We have a hard road ahead of us from youth to adulthood. Dreams that feel somewhat unattainable become more and more of a risk as we get closer to our potential.
Parents also pressure us to change our course for financial security and safety. But is it always worth it?
Reddit user waste_of_life_12345 looked back on his life with a tinge of regret as he went onto the subReddit “Today I F’ked Up” (TIFU).
“TIFU and realized I wasted my whole life. at 42 years of age took the safe path as a dentist. My advise to people at a similar age.”
Our original poster, or OP, told his heart-rending tale:
“I think I have wasted my whole life to be honest.”
“I am Joe, I have been a lurking for a while. I created this account to get my story across, I have no idea what I am planning to achieve by doing so, but I hope it can help those who are at crossroads and are stuck between passion and safety.”
His life has gone on for 15 years, with a level of sameness that he resents:
“For the past 15 years of life, I have been a dentist, a path that I chose after leaving a job to study further in the hopes I will make more money. I do not even know why I cared about money when I did not even spend any of it. I met my wife before I started school, when I was 20, when I was a risk-taker, a dreamer and wanted to change the world.”
“Now I’m in a place where I have chronic pain, a cheating wife, kids who don’t love me, a life of staring into mouths all day, a dull brain, no more passions and hopes, no real purpose in life.”
He detailed where he wanted to be:
“I wanted to work as a social worker or an educator, but my parents and wife thought that I could help people in other ways that pay well. They convinced me to take dentistry and I did. I hated every minute of school, I did not want to be in a place where my back would ache, neck would ache and it was not solving the real cause of the problem, but just the result of what happens after people let go of their teeth. All my friends convinced me that it will be rewarding, and I will make a lot of money when I am out of school and I let them.”
“When I was a young man, I wanted to do so many things, I used to play music, I wanted to become a musician, I wanted to be a teacher raising future people who could change the world. I loved physics and mathematics, but my parents told me to follow money instead of passions.”
Versus where he is now:
“Today I have 2 kids, a wife and they all expect me to provide them with a luxurious lifestyle. I have never cared for money, the most enjoyable time in my life was when I was sleeping on a futon in a rental running a small business selling jars of jam made with strawberries from a local farm and also working as a tutor for a bunch of spoilt kids. I had very little, but I was happy, I feel like I should have become an educator/business owner instead of taking a career I hate.”
“From the past 15 years, I have developed chronic pain from doing dentistry, gained at least 20 kilos, made a million dollars but for what? I can’t even do anything because of chronic back pain.”
And truly how unhappy he was:
“After becoming a dentist, I worked 9-4, 5 days a week, I would come back home exhausted, plan my next day, manage the business side of things, have dinner with my kids and wife, sleep and repeat. Have a few weeks here and there as holidays where I would take my family away for a vacation.”
“My kids don’t even talk to me anymore, my wife and I have not had sex for months and I’m 100% that she’s cheating on me with a better-looking man who is older than me, I have seen her phone and confirmed this, but I will not bring it up because I don’t have anyone except her left in my life, she has been my only support throughout this and if she leaves, I have nothing left. My kids will probably be split and hate their dad because their mom has raised them, my life feels like a joke.”
Hindsight is 20/20, they say:
“I remember when I was in my 20s, I used to be popular with the girls, I had countless opportunities to go out with girls I found more attractive than my wife but I didn’t because I cared for her. In hindsight, I should have just done what I wanted to. Maybe my wife would still be attracted to me, I would be healthier and fitter.”
“If I had my life all over again, I would not settle down so early, I would date more and find more interesting friends, I would never choose to be a dentist!”
His passions feel long past:
“I should have stuck to my passion for business/physics/teaching/music etc. Even though I would have been broke, I think I would not have cared, I would wake up everyday working towards a better future, work harder because I am not handed money on a silver platter, the list can go on.”
“I feel that it’s too late to go back to pursue my passions now, my kids have expectations, my wife has expectations, society thinks that I am useful and important.”
But he wants to save others from his fate:
“Sorry if this is a long read, but I just had to say it. I truly have made a joke out of the one life I was given by choosing money, stability, safety, other people’s opinions over my real passions.”
“To all the people stuck between money/stability/safety and passions, just chase your passions because the safe path does not guarantee that you’ll live a life that was worth living.”
“TL:DR – I ruined my life by continuing to do what I hated – dentistry. It has ruined my marriage, health, family, my passions, my mind. Do what you are passionate about, f*** societal expectations.”
Redditors came to share their stories, whether they’d followed their dreams or not:
“If it is any consolation, I did the opposite – followed my passion of writing, became somewhat successful journalist and editor, and after 20 years ended up HATING writing, so I dropped everything, moved to another city and began a new life at the age of 40. It wasn’t a bad move and I don’t regret it, but now I’m grinding 9-5 at a dull job for little money and with no real passion left for anything, afraid of getting old and poor and dying soon (I’m nearly 50 now). Midlife crisis is a b*tch.”~En0der
“Long read sorry.”
