think I need another cup of coffee....

Thank you very much for taking the time to share and giving us the opportunity to get to know you better, Karyn. Good luck in all your future endeavors, and see you around Scarleteen!

What is Spotlight on Scarleteen? Find out more by clicking here.