We don’t all get to achieve the dream they made us come up with in school. They only send so many monkeys into space after all, some of us just have to be happy with the bananas we’re given.
But sometimes the end of something we thought we wanted is only the beginning of a life we didn’t know we could have. Here, people share the times their dreams didn’t come true and what became of their lives afterwards. Enjoy! And make sure to check out the sources at the bottom.
1. Going for the rebound.
I wanted to play professional basketball overseas. Not your typical “I grew up playing ball”..I mean I was a crazy kid from 12 – 21. Days start at 4:30 am, hours in the gym and weights everyday for years. I lost friends over it just putting all my free time into training, I just wanted it really badly. I made it to the college level and blew out my knee my sophomore year. After that I just lost the motivation — felt like I lost a step coming off of surgery and decided to move on and just focus on school.
I don’t regret it at all and in fact I learned a lot about the journey and the satisfaction/reward of hard work and dedication. You also don’t lose the experience gained even if you came up short. I don’t think I’d ever regret pursuing a dream (one without financial investment). I love chasing dreams, it keeps your mind occupied and gives you a purpose. I’m totally aware of the possibility of coming up short, but I feel “failure” is NOT trying, living with the wonder that if you did try..that’s what would drive me crazy.
During the time of recovering from surgery luckily I found my new passion — software development. I want to start a company (apps) and that’s where all my time goes now. I’ve got a couple apps in development right now that I’m really excited about, but not afraid for them to fail. Experience gained in the process is going pay off regardless.
2. Always time to find some extra lives.
Went to a video game design college because I wanted to make video games. Quickly became apparent that the industry is extremely cut throat and there is no such thing as job security or work/life balance. I quit after a year. Still paying off the student loan 6 years later.
3. The mind is willing, but the body is spongy and bruised.
I wanted to make movies that change the world. I was enrolled in a world renowned academy but was 3 weeks out from infections and surgeries for breast cancer. I was on heavy duty (oxycontin) pain relief and couldn’t make the pace work for my family.
I withdrew. I am taking a very alternate route to making moving pictures, and missed many fabulous opportunities (yet again) because of my treacherous body. But it’s okay – I can’t regret meeting some of the world’s most talented actors or some really wonderful friends.
Do I truly regret it? I regret the timing of it, and the failing to finish part; but it just means there was a different path waiting for me.
4. Under pressure.
My dream was to get into an Ivy League school. Part of that dream was just the pressure from my parents and the prep school I attended, but I completely internalized it. When I was rejected from my top choice, I went into a bout of depression and self-harm. I was enrolled in my second choice. I was so afraid of going there that I had to take a break for the sake of my health. (Story continues…)
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I went to go get counselling and was going to be put on anti-depressants and Zanax. Finally I realized I shouldn’t go. Very last minute, I dropped the deposit and enrolled in a school closer to home. It’s not as prestigious, but they are giving me a free ride here because of my GPA and test scores. I only regret that I am no longer being challenged academically, but my mental health has reached near recovery. In all, I know I did the right thing.
5. Rock stars don’t die, they just fade away.
I spent a huge chunk of my life touring in bands, hoping to develop a career in music, knowing it would take years, if ever, to actually make money at it. I’ve put myself in a lot of debt, headaches, lack of sleep, and stress to the point where I’ve had to seek medication at times to deal with everything. I failed in a way that I’m at an age and place in life where the window to develop a “career” I can even live on through my adult years has all but completely closed.
I don’t regret it, as I’ve gotten to travel to a lot of awesome places over the years, make a lot of friends, create amazing experiences, and I’m still giving it another year or two thanks in part to getting a gig in a band that’s considered a “legendary” hardcore punk/metal band, and heading off to do my first tour in Europe starting next month, and some opportunities further east of that continent later in the year.
Most people will say that I didn’t fail at my dreams, but I’m fully aware that this party is pretty much over after this year, and with that means that I didn’t achieve the career I had set off to ultimately have.
