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.
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hello! My name is Alyssa Autumn Aledo and who am I today is all encompassing of where I’ve come from, where I’ve been and where I’m going. Whenever I’m asked where I’m from, I usually say small-town PA, because at this point, I’m a Johnny Cash song—I’ve been everywhere. I’m the kind of girl that lives for the thrill of beating the sun to the top of a mountain, but still loves to flip through fashion magazines while waiting to board a plane—I guess you could say, I’m a girly-girl adventurer, big-city hick!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My freshman year of college, I had a professor proclaim that if you do what you love, the money will follow. Now 27 countries, most of the states and some pretty incredible national parks later, I truly believe her advice. I may not be the richest or traveled in the most style, but doing what I love has afforded me many opportunities and experiences, I may not have had if I would have pursued status or prestige.
What would you say to 16 year old you?
Don’t sleep with him. Or him. Sixteen is such a formable year. It was my first real taste of freedom, having a license and a car, but without supervision or rules, it was a privilege often abused. And boys are not serious about anything either, especially emotionally-charged, hormonal teenage girls. Save yourself some tears, self-respect, and wait until college!
What do you love most about yourself?
I love my drive and ambition. If I want to do something, I usually go out and do it. I’m not afraid of failing anymore, because what is failure? Someone else’s predetermined idea of what is right or correct? Failure is just another opportunity to try again.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
You are smart, you are kind, and you are important. I often recite this to myself anytime I’m feeling less than smart, less than kind, less than important, as I had a period of time where I struggled to see my value, my worth. Any woman, who feels this emptiness, needs to be reminded: You are smart, you are kind, you are important.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is living a full life of love and loss, travel and adventure, and as I grow old, I slowly forget who I am and everything I’ve done by means of Alzheimer's or dementia. To live and slowly feel your mind get erased—it’s my greatest fear and something I hope I never have to experience.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I moved to Colorado the fall of 2015. I had friends that would come to work the ski season then return to work the summers in Alaska. I didn’t know Vail from Denver but I knew it was a place I could plant myself for a while, with familiar people, and the mountains for which I could find refuge. I told myself I’d stay maybe a year or two, but this November will now be three! I love the blue-bird skies filled with sunshine. I love leaving my keys in the ignition to run into the post office. I love that Vail is clean and safe and you actually run into your neighbor or friends at the grocery store. The outdoor activities keep you going, as there’s an endless list of things to do. And although I miss Alaska, Colorado is pretty awesome too!
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I graduated college Cum Laude, and this was done by the same girl who almost failed out of high school. My life would not be what it is today if I wouldn’t have taken advantage of the opportunity. Thank you, Mrs. Latham for encouraging me to apply.
What is something on your bucket list?
Ever since I watched the movie, “The Way”, I wanted to complete the Camino de Santiago, or the Way to St. James. It’s a pilgrimage from the south of France through Spain, and I would love to do it with my dog, Tutshi!
What are your biggest passions?
Life, love, travel, and adventure! I love being alive, especially in this era of innovation and technology. Someone is always developing something new, which goes to show that there is a world of opportunity waiting out there for everyone. I love friendship and developing relationships. I also love the unconditional love and bond you feel from a dog—my Tutshi illuminates my life, she is my sunshine. And lastly, I love travel and adventure. Whether I’m climbing a mountain just to beat the sun to the top or boarding a plane to a city I’ve never been, I live for that rush of adventure, and find that when I travel, the world is full of life and love and all of it is meant to be discovered.
More About Alyssa
Alyssa Aledo has worked in the travel and tourism industry for over ten years, venturing to places like Alaska, South Africa, Iceland, and recently the small island of Siargao, Philippines. Now an activities coordinator for a private club in Vail, Colorado, she spends most of her free time exploring, road tripping, summiting fourteeners, and enjoying life with her sweet dog, Tutshi.