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  • Emily Van Gorder-Pantig

Lauren

Lauren is one of my oldest friends. Although ironically, this interview is one that even a year ago I couldn't have imagined I would be writing.


Did you ever have that one particular friend in college who you were in just in utter awe? You know the one who the girls all wanted to be and the boys all wanted to be with....and/or the boys wanted to be and the girls also wanted to be with...(No gender bias here😉 ) That was Lauren for me. She was elusive in spirit, talented, and intelligent. Best of all, she just didn't give 2 F's what anyone thought about her.


In the fall of 2003, I was a transfer to the University of Redlands and I didn't know anyone. This was a very small school and slowly but surely, I would be introduced to the students who were in my major. Naturally being a music major, I had to join University choir followed by private voice lessons I was an alto and I remember seeing Lauren across the room in the soprano section and thinking, "Wow. She is really pretty. She also seems super cool. I am definitely not cool enough to introduce myself. I'll just avoid her until we happen to run into each other". (Such a positive way of thinking in my college years. Headsmack.) Eventually, I discovered we had the same vocal coach and just as I was about to leave one my first lessons, someone knocked on the door. Patty, our voice teacher invited them in. There she was. Roughly my height, waist length wavy brown hair that was highlighted from the sun, tanned skin and very toned. She had on flip flops, fitted and flared jeans, a colorful top and her signature lightning bolt necklace. Her backpack hung low and she narrowed her dark eyes towards me with a small smile that seemed to be hiding something. "Emily, have you met Lauren? Lauren, this is Emily. She is new this year." I could feel Lauren sizing me up as she calmly and in the coolest manner shook my hand. "Hey. Welcome to the U of R." I'm sure she then stood back, crossed her arms and capped it off with a comment how we were near the 7th level of Hell. (It's true. Have you ever been to Redlands, Ca? Now pretend you've voluntarily attended to go to school there 9 months out of the year🤣). I just remember her laughing afterwards looking me up and down and me feeling very self conscious but trying HARD to play it cool. I laugh about it now because I know how the wheels were turning in her head. She for sure was sizing me up but this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I didn't know it then but this was an individual who could accurately pick up on someone's true character.


After fishing through some swill of friendships, we would eventually start hanging out on a pretty regular basis and she would become one of my closest friends and someone who I heavily relied on for reality checks. She called me out when I was wrong. She sang with me in my Senior recital and wore pink (which was a HUGE deal) when I asked. She really listened to me when I needed to be heard. I dressed up as her for Halloween. She was the one to who told me to approach our choral instructor and flat out ask to be in the advanced choral group our Senior year because she knew I wouldn't have otherwise had the nerve to do it on my own. The first time I ever tried the devil's lettuce was with her. There were so many evenings of drunken debauchery in her apartment housing. She never sugar coated anything. At the time, I needed it but I didn't know how to fully accept her advice because I can honestly say I wasn't comfortable in my own skin. She was an old soul who was real and firmly rooted in her beliefs whereas I was nowhere near finding myself. I'm quite certain I was a pain in the ass but she saw through it. We sang "For Good" from Wicked at our commencement and graduated in 2005. I look back and think that the majority of my really great college memories usually involved her. .


I moved home and she moved to Anaheim. Lives began to shift. We we starting our adult journeys. There were some personal matters that we were both dealing with individually and eventually, our friendship came to a pause. It took a long time for me to be comfortable with letting everything go and just being ok with understanding that, that chapter of my life had come to a close. It was hard. I missed her. I missed my friend. But a theme that became somewhat of a common one in my adult life after I did a lot of soul searching of my own of "if it's meant to be, it will be" eventually would find it's way back. It would be seven years later this last summer that, that would happen. Ironically, I was very intoxicated and thought it was the substance that was really messing with my head when I saw her face pop up on my screen . A few days later, we reconnected and after years of not talking, everything fit in a new place. She shared some hard things that were happening in her life at the time and I shared mine. We were both now in a place of stability and happiness. We had grown. We could reboot.


