It’s the first day of the quarter. Should I probably have been paying attention in class? Most definitely. Off of first judgement, I actually liked the marketing class I was in and professor. But I wasn’t paying full attention anyways. I was working on some of my spring break blogs posts (which will be going up throughout the week after this irregular post cutting through the middle of them). Heh, whoops. I swear, when I come in Wednesday, I’ll be 100%. Just kidding. That’s being a little too ambitious. 85%. Good enough, better than normal. Really am going to try so much harder to be invested and motivated this quarter though which should be noted. But this isn’t about my academic life. I’m writing this post about a women that has made all the difference in my life.
“Appreciation Posts” was something I already had lined up for future blog posts, but haven’t put out any yet. I think that it’s quite fitting that Cheri Sheldon gets the first one. Mrs. Sheldon. Sheldon. So today’s entry, in what is essentially my general online diary, is going to be about a women who I’ve known for 6.5 years of my life, but has and will continue to impact the rest of my life.
Notoriously one of the most intimidating women on campus, I met Sheldon my freshman year of high school when I joined Key Club since she was the advisor at the time and continued to be as I made my way through my 4 years of high school. It wasn’t until my Sophomore year that I began getting closer to her though. One of my most clear early memories of her was my first day of AP World. Dun dun duuuuun. She was going through role and walking around the classroom to try to familiarize herself with us, putting names to faces.
“Janelle Alonzo?” (Raises hand: “Here.”) “Justine Alonzo’s sister, yeah?” (“Mhmm.”) Side smirk/smile. “You’ve got big shoes to fill.”
It doesn’t seem like much, but I always remember this first significant encounter with her. She’d also taught my sister when she was in AP World as well as advised her during her Key Club days, so I knew I had expectations to live up to. Sheldon didn’t only have the title of “one of the most intimidating teacher on campus” but she also had “one of the hardest teacher on campus” under her belt. For any Costa Mesa High School AP student, I think many of us can relate to the feeling of doom for our Sophomore year after learning that we had to take AP World with Sheldon. High expectations with a high work load is a semi-accurate summation. We all survived…I think. Some of us by a thin string, but we survived.
The next year, my Junior year, I had a business class with her. To be honest, I only took it because my schedule was a little bit messed up. It worked itself out though. That calendar year was the year I had started making bows and selling them. Nothing too official until she guided me when I was in that class. Regardless of whether or not I took her class, I’m sure she would have helped me, but I also think that if I had never taken that class I wouldn’t have even reached out to her because making my DIY crafting abilities into something more real would have never even been a thought. She was the one who told me and pushed me to actually do proper legal paper work to make my “Bow Bank” something more…profitable?
“Alonzo, you can make money off of this. Why don’t you? Charge them. Might as well make some money. Don’t just do it for free.”
She was right. I could. And I did. I always get a little bit uncomfortable saying that I had a “bow business” in high school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still one of the greatest achievements of my life thus far, but I always feel a tiny bit like a fraud when I say I had a business because I think of big, “legit” corporations when I think of businesses versus a 15 year old girl who made money by selling handcrafted bow-affiliated accessories. She always made me feel “legit” though. She helped me make a business plan (via her class) but also took the time to help me with paperwork for my business outside of class. She invested her time in me and that carried through as something so admirable about her because she genuinely invested her time and efforts into her students. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve such a great success at a young age. Even though the business was short lived, only lasting until the end of my high school career, I learned and gained so much from that experience. I started my own website, did my own marketing, got orders from outside of the state, did legal paperwork. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it without her guidance, no way.
“Alonzo, give some of the work to other people. You’re killing yourself, look at you! It’ll be fine. No one’s gonna die if you ask for help. If anything, you’ll give people something to do instead of them sitting around doing nothing.”
Senior year was a rough one for me as most of my friends and a handful of teachers knew. Most of it was my fault. Overloading myself was my fault entirely. 6 APs, a job, a business, extra curricular activities (Editor in Chief of Yearbook, ASB publicist, VP of Asian club, President of Key Clubs, etc. etc. etc.), trying to keep up with a social life…you name it, I did it. Besides a sport. I quit that 2 years prior, haha. BYE. It’s an understatement to say that I was overwhelmed and burnt out. It was only the first few weeks of the school year and I was already having meltdowns everyday and was completely exhausted every moment of my life. Sheldon, per usual, asked my how I was doing after one of my Key Club meetings. At where my life was at, there was no way of hiding how strung out I was. And, per usual, I gave her my life update. She knew I was going to crack at any moment. I was doing too much and we both knew it. She offered to spend some time together to sit down and figure out my life and so we did. I can still picture the whole thing in my head. I went into her classroom during a free period and she took out a post it, asked me to name all the things I was currently involved in, and she would write it down. We went over all the things I could cut out or potentially drop to lessen my load but she knew me. I wouldn’t drop any of it. I couldn’t. I was an overly ambitious go-getter. Dropping anything would mentally go crazy, something she was also very aware of. I was stubborn. We sat there for a while going back and forth until she finally coaxed me into handing down some of my responsibilities in Key Club to the rest of my board. “Khanh will probably be president next year anyways. Give him some responsibility. It’ll be good training for him. Give all of them some of the responsibility. That’s what they’re there for.” She was right. It was hard for me to accept the fact that I needed help and that I couldn’t do it all, but she helped me take the baby steps I needed in learning how to be a leader and how to take care of myself. This whole memory seems like nothing when you’re reading it, I guess, but it was the first of many more therapy life sessions that would ensue that year.
