While I’m sure that growing up wealthy comes in handy for inconsequential things like becoming president or keeping your electricity on, growing up poor came with its own bevy of benefits that I wouldn’t trade for all the boiled hot dogs and hand-me-down clothes in the world: it helped sharpen my imagination into a valuable tool, develop a solid chin (kids are less likely to pick on a poor kid with a quality jab), and showed me the value to be found in things that are cheap.

It also made me prone to hero worship – because there’s one thing all heroes have in common: by the end of the movie or TV show, they’ve worked themselves into a better place. I couldn’t change that my family lived in a trailer, I couldn’t help that my dad had a decidedly medieval approach to discipline… but I could work. Sure, I was wearing clothes from the Salvation Army, but I was wearing them in the “gifted” classes. Sure, my cleats didn’t say Nike on the side (often, I didn’t have cleats at all), but you’d better believe my footwear saw more miles than my better equipped teammates.

As far as I was concerned, poverty, my dad’s run-ins with the law, moving around so often I stopped worrying about making friends, these seemingly perpetual barriers between me and the kids I thought were normal weren’t a curse or a slight from fate – they were the first act of a movie I saw myself as the star of.

Like the stars I saw on TV, I knew it’s not about where you start… what matters is where you end up. So sure, I was no star athlete, even when I was one of only three sophomores to make the varsity squad on my high school football team – but I was something else: a kid that was willing to work longer and harder than anyone on the team, all the while picturing heroes of mine like Brisco County Jr., a Harvard educated bounty hunter in the Wild West avenging his father, or Batman – a guy that harnessed the pain of his childhood to become something great.

One day when I was 11 or so, it was that hero emulation that led me to stand up to my father as he took out his troubles on my mom. I don’t remember a lot about that night, but I ended up in a hospital, he ended up in jail, and once it hit the papers, we all ended up moving again. For a long time, I saw that move to the woods of Vermont as specifically my fault; and there I was, alone again, not all that interested in making new friends – but as always, willing to work.

I didn’t name my bike “KITT” for no reason.

Children’s minds, of course, tend not to think in such dramatic overtures, and I didn’t see myself as a tough kid (and admittedly a bit of a bully) because of my upbringing, I got through the tough days by pretending to be Dutch in “Predator” or John Spartan from “Demolition Man.” Hero worship helped to make me the best I could be, regardless of the circumstances I found myself in.

As an adult, hero worship remains an important element in my life – which presents a problem in the modern climate, as I’m sure you can imagine. We, as a collective culture, have taken to tearing down heroes in recent years. We can’t celebrate a holiday without the masses reminding us of the sins of our forefathers. We can’t like a movie without a hashtag demanding we revise our opinions because some producer is a douche bag. We can’t cheer anyone on without someone reminding us that they were arrested in the 80s or said something politically unfavorable during an interview in Japan. In the modern world, we have constant access to our heroes, allowing us to shine a light on their vulnerabilities, their weaknesses, their faults… until no one seems all that heroic anymore.

Neil Armstrong knew it would happen. He saw the legend that was “the first man to walk on the moon” and realized early on that he, a kid from Ohio, could never live up to grandiose image we all had of him. He chose to lead a quiet life, far from the unblinking eye of our attention, because his inherent fallibility would prove to be his undoing if he didn’t.