I moved 12 times before the ripe old age of 20. My entire adult personality—what I act like, how I present myself to others and how I view change—is shaped by this fact. For every move where I have been a self-aware being, I can tell you exactly how my persona evolved and what I was thinking when I did it. Each choice was a mini-crisis. I didn’t know exactly who I was going to become or what piece of my past self might be lost in the process, but I took the chance that she might be something closer to who I really wanted to be.

Let’s start from scratch. Without those choices, the recipe for “Ali Pie” would be a dash of Dad’s sarcasm, a pinch of my mom’s empathy, a couple spoonfuls of Grandmama’s artistic inclination and a generous splash of my grandfather’s introvertness…hmmm. To quote Buzzfeed’s Cassandra, “where’s the flavor?”

I was 10 when we moved to Germany. I told myself that I was no longer going to be controlling, or as my classmates in fourth grade had so bluntly put it: “bossy.” I have anxiety, Sara. Get over it. “Bossy” in fourth grade turns into “assertive” by the time you hit 18, so I’m pretty glad I realized that being meek wasn’t for me.

Relocating to France a few years later, I decided that I was going to be outgoing, rather than the introvert I had been since kindergarten. I wanted to be the kind of popular that I saw in “High School Musical” and “Mean Girls.” It sort of worked; as it turns out, smiles are effective even when you don’t speak the language. I was lucky enough to make a handful of friends that met me halfway; anyone who passed us in the halls was graced with a multilingual masterpiece that was gibberish to everyone but the four of us.

I started high school in Canada, and envisioned my future self as athletic, friendly and academic. I don’t know exactly what I thought deciding I could be athletic would do — Ms. Girl had never played a sport in her life and it showed. I spent the first two years learning how to play soccer, volleyball and rugby; the last two years were actually getting off the bench during games.

If you meet me now, I am assertive and outgoing-ish and I can sort of kick a soccer ball in the right direction. But even as I sit here writing this, I am realizing how much of my personality is based on the lucky fact that I had 12 chances to reinvent myself and then grow into the shoes I wanted to fill. My 12 mini-crises gave me the opportunity to fine-tune myself and to figure out what was giving me spice, what felt right deep down and what made me feel like I wasn’t faking it.

There is so much trial-and-error in being a human. Who I am today is not who I will be in one year or a decade from now or when I’m 95 and cranky. The wonderful thing about having a self-aware brain is that we can decide to evolve ourselves at any time. I no longer need to hop countries to tweak something in myself and you don’t need it either. In each of our basic recipes is the courage to think about what we want and to chase after it, consequences be damned. 

So go change! Evolve into someone closer to who you want to be and dream big while you’re at it. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll realize it’s not working and you revert back to your old self. Life is just one big Google Doc and all of the former edits are stored safely in your memory just in case you need them.

Ali Barlow (24C) is from Newport, Vermont.

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Alison Barlow (she/hers 24C) is an illustrator for the Wheel. A political science and creative writing major, she is from the northernmost part of Vermont (yes, there is a lot of snow). In her free time, Barlow plays soccer, tutors for SHINE and is a part of Residence Life. She is also an avid reader and gym rat.