“Eh, you don’t have to go to class. I’ll call ________ and let him/her know you’re here. I have a class to teach but you can stay in the back for as long as you want and cry on the couch if you want.”
If that doesn’t sum up my Senior year, I don’t know what does (besides maybe finding me asleep on random classroom floors…actually true, hers included). That last year of high school was full of physical torment, mental distress, emotional meltdowns and a whole lot of tears. I’m not a cry-er by any means. I always tell people that I used up all my tears since I used to cry all the time when I was little over the littlest things. That year was an exception to the no excessive crying rule. It didn’t matter if it was completely irrelevant or if I had already ranted to her about the same thing a billion times. If I needed advice or just someone to rant to, she made time for it and gave me more than her full attention. She’d give me hugs even when I didn’t know I needed one and kicks in the butt when we both knew I needed a push. She’d let me cry and cry and cry when I felt like my life was in shambles — on her couch, at her desk…on a desk, ahaha. She told me I looked beautiful when I felt like a dead flower on the side of the road that got stepped on and would tell me that I looked like hell to give me a wake up call of how terribly I was treating myself. She’d tell me my outfits were cute, tell me that I was a little fashionista, and ask me sassily who I was trying to impress. From little self-esteem compliment boosts to extensive therapy life sessions, Sheldon got me through so much that year in particular and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Something I really did appreciate about her was how honest she was though. She was honest with her students when we’d ask her about how she was feeling on certain days, especially when she had rough chemo treatments, never sugar coating how tired she was or the pain she was in. She was transparent with us and something about that makes me have even more respect for her. She gave us tough love about ourselves but she was also honest with what was going on with her. She was strength, if I’d ever seen it in my life. Never complained really. Just kept moving forward with her life and fighting through whatever she had to fight through while giving her strength to those who needed it.
Even after I left high school and went off to college in San Diego, she was still a strong mother-figure that I looked up to. I remember being so excited that I got a package my first month of college. Due to complications with the mail services here, I got it a month late, but oh well. It was a package from Sheldon with a little inspirational note (that I wish dearly I had with me right now, but it’s safely kept back home in my box of sentimental things), laundry detergent pods with quarters just in case, sweets, supplies, stamps, and a few other things. It was essentially a college starter pack. I texted her immediately because I was so excited and I remember her telling me that she had been waiting a month for a message from me since she had sent it so long ago. From then, I kept in touch with her once in a while to check in and let her know how I was doing since she knew I was struggling with transition into college at UCSD. I even sent her a post card at the beginning of this school year to let her know that I was gonna be a boss this year and that I was doing better and thinking about her text back to me saying how it made her day to get something from me makes my heart hurt quite a bit at the moment.
I started writing this in the morning and I was incredibly sad and heart broken and still am. But after reminiscing and writing down a bunch of the fond memories I’ve had with her, I’ve found some sort of happiness knowing that I was even privileged to have had her in my life. It’s safe to say that she, for many, she so much more than just a teacher. She was mother figure, friend, therapist, North Star, and so many other wonderful things. She’s instilled lessons about not sweating the little things in life and doing something about the things we don’t like. Just seeing all the beautiful things written about her on my social media feeds is a testament to her imprint. I could literally go on and on and on about what an amazing human being the world has just lost, but I would never stop talking. Even though I stopped cussing as a Lenten promise, I think it’s an appropriate occasion (and quite fitting in describing her) to break it for a second in saying that Cheri Sheldon was (and is) one of the most BAD ASS women that I’ve ever met. Easily. If I could describe her in one word, that would be it. She was an all encompassing bad ass, hands down. She was strength. She was fear. She was love. She was inspiration. And I’m sure so many of us who knew her would agree that she is someone that we look up to for more reasons than one.
Thought I lost the only picture we had together when my hard drive broke, but thanking the heavens that my past self took a snapchat selfie with her and uploaded it to Facebook, ahaha.Thank you for everything. Love you always and missing you already.
Until the next time I see you, Sheldon.
Love always, Alonzo.