A few weeks ago I Google searched for the term free spirit, which brought back an interesting definition.
“An independent or uninhibited person.”
‘Strange,’ I thought. The word uninhibited has synonyms such as immoral, unrestrained, and immodest, but I know a person who defies this definition. In fact, I know a woman who not only creates a new definition of the term free spirit, but she also has the work ethic and determination to blow the word uninhibited out of that definition forever more.
Elizabeth Aldana isn’t just a hard-working, free spirited adventurer willing to do whatever it takes to reach her goals, she’s got a personality worth its weight in gold.
For this young woman, benevolence makes up the essence of who she is, but there’s more to her than kindness alone. A simple observation of Liz in action at work can tell the tone of her story. A bold smile, gentle body language, and friendly laughter floating through Olive Garden, the restaurant she works at, creates a heartfelt melody that tells the tale of Elizabeth Aldana.
“Liz is very hard to describe. She is strong yet light hearted. She keeps pushing for things she wants until she gets it. That’s why she is a service professional,” says Amanda Ewing a manager at Olive Garden.
Olive Garden awards a small number of positions to employees with the drive, determination, and potential to take their skills to the next level as a Service Professional. Service Professionals are the stepping-stone to full-time management positions at any of the restaurants in the country, and according to Ewing, it was her personality and drive that led her to a position few get to.
“She is willing to help anyone and truly wants to help, but at the same time, knows her limits. That’s what we are looking for,” adds Ewing.
From first-hand accounts, each and every day must be a productive one for Liz. Rising at the sound of her early alarm, she works relentlessly at home taking care of her family as her parents are away at work. Being the oldest child has brought a lot of pressure for her, something that she has had to take unwillingly, but has pushed her to be at her best.
“I’ve learned how to be responsible, respectful of my elders, how to be a hard worker. The integrity that my parents have is the biggest asset that my siblings and I have taken from them. We don’t half-ass anything because of our parents. I’ve learned you have to sacrifice a few things to get what you want in life. You have to weigh your options,” says Liz enthusiastically.
She sits in her house surrounded by a recently polished kitchen and living room that she cleaned before my arrival. Her hair falls gently around her face and deep, dark eyes, and holds a proud grin worth more than just a glance. While her back rests gently against the back of the couch, only enough for comfort, not relaxation, her legs are folded up near her in a cozy position. Her hands folded in her lap, with one open towards me and the other facing away. Both welcoming and fearful of possible questions that will probe an interesting life.
Productivity rarely comes from nowhere, and for Liz, her motivation comes from the future she envisions for herself. She strives for a new life away from her Sioux City home that she has grown so fond of. Her dream: to be a photographer and the way she’s getting there just might be moving down to the music capital of the country.
“I took a trip to Nashville recently and it was my favorite trip because it was the first time I traveled by myself for no particular reason. I could do whatever I wanted and I met a bunch of different people. I went to the mall, I went to different concerts, different café’s, and just explored life. That’s when I knew there was way more in the world that where I live.”
The trip was a surreal experience for Liz, who was just expecting a trip away from home.
Nashville is only an anecdote for the real life ambitions Liz holds. She has a definitive set of goals that she plans on meeting in the near future. Some of these goals are ones that most fall short of when they find obstacles, but not for her. Every task or situation that has arisen in her 22 years of life, keep her fighting towards her vision of a new and exciting future.
So where does the free-spirit-ness come into play?
With the New Year coming soon, Liz has some exciting plans for herself. She wants to travel the world, something she says is of the most importance in her life. She wants to see places like Texas, the east coast and the west, and other countries as well. Travel won’t be the only thing that’s on the itinerary because she plans to go back to school in Nashville for photography in the fall. After a local internship with a photographer, she knows it’s the right path for her.
“I still see myself very close to my parents in the end, and also living on my own. (Stop for a second to scold her younger sister, Alexa, in Spanish). I want to see the world and live on my own, but still be close. I see traveling for awhile and then settling down. That might come back, I’m not sure.”
What is most interesting about Liz is her ability to plan and change plans at a moments notice. The majority of her time is spent between classes at NWICC, serving at Olive Garden, and taking care of the family. This is why she doesn’t worry about over planning or worry about the future. Even if someone gives her a hard time, she strives to focus on herself rather than what others think. According to her, though, it wasn’t always like this.
“I used to think that I had to prove my worth to people, and it is probably my worst trait. I used to seek approval from people way too often even though I should have just lived my life as I’m doing because that makes me happy,” Liz says with certainty and then continues by saying, “Recently I finally feel like I’m my own person so I care more about how I’m acting as opposed to trying to be like others.”
Bold words for a woman who makes bold choices completely on her own.