“May I make a suggestion? I’m 38 in IT. I too have 2 kids and a wife. If your passion is to help people, there is an organization called Doctors Without Borders. They go to poor countries and help people heal, they need dentists and doctors and help constantly. Your job isn’t who you are, it’s what you do to pay bills, and provide a life. If the wife and kids are spoiled then get counseling, take them to 3rd world countries and show them that life isn’t about driving expensive cars and making lots of money, it’s about service to a better life for everyone, even the less fortunate.”
“Get counseling for you and your wife, if you care for her, but she’s moved on, then make an attempt at saving your relationship. If she refuses, then move on in your life and find your mate for life, people grown apart, people change, and find purpose in life.”
“Invest your money, not in an other job, or business but in people, or in people helping people. No don’t just write a check to a church, or some organization but invest in students, pay their fees for college, universities, anything. Do the same in 3rd world countries. My wife has an aunt that travels Africa with her husband and is responsible for bringing clean water to villages and communities.”
“Wife also has an Uncle that goes to Pakistan and goes to rural areas and helps build clinics, roads, water facilities. Makes the lives of the less fortunate better.”
“What good is money when you’re 6 feet under? Will 4 generation later of kids even care to know who you were or what you did to give them millions?”
“Your life isn’t wasted, and 40 is still very young in life. I knew a man named Gains Oxley, dude was amazing and a mentor to me. I was 20-23 while he was 70+. He told me that the most amazing part of life is that you’re never too old to change and make a better life. PM me if you want to hear more and dude I don’t mind even a phone call, talk to someone, anyone, the depression you’re facing right now is one of the reasons why your profession has one of the higher suicidal rates.”~luther2399
“I followed my passion too. I’m a musician, and it’s never made me a lot of money. I don’t care, because I could list probably 30 household namesthat I’ve worked with, including Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, ELO, Alan Parsons, etc. None of them were exactly my musical heroes, but I’ve had a blast playing with each and every one of them, and had such a gig at least one a month.”
“Now with Covid, I haven’t had a gig like that in about nine months (the first gig to be cancelled was another ELO gig). My awesome annual, well-paid Disney gig is very likely gone, and 2021 doesn’t look much better. Girlfriend and I are arguing because I’m not jumping into another job I have no interest in (I spent my college education on this because this is what I wanted to do), and am riding on my savings to stay in my own lane. It’s just a crazy time.”~NRMusicProject
“I ran my entire twenties being a ‘rock star.’ No thought of how to get through the future, just going hard on passion. for the music, for the stage, for the fans. The passion ran out, the band fell apart. Sleeping on a bed roll is so cool and fun in your early twenties. Waking up on a stranger’s floor when you’re thirty…. not so much.”
“Now i have no skills that transfer into a real world job. And i don’t know how or where to even start over, which would probably be more of a problem if i wasn’t so disillusioned. The left hand path and the right hand path are both fraught, friend. For what it’s worth, i think you should leave your cheating wife, go back to school, and do something you care about. you can do night school and pay for it by drilling until you can quit. More importantly, see a therapist. you might just be depressed and needing help.”~alexaurus_rex
People’s dreams can materialize, but be careful what you wish for:
“Have you considered therapy? Just for yourself. You could go, talk it all out with the therapist, and maybe you would be more open to making some changes once you’ve processed all the regret? Possibly involve the fam if they’re open to it. It is never too late to do something different/something new. And sometimes, you lose people along the way. But you also gain people. Maybe it’s time to open yourself back up to the possibilities in the world.”~scallen2011
“‘The grass is always greener on the other side.’ Who is to say that you wouldn’t have the same or similar complaints had you taken another path? No point dwelling on decisions made in the past. You can’t go back and you just feel shittier thinking about what you could have done different. If you can financially, physically and emotionally make a change in your current situation go for it. It is either that or continue to wallow in it.”~Holysnappinarseholes
“Hey, I’m actually really happy that nearly 1000 people have replied to you, because it means that my comment is going to be lost, only visible to you in your inbox.”
“So this is my personal response to your post. I am 49. I was in a similar place. I am not in the same bad place anymore, and I need you to know about it.”
“My wife was f***ing her fitness instructor back when we were 38. By age 39, we were divorced. By age 44, my daughter was alienated from me, and I’ve never heard from her since. My son, thankfully, is now an adult but as of this moment is sleeping peacefully in his room here in my apartment.”
“When my marriage fell apart, I lost my wife, my home, my dogs, my car, my good tech job at Yahoo, and entered into a 5 year scorched-earth hellfire & brimstone legal battle. I didn’t want any of that misery, but my wife was furious, and punished me severely for wanting the divorce.”
“But here’s the important part. I dropped out of the rat race. I started a career as a writer for a short while. Couldn’t make enough money at it, was probably going to leave the area, and then through contacts & friends, I found a job that would pay OK and let me be a single dad, too. It was in tech and not ideal, as I was burnt out on tech just as you’re burnt out on dentistry. But the hours were sorta flexible. I could go pick up my kids from school at 3 PM. It was nice. And then things got better — I found a job with a friend. I run his Web sites and the hours are CRAZY open-ended. For example, this week my girlfriend had to move in (emergency), and I just didn’t work at all. I now have a couple of employees, so I told ’em ‘I’m real busy with life, so close bugs, see ya in a few days.’ And that’s okay.”
