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I was far from the only child who wanted to live a life of luxury. I wanted a cottage on every continent (two in Europe). I wanted a jet-ski, a private pool and gazebo in a Narnia-esque backyard, 5 kids, an undefined but adoring husband, all in a mansion in south California. I wanted to win Oscars and touch millions with my words. I can’t be sure whether these aspirations were in spite of growing up below the poverty line, or because of it. Anyhow, can anyone honestly say that they never dreamed of popularity and richness as a kid?

I was set on my success. It wasn’t as if I sat and waited for it to come to me; I worked hard and I had passion. I knew I could succeed if I put all of myself into my work. Yes, I was young then. It was before I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, or Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, or seen Citizen Kane. Still, I do believe that hard work and passion can take anyone to a certain level of success. At the time though, I didn’t just want relative success; I shuddered from mediocrity. I didn’t want to just be a face in the crowd. I wanted to leave my mark and live in textbooks centuries after my death. Outliers require a great deal of luck, opportunity, and often money. I came from no wealth. I have no natural inborn talent either. I had only dreams that were unrealistic and too big for even the most talented to grow into.

Somewhere between 17 and 18, I grew up. My definition of success changed. All I wish for is a modest house in the neighbourhood I live in now, a job that I don’t dread (even if it’s below average wage), enough money to support 2 or 3 kids and a pet, and waking up to someone I love every morning. I would be happy with mediocrity.

Why do our dreams get smaller as we get older?

Kids look upon fame, money, and glamour as the best things in the world; they are the flashiest things that are always advertised and promoted in our world. Naturally, as children, we strive for this. Until we are shown something better. Until our dreams change — perhaps not into something smaller, but just something different.

Hard work takes time and energy. It takes sacrifice. I could still give myself completely to striving for a life of recognition. But we can’t have everything. And I, like almost everyone in this world, will always choose love over international recognition. Because the best nights of my life were not when I successfully executed projects worth thousands of dollars.

There is something so beautiful in seeing a couple with their kids at the park. And that is no groundbreaking revelation. Everyone realizes what matters at some point in their life; the greatest classics all tell us that money is not everything. But this was my gradual epiphany. Our dreams change as we mature because eventually, we realize that there is more to life than the scars we leave.