6. The best thing that ever happened to me.
My dream was to be an English professor. I love literature, I loved the academic lifestyle, and it just felt natural after I did so well in both undergrad and grad school. After I got my master’s degre, I spent two years trying to get into a good PhD program, but I couldn’t get in anywhere. I was crushed. I spent two years after that in a crappy job, which made me feel even worse about the whole thing.
I’ve since gotten a much better job. I haven’t regretted not continuing my academic career ever since I found out how nice it is to have money. The prospect of spending 4+ years being poor to maybe get a tenured position with a starting salary around what I make now has lost its appeal. I’m proud of the work I did on my master’s thesis, and I learned a ton, but I can continue to learn about literature without uprooting my life.
I was top at my high school for singing, top in the District, top in the state – four years in a row. Got into Julliard but could not afford to go ,went to State college instead. I was so intimidated that I was completely locked up inside myself. I had no one around me who knew who I was, no one to give me that constant boost of confidence I was used to.
The competition at the school was fierce and everyone talked about who was the “Best” all the time. Every time I went to recital, I choked from the pressure. I had breakdowns from the nerves. I began to hate singing, and I lost all of my nerve. I felt I was constantly being judged – and it crushed me through anxiety and self-doubt. (Story continues…)
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I wish I was stronger then, but I learned I didn’t have the thick skin I needed to be in that field. I put music on the shelf for a long time, until I could get back to a place where the music become a thing I loved again, my love of singing, the enjoyment it brought me personally. I rarely ever sing in front of people because it causes me anguish to feel judged by it, and I think it will be a life long struggle. But for me I learned that music is a personal love for me alone, and I have a hard time being critiqued on performance, when all I really want to do is share a song. Singing in church helped me to get that love back, and I am thankful for that. Music is a personal, spiritual, expression of my love for life and devotion to the beauty of this world – and I don’t; want to be graded on my performance skills.
8. The long road to success.
In 2009, I got laid off by the company I had spent the past 4 years working for. But instead of just getting laid off, I started my own design company and asked them to put me on a small retainer so they could keep my services at a discount, and I could keep on paying rent and eating ramen noodles.
So, I started the company, got incorporated as an LLC through LegalZoom, and started to do the work and look for new clients. However, as I said, this was 2009, the economy was in the tank and people weren’t really looking for brand enhancements, clever 3-d mail campaigns, or cute animations. So I struggled.
I also got married a couple of months after starting the business and failed to meet some commitments to the clients I had found while away for the wedding/honeymoon and I returned to find some very pissed off clients and (rightfully) unpaid invoices.
I never really got out of that tailspin. I got depressed. I got really withdrawn. My wife and I were in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment where I also worked out of our bedroom and her desk was under the stairs (she was working on her Masters).
I was pretty miserable. She was miserable. I couldn’t find any more work. My retainer ran out with my old company. I couldn’t afford to keep the portions of my income that I needed to reserve for taxes, and I dipped into those when things got tight.
Then I decided to start looking for a job. I needed a change. So I applied to 8 jobs a day for 3 weeks, eventually applying to 120+ jobs. I applied all over the country. And I got like 8 callbacks. A few of those happened to be in my hometown in TX, so I planned a trip to see my family. Ended up getting a great job there that finally broke me out of my depression. I moved to TX while my wife was finishing her last semester of her Masters. After I left, she thrived. She made new friends. She became a much happier person, in general. And I realized that I’d been dragging her down. And to be fair, vice versa as well. She ended up taking a job in the same place where she got her Masters and I stayed in Houston and we decided to get divorced.
That was probably the lowest point of my life thus far. The IRS caught up to me the next April and I owed several thousand dollars in back taxes for not paying my contractor taxes to them. But luckily, I had a great job, was able to take a loan out from family, and paid them back fully within the year.
It all worked out in the end. I’m remarried to a wonderful woman, have a great job doing something I like with people I really like. Just, don’t start a company in the middle of a recession. And if you’re working from home, don’t do it in a 1 bedroom apartment when your SO also spends a lot of time at home.
