What It Feels Like To Be A Sequoit Cook

By Sarah Swanson-Maldonado // As told to Emily Lara

There are 24 hours in a day, but in those 24 hours I am split being the person you see at school and the person I am at home. Although my personality doesn’t change, the way you perceive me does. I am the person you forget to say thank you to and I am the person that you walk by without saying hello. My place in your high school may not be important or even slightly fascinating, but the students I get to meet every single day makes my job the one I love and the one I call home.

In this world of hatred and negativity, I stand out. I’m one of those people that thinks everything happens for a reason. That somehow and some way everything connects to one thing or another. I never went to college, nor did I ever get the opportunity to follow my dreams. Although, I don’t see this as a flaw, I wish I could’ve studied what I had in mind: teaching. Due to not sticking by my goals after high school, I got married at 19 and got pregnant with my first baby girl. To this day I don’t regret it because it’s made me who I am and it’s made my children feel even more encouraged to go to college.

I feel like I’ve given my children an insight of how life should be by giving them advice to shoot for the moon even if you may land among the stars. Among other cliche sayings like walk your walk and talk your talk. I may just be an ordinary mother and cook at Antioch Community High School, but I am more than that.  

One glance at me isn’t enough. I deserve to be looked at several times to let you understand who I as a person. On a week-to-week basis I wake up every morning at six o’clock and my shift starts at 8:30. I do my duties as a grandmother- put my grandchild on the bus and wave as she leaves to school. My day starts by preparing the pans, getting the crusts ready and putting the pizzas in the oven; I repeat that process five times a week for the school year.  

I nearly get paid enough to go shopping and browse around, but I know life’s reasoning. The true meaning of life not the life that everyone brags about and makes it seem like a fairytale. I know how it feels to be genuinely happy, to love nature and all that it offers, to experience finding love for a second time and to get married. To encounter the rollercoaster that life has to offer, and watch my four girls and two grandchildren grow up.

Being in the kitchen is only one side of me, but the one I want you to know is the goofy, kind, and warm side. The one I’m just me and me only. I could proudly say that I define myself as a very positive person. A person that strives to make a bad day turn into an unforgettable one. A person that you could speak to whenever you have a situation and a person who is a helping hand to those who need it the most. I’m always willing to be helpful, to give you a smile when you’re about to break. Yes, I may be a lunch lady, but I am a mother first.

I may not have gone to college and I might not have the best paying job, but I want my girls to look at me as their inspiration. As a person that loves every single thing about life. I want my children to be filled with joy and excitement even through the simple things. My childhood shaped me to be the individual I am today. Even if I wasn’t close to my parents, they helped me through and made me strong enough to realize the true importance of love, happiness and friendship.

The key to my happiness has always been to stop caring about what others think about me. People often ask me how I stay so positive and the true answer lies within you. You are responsible for your own happiness and once you stop letting everyone else control your life, well-being awaits you. Be you and always you, find people who find pleasure in your presence and find joy in hanging out with you. The moment you love yourself is the moment you will truly become happy.

You are the only person who could judge who are. You are the only person who determines if you are going to make it a good day. A cook does not define me; it’s who I am outside of the kitchen. It’s who I am as a human being, and it’s who I am to others. Cooking for Antioch is my lifestyle, but it’s not the way I live. I fill my life with positivity, good morals, happiness and good people.

Looking father than just the visual of the eye is what makes me more than a cook. I see myself as a mother and a grandmother, a mentor and a helping hand. I want people to over-shadow the term of being normal. Be unique and original and become the person you’re destined to be, not the one everyone perceives you as being.