Spotlight on: Melise Edwards

I'm incredibly lucky to be a part of a community filled with inspiring, talented individuals. They are always there for me when I need them the most and I want to honor that by shining a bright light on them. Beginning today I will be publishing a monthly series that turns the spotlight on these amazing humans starting with one of my favorites, Melise Edwards!

I met Melise through social media and was instantly impressed by her. She somehow manages to juggle her career, climbing, volunteerism, a relationship, writing and more while being one of the most supportive, dedicated, and generous people I have been blessed to know. If life sees fit to put her in your path, say hello. You won't regret it!

Melise portrait3.jpg

WHAT DO YOU GO BY?

Melise or “Melts” at work (that’s what my phone auto corrects my name to!)

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF:

I am a full time Research Associate at a brain science research facility in Seattle, WA. I love rock climbing and use most of my spare time to train for outdoor goals or take trips to areas within and beyond the PNW.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT PAYING THE BILLS?

When I’m not rock-climbing or training for rock-climbing, I volunteer, read books (mostly non-fiction books about neuroscience, biographies, women’s issues or history but I also love fiction and the classics!) take classes online and do a fair amount of running and yoga. I also serve on the Board of Directors for Vertical Generation and write articles and go to events for four climbing companies that sponsor me.

IF YOU COULD HAVE A SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

To never need sleep?! There’s so much I wish I could accomplish in this lifetime and so many causes that need attention; there never seem to be enough hours in the day.

WHAT DOES BEING "OUTDOORSY" MEAN TO YOU?

Being outdoorsy should mean whatever you want it to mean and describe your relationship with the outdoors however you want to describe your personal relationship with it. To me, being outdoorsy is based in appreciation. I appreciate wild spaces, I am supremely grateful for the beauty and resources we have in getting to run, climb, bike, swim and play outside. Being in nature makes me feel rejuvenated and inspired.

WHAT DOES GETTING OUTSIDE MEAN TO YOU?

Getting outside is a privilege first and foremost. I recognize that there are a multitude of inherent barriers to experiencing the outdoors (i.e. transportation, gas, living in close proximity to parks and spaces, etc.) Getting outside means that I prioritize spending my disposable income on the outdoors whenever possible because it is my passion, but this is not something everyone can *just do* and I feel extremely fortunate.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST BARRIERS YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR INDOOR/OUTDOOR LIFE?

When it comes to the outdoors, every aspect of your lifestyle and being can have an amazing affect on what you do and how you do it (and conversely, the outdoors can have an amazing impact on you as well.) I have struggled with finances at many stages in my life, I have struggled with mental health. I have been criticized incessantly by *some, not all* men who try to belittle my accomplishments or suggest that I climb harder problems because of the size of my fingers. I have often felt completely alienated and livid with the outdoor community when it responds bitterly to those voicing a need to champion diversity within it. All of these things have shaken my understanding from time to time and made existing within the outdoor community challenging in it’s own light. But I do love the outdoor and climbing community; it has been largely supportive and the source of most of my best friends and boyfriend. I would not trade or wish away any of my experiences.

WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU THE MOST PROUD OF?

I am most proud of graduating college; it was such a struggle to complete and I dropped out at one point not knowing if I was going to be able to make it happen. My biggest life goal is to get my MSc (preferably leading to a PhD) in Neuroscience. In climbing, I have done a few harder climbs that I am proud of, but my proudest moments are any time I am climbing in good style, pushing past my comfort zone, having a great attitude and supporting the people around me.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES FACING THE OUTDOOR WORLD RIGHT NOW?

I think conservation, access and representation have and continue to be issues the outdoor community grapples with. I am so beyond thrilled to see organizations like Vertical Generation, Brown Girls Climb, BOC Crew, Melanin Base Camp, etc work towards creating more opportunities for others to experience climbing and representation for underrepresented groups within the outdoor community. We need more people from all walks of life to experience and cherish the outdoors if we want to have an impact on how outdoor spaces are protected.

WHO DO YOU HOPE TO INSPIRE AND HOW DO YOU HOPE TO INSPIRE THEM?

I hope I could one day inspire anyone who is passionate or curious about rock-climbing. I also hope to inspire young women of color in the outdoors and in science--both gravely need more diversity. I hope in being more candid about mental health, race, gender, privilege, setbacks and failures, that others can be fearlessly granted the permission to do the same. It seems  that everyone only shares the celebratory, champagne-popping moments of their “outdoor careers” and life; I personally find more inspiration from honesty and understanding how we all get from A to B. In the very least, I don’t want anyone to feel like they are alone in their struggles, so I try to be an open book and write about the topics I feel need addressing.

WHO INSPIRES YOU?

The list is endless!! My mom is a pretty inspirational woman at the top of the list though. She is so incredibly hard-working; she taught me the value in putting people first and being kind. She has seen it all and been through a lot, but she has never given up an attitude that is rooted in generosity and optimism. She is my hero.

WHAT'S YOUR NEXT BIG ADVENTURE?

My next big adventure will be a personal battle with climbing; I am training now to send my first V11 outdoors and to become a better all-around rock climber. I also want to apply to graduate school this year; every year it seems my attempts becomes thwarted but this year everything has lined up perfectly for me to be able to pursue it and I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

WHERE CAN WE  FOLLOW ALONG ON YOUR JOURNEY?

On INSTAGRAM and at my personal BLOG.