9. Level up.
When I was 15 I started modding different games with people as a 3d artist. I always wanted to be really good at it. I even dropped out of college to pursue this dream. I also dropped out because I didn’t want to do anything with my major at all. I should have taken that as a lesson earlier… (Story continues…)
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The thing is, I was always just too busy with work or school to push myself to get better. Everyone I have worked with has surpassed me in every way. I knew a lot of the people that worked on Halo when they were just starting out.
I still work on stuff from time to time but I feel so stuck. I have a comfortable job in graphic design / marketing but I really wanted to be a 3d artist.
10. Running on empty.
My husband and I started an autobody shop about 8 years ago. Thing were going well for the first 4-5 years, gradually increasing profits year after year. Then he decided he wanted to get a bigger shop; which is understandable. A dream shop became available and we decided to take it. The overhead was about 5x what the other shop was.
We ended up struggling to make ends meet; people were angry because their vehicles were taking longer to do, because we had to take more vehicles on to try and pay the bills every month. It basically became this downward spiral that we were running out of money, not making anything and not being able to pay all of our overhead each month.
We were taking on bad projects just to try and cover our bills. Ended up taking on stuff that wasn’t paying what it was worth, but it was better than no money coming in at all.
What was the nail in the coffin was that one of our so called ‘friends’ purposely vandalized his own car so he could have it restored through an insurance claim. Ended up wanting a TON of work done above and beyond what the insurance would cover. We told him that the price would end up going up because of the additional work. He ended up pulling the car, trying to sue us and we had to spend over $4000 in lawyer fees, as well as settling with this so called friend for another $2000, just to avoid another couple of thousand dollars in lawyer fees. It was one of the last straws and that was about 6 months ago.
At this point we are trying to tie up financials, sell some equipment, and move on with our lives without having to sell our home to pay debts that we incurred through the business. It’s been a tough struggle and it sucks to see 8 years of your life going down the drain slowly, but it was just a couple bad business choices that we couldn’t recover from.
11. Those who can’t do…
I spent my undergrad so certain I was going to be a writer. I really wanted to be a fiction writer. It was plan A, B, and C. I got my degree in teaching because I thought I’d have more time to write. After my degree, I managed with some minor writing gigs but they weren’t constant (I was even living in a huge city at the time – went nowhere). I did some work for a school district while I mulled over getting my licensure, but at that point every other teacher was getting fired in my state. (Story continues…)
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I ended up getting a marketing writing job . It didn’t last long but it was a little bit validating. The company didn’t have enough business for me to stay. I still wrote like nobody’s business, and tried finding a new way into writing, but it never went anywhere. I got one short story published, a remote internship in publishing that fizzled out.
So I went back to school, but my school only had early childhood education so I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to make up the difference in early childhood so I can apply for my teaching licensure. This was my plan x, but at least it was an option. I liked the little kids I used to tutor. Turns out I HATED it. Spending five years away really opened my eyes to how they teach pedagogy. Its a lot of talking about the inherent, systemic problems in education with no real solution, education trends you’re not supposed to deviate from. And during my observation, I didn’t envy the pre-school teacher. It filled me with dread.
So the next semester, I decided to take a class for fun, took geology. OMG. It turns out that this is so much fun. It’s so hands-on, and the investigative nature of science really appealed to me. Now I’m planning for the next steps for my second BA.
I’m still writing but once I fell in love geology it was so easy to let that writing for pay dream go. Now I just write fiction because it’s fun and it shows on the page, way better, more relaxed. The sucky part about this whole thing is now my family only sees me as a writer and keep trying to get to write for pay on sites and stuff. I get the hesitated “that’s great” remark when they ask about geology. They’ll get used to it.
This is a really long way of saying that even though you set out for one thing, that journey can be more important than you realize.
12. The important things in life are free.
I was a nurse in Cali. I decided to give up my American dream after living in the US for more than a decade and moved back to the Philippines to marry my long-time long-distance girlfriend and manage the family business. So far business isn’t doing well and kinda struggling financially but I know that I cannot and will never give up.
Do I regret it? Definitely not as we now have twin boys that are extremely smart, healthy and very active (too active but I cannot complain).