She's still just as dry and funny as she was. She has a beautiful baby boy and she married another wonderful professional in the educational field. They are thriving and are a strong family rooted in love and positivity. I am incredibly proud of the strong woman she has become and is demonstrating for her son as well as the young people she serves at her school. She is fierce, she is strength. She's still a badass. She loves her peace and quiet. She is a beautiful vocalist and pianist. She has aged perfectly..aka..looks exactly the same. (Those Filipino genetics can't be beat). She still makes me laugh with her one liners and is someone who I admire. She still doesn't sugar coat anything. That was the quality I found to be most admirable about her when we were younger but had a hard time understanding. Now that I am older, I think back to how lucky I was to have had that person in my life when I wasn't being honest with myself. If we could adopt that quality for ourselves and each other, the world would be such a stronger place. I am so grateful that we were able to meet up again in this crazy life. I look forward to a visit one grand day and libations on a porch.


Lo-Here's to the Queen who always was and still very much is.


*********************************************************************************************

What is your name and how do we know each other?

"(She laughs) Really? Ok. Lauren Seva Hesser and we to college together "


How old are you?

"36"


What are you currently doing with yourself?

"I am married with one kid. He is 3...which is a very fun..but not fun age. I am currently a choral and musical director and dean of students at a catholic high school. "


Are you where you hoped you would be? If not/ Why? If so-what do you love about it and could you see yourself doing anything else?

"I really didn’t have a plan when it came to that kind stuff. I never thought I would be in education. I thought I was far too self centered to be a teacher but now that i am doing it...I can’t see myself doing anything else. I freaking love it. It’s fun. "


Women are becoming a resilient sound that cannot be silenced. What are you doing to contribute that sound?

"Well you know..I do a lot with our female teenage students. I talk to them a lot about self esteem issues regarding their friendships and romantic relationships because a lot of their behaviors get tangled up with their need to be loved and accepted. I tend to take of some of our more troubled students under my wing and help guide them through their 'drama'. What I see is the beginning of their troubles starting as an adult."


What is something you learned from a younger age that has stuck with you?

"Lying is cowards way of dealing with life. Thanks, mom. "


Who is an individual who made a profound impact on you and why?

"I have to say my mom. She kind of epitomized how real, real strong women deal with all the crap of life. She isn’t perfect but she's very strong and clear sighted..grounded and real. Just a real person. Whatever that looks like. "


What is a weakness or something that exposes your vulnerability and what do you do to combat/embrace it in order to grow?

"I would say when I am in my depressive states a lot of it is like I don’t handle my closest relationships well. My communication is really poor. I like being vulnerable though. I think I have gotten to an age where I prefer it because it usually addresses whatever sort of foundation issue that needs to be acknowledged. "


What is something that you want to accomplish and what are you doing to get to that place, if anything?

"I don’t know . I am in weird time of my life right now. Like goals and next visionary steps aren’t my priority...it’s more of keeping the balance. I feel pretty good where I am right now. I am not in phase of evolution. I know it will come. Right now, I’m just swimming man. I would like to get pregnant again. "


And now..a few questions to lighten the mood...


Dogs or Cats?

"Dogs"


Cheeseburgers or Salad?

"Cheeseburgers"


Beach or Mountains?

"Mountains"


Sweet or Salty?

"Salty"


Lose all of your old memories or never make new ones?

"Never make new ones "


Disney..or is there any alternative?

"What?"


What is a fun fact that someone may not know about you?

"I only read sex novels. Ever. Period. I don’t do literature. "


And the final two important questions...


What is a common misconception about you that people make based on your appearance? What is your truth and how do you personify strength?

"I mean...I legit had a parent say her son felt disrespected by face because I didn’t smile or nod when we were talking. I would say the biggest misconception is that I don’t care about anyone or I don’t have that compassion/understanding into human frailties. I feel that I am that I actually more aware of faults and mistakes and what human nature is about...I address them and frankly which in this society, isn’t accepting for 'women'. I think that ties in the with strength because for women it wouldn’t be 'becoming or feminine' and I don’t do that ."


You have inspired me. What about yourself do you hope to put out in order to inspire other young people?

"I would say helping young people find their true identities and self worth. I think that’s why everyone ends up where they are be in jail or in trouble...it’s too bad. "


*Lauren lives in Northern California so these photos were graciously taken by her husband and son. The ones on the bottom were taken by me as a nod to our current state of events.















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© 2017 by Emily Van Gorder-Pantig.