Story last updated at 3/13/2013 - 2:06 pm
Ever wondered about someone you pass on the sidewalk, see in the grocery store, or heard mentioned in stories? This is our attempt to track those people down, and grill them, lightly.
Whatever the alternative to laughing out loud is, (laughing inside, quietly?), that's what you do all the time around Samantha Lawson. It's not so much that she emits funny; she just seems to approach life with this outlook that's unbounded by socially constructed rigidity, which is refreshing. Giddily refreshing.
She's from Portland, and thinks just that sheer fact is entertaining.
"I begrudgingly have the cliché things associated with Portland," Lawson said. "But when I go back there, you're a unicorn. Everyone that lives there that is not from there, says 'Oh my god you're from here? That's so cool.' But is it? It's just a place you're born. They moved there because they're young and free spirited and Idaho sucks."
Lawson has a brother who is two years younger than her. Her parents divorced when she was four, and her father moved closer to the coast. He remarried to a woman with two daughters, one a year older than Lawson, one a year older than her brother. They also had a child of their own, and to describe the family situation Lawson has a well-practiced "visual" demonstration, using various fingers overlapping and one thumb sticking out at the bottom representing her half-sister, who she calls "The Caboose."
There were enough kids running around, Lawson said, that they didn't just play house, they played wolf pack.
"We could play Ninja Turtles," Lawson said. "We didn't need to borrow neighbor kids. We'd have pinecone fights, or we'd devise very elaborate government systems. Everyone had a house; we had some sort of currency. This kind of rock that was super hard to find was of highest value, pinecones were lower. We'd trade services."
After high school Lawson went to Linfield College, a small liberal arts school in Oregon. She chose it because she wanted professors that were accessible.
"I hated it," she said. "It was a bunch of rich kids whose parents were paying for everything and the level of apathy was unbearable."
Lawson has a fascination with what her mother calls the "seedy underbelly of life." As Lawson describes it, "people's tribulations, people's addictions, people's lesser times in their lives."
After her first year of school she followed a boy up to Fairbanks for the summer. She worked cleaning Boeing 737s and four days before student applications were due, she enrolled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
After six years she had both an art degree and a biology degree and had taken all the pre-medical school requisites as well. She said the Fairbanks region had enough of that underbelly to fuel her.
"Fairbanks can draw just these strange people which I like," Lawson said. "It's cold. You either go to church or bars. A lot of people move there to get away from something: their family or the law."
Lawson then enrolled in an accelerated one-year nursing program in Denver. A friendship with a man from Hoonah who she had met in Fairbanks sprouted into a romantic relationship, and she took her nursing degree to Juneau with him.
In April of 2012 she began working in the medical/surgical unit at Bartlett Regional Hospital, where she said, she's gets to experience the underbelly.
"I like all this drama in people's lives," she said. "I deal with difficult situations. I can do it in a way that's helpful to my community and to the people but I still get to experience these out-of-the-ordinary situations. That's what's satisfying that weird fascination."
When asked about her dreams for the future, Lawson smirked.
"I really like medicine and health care," she said. "More of that. But what venue? Do I want to be a nurse, a physician's assistant, a doctor? And of those varieties of health care professions, what focus do I have?"
Big choices, but she didn't seem fazed.
"Nothing is permanent," she said. "It's really OK. You can change your life."
Amanda Compton is the staff writer at Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.