13. You got a friend in me.
I regret ever thinking my dream was possible, let alone all the time and money I put in to it. I think I have ruined my life.
I wanted to work in animation, whether for games or visual effects in film/tv/whatever, I didn’t mind. People had been encouraging my drawing for years and, although I knew art wasn’t exactly a safe career choice, I thought combining it with an industry that was booming (think Incredibles era Pixar) would be a bit more sensible. I got accepted to the degree I wanted and it all just turned into a bit of a mess. (Story continues…)
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I wasn’t very good with the 3D modelling programs used, I don’t remember being taught much how to animate in them beyond keyframing in 3ds Max (we didn’t get a tutor who knew Maya until part way through my second year). Our preparation for job hunting was being told to join LinkedIn, make a CV, and set up our own blog or website to host our showreel. By my third and last year I think I was permanently on the edge of a breakdown. I was constantly ill and sent for blood tests because they couldn’t figure out what was causing it, but I think it was stress. We had our graduate show in an FX studio in London and I ended up crying in front of one of my lecturers because I knew my prospects had already gone to the dogs. I’d spent months trying to get intern positions, graduate positions and nothing bit. No one had any use for my kind of skills and I didn’t have the money to go on any further training to try and get better ones. Of my class no one did very well, I think some have joined/started some smaller companies since or just got little jobs elsewhere, but only one was ever hired by one of the big names.
A bit over a year after graduation one of my classmates killed herself. She left multiple notes for her family and one where she wrote about her frustration at not being able to get in to the industry. She’d been working in a pub and when they let her go she decided she had nothing left. I spent all of that time being passed from temporary desk job to job centres trying to stay afloat. I’ve struggled with depression since I was 15/16 and I ended up back on medication after two suicide attempts and a spate of self-harming. I stopped trying, I stopped drawing, I stopped doing any of that stuff and the longer you go without new work the less anyone in the industry cares. There are always fresh graduates.
Now I know so much more about that industry than I ever learnt while studying, even when talking to professionals. The permanent crunches, never having or seeing family. I’ll even admit that I didn’t realize sexism could possibly be an issue (and look how amazing that discussion’s gone over the last couple of years). Even if I managed to break in I would have been broken by that lifestyle.
So now I work at a desk job I hate, because not even retail will have me, job prospects here are slim and I can’t afford to move anywhere else. I still don’t draw much – every now and then I try but it doesn’t give me much enjoyment of any kind. I have given up on dreams and I wish I’d never had them, I even regret that I had people around me kind enough to support my stupid idea. I don’t know how to get out of this rut.
My ten year old cousin loves drawing and loves to show me the stuff he does – and I always love how excited he is – but a part of me desperately wants to stop him before he makes the same mistake. Don’t do art. Not even once.
14. Sounds like a real nutcracker.
I was trained to be a ballerina since I was three and it was all I wanted. I had almost hit the ten-year mark when I started middle school. I was at the studio every day, taking pilates and dieting and hanging around as an understudy competing for even small dancing parts.
What happened was I was almost thirteen and I was starting junior high. I had to make the choice between ballet and being a teenager. This was around the time my weight was being monitored and I was getting into bulimia. That’s something the Lifetime channel doesn’t exaggerate.
I gave it up because I just couldn’t take the heat. I know, pathetic. But, like I said, I was thirteen. I was starting to fill out and lose that stick-thin ballerina shape. I was becoming more interested in having friends and being a snot-nosed little punk. The commitment was huge.
The thing that really made up my mind was this: ballerinas are the worst. Stereotypically stuck-up and prissy, the real prima ballerinas at the studio could be straight-up inhuman. I once read that it’s because their rigorous training leaves them little time to develop social skills and empathy.
The amount of back-biting and sabotage that went on, like loosening costume straps and throwing toeshoes in the dumpster…let’s just say it was an awkward thirteen-year old’s nightmare. I signed up for marching band and thus ended that chapter of my life.
I try not to regret the decision too much, seeing as my weight is healthy and I’m not a sociopath.