I grew up feeling like I never had a place. I had a different Dad, slightly browner skin, and I think deep down that’s why I’ve always struggled with love and fitting in.
I remember when I had to switch elementary schools, for the third time that fifth grade year. I wore what I wore to my last school, but soon found it was not the trend. Middle school sucked and high school was the worst, who teaches kids to be so cruel? But I wasn’t nice either, I became a bully too. I’d steal and lie and let my sixteen year old self get used.
But then an opportunity came from the only school I had applied– I would spend the next four years studying to make my long-lost dreams come true. I didn’t draw a map or really have a plan, I just knew I was never going back. And when it finally came time to graduate, I thought that despite all the shit I grew up in, I had finally done something right.
Now in college, I also found faith—baptized, a rebirth, called a member of The Church; but even still, I was a circle that fit in the square, never truly feeling like I was complete. But I’d fall in love with the idea of eternity, the kind you spend with an eternal companion. I’d meet him in Alaska, we’d get married, and still, everything felt dull. But to be honest, I wasn’t a very good wife nor was he a good husband, and deep down I know we both hated everything about the married life.
And finally, the summer of 2015, the worst of my life, becoming acquainted with both death and divorce, as my brother Mike, 25, would take his own life. We hadn’t spoken for four months, a really stupid fight, but he called me that night and said that he loved me, and that despite not coming home and spending enough time with him, he said that I needed to continue doing all things that made me happy. A three-minute conversation that held the loudest words I have ever heard, “Always do what makes you happy.”
Three years, I can tell you, is not a lot of time to heal, as I still struggle with grief and depression and forgiving myself for my mistakes, but I also know that I’ve been given a second chance, and that is not afforded to everyone. So with my second chance, I spend a lot time doing what makes me happy. I travel to see the world because that’s been the only thing I’ve ever dreamed of doing. I climb mountains to touch the sky, as it’s the closest I’ve felt to heaven, the most I felt alive. And I try to live as an example to my sisters, that you don’t have to be someone you’re not, you don’t have to do things you’re not comfortable with and you sure as heck don’t have to do everything right— you just have to do what makes you happy.
Alyssa Aledo is enjoying life with her sweet dog, Tutshi.