“Sometimes I work 6 PM to midnight, and spend my days doing things with family or friends. Sometimes I play video games until late, and sleep in. One thing is for sure: that ‘sleep debt’ you might have heard of? It’s possible to get healthy. Years ago, I was profoundly in sleep debt. My friends joked that I had early amnesia. I was groggy all the time. Now? I’m sharp. I caught up on years of sleep, I work when I want, I love tech work again, I do only what I want when I want, and if I prefer to make love to my pretty girlfriend all day and work tomorrow, I’m allowed.”
“We’re planning my first trip out of the country! I’m almost 50 and never left! By 55, I’ll be somewhere else. I love not knowing what my future will look like, for once.”
“I make half what I used to. I have almost no savings. But I am less stressed out at this moment than I have ever been in my life.”
“All of this is to say one thing: you can do this. Life is safe only because you’re forcing yourself to behave that way. Life itself doesn’t even want to be safe and predictable. You have to force your life on rails and be bored out of your mind and drive yourself to stay in that mind-numbing mindset in order for it to be like that. Give yourself even a little bit of freedom to do something unexpected or wild, and life will come alongside you like your best worst friend, handing you rewards & consequences both. In other words, it can be tough and heartbreaking but also amazingly freeing and heart-poundingly wonderful. The whole world can be wonderful, if you just engage it.”
“You have a million dollars, you’ve said. You could literally give your wife and kids 800,000, take 200,000 for yourself, and live cheaply for decades. You could go anywhere. Learn a new language. Meet new people. Start a new job or business. You could make a little bit of money, then a lot, then a little, and it’ll be just fine no matter what.”
“Hell, maybe the wife & kids want to come along for that wild ride. Maybe they don’t. You can be open to anything. You can start over, even at age 40, or 60, or 80. I did it, I survived it, and I’m happy. You can change too. Really, you can do this.”~jack_skellington
“OP, you sound burnt out and very depressed. Please see a therapist, do something for your own well-being. And maybe a physical therapist too. Pain in your body affects your mental health and your mental health also affects your physical health. You might feel like you’re drowning and in too deep, but you just can’t see clearly because you’re in the middle of it. You’re still young in the scheme of things with a lot of resources too. Only YOU can change things around.”~thebadsleepwell00
But folks want him to know that not all hope is lost:
“Omg. You are young enough to change this trainwreck around. Im 38. Please for the love of god stop what you are doing and pursue this dream. I imagine the wife and kids will leave on their own because you wont be a sugar daddy anymore. Are the kids adults yet? I hope so. If you have no one else in this world you have me rooting for you. Please find the fire within again.”~_rollseyes_
“Look my guy, I’ve been reading your comments in this thread and to me, you’re sounding pretty defeatist. For good reason of course, stuff’s not going well for you socially/physically speaking. You have revealed that you have the money, so take some care of yourself, get a consultation on the to find the reason behind your back pain, it’s possible that targeted exercise can help, a physical therapist may be worthwhile. Also if you don’t mind me saying, a Psychologist as well. There’s some things between the lines I’m reading that are concerning and I don’t want you to give up just because life isn’t going the way you imagined. There’s hope to change, don’t lose that belief, you have the means to do whatever you want but you gotta find that mental space to work for yourself for what makes you happy and inspires you.”~Immersi0nn
“You need to talk to someone so that you can get in a different head space. 40 is the new 30.”
“Have visited physio or RMT for your back? Have they recommend exercises? Have you been doing them? Do you have a good mattress? I feel like once you mitigate some of your pain it might give you some of your energy back.”~darkapao
“Dentistry gives you a well paying job that you can now do part-time to fund your next career change. Sell your practice and then work part-time under the next owner, or just cut back your hours. Take that extra time to go back to study something you’re passionate about, to start another business, or even just take some time to yourself. If you’re doing it less, you might start to enjoy it doing it a couple of days a week.
“Don’t feel obligated to provide the same amount of money to your wife and children. You’re a dentist and still earning good money. They’re not going to starve. Take that time to work on your health and actually spend more time with your family. Being healthier and happier and spending more time with them is providing more than you were before.
“If you, your colleagues or your family question your decision to cut back your hours, state that it’s a responsible decision because you’re mentally, physically and emotionally burned out, and are trying to avoid a sudden catastrophic break down.
“See a psychologist. Talk to them, not random strangers on the internet. As a medical professional, you’ll appreciate having a trained and logical person to discuss your thoughts and feelings with.
“You may be able to repair things with your kids and your wife, but you need to give them more time and be happier and healthier yourself. You can’t buy it.”
“This isn’t a TIFU. Life is a learning process and maybe on the other side of this, you’ll have an even happier life, but you needed to get to this critical point to learn things and make a change.”
OP’s life is not over. He still has an opportunity to lead a life he absolutely loves.
Let’s hope he finds it.