“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

"A doctor," "an actress," "a teacher," my 10-year-old friends eagerly volunteered during a birthday party as my friend’s mother prompted: "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Finally it was my turn. My mind drawing a blank, I blurted out an answer that must have come from somewhere in my gut. The mother chuckled dismissively and asked me to give her a real answer.

Over the years, I was asked variations of the same question, and I learned to give more acceptable answers like those of my friends. In the process, I convinced myself that those were the right answers. I replaced my childhood aspiration with more conventional and tangible goals.

Now that I have reached many of the milestones I was 'supposed to,' I find myself thinking back to my original ambition and realizing that it’s what I’ve wanted all along.

I want to bask in the joy of helping a friend or sharing a smile with a stranger. I want the delight of introducing someone to a beautiful song or teaching a child a new word. I crave the satisfaction of enhancing and enriching someone else’s life. I yearn for the secret bliss of lovely dreams after a well-lived day.

I said it when I was ten: "when I grow up I want to be happy." Now I say it confidently, knowing that my happiness will come from helping others find their own happiness.

— Ann Lucena