I Spent 41 Years Living Someone Else’s Life

It’s never too late to break free.

Kristen Walters
4 min readApr 11, 2024
Credit: Canva Pro

“How’s the webcam thing going?”

This is what my dad says to me every Sunday morning when we talk on the phone.

He knows what I do.

Over the past decade, I’ve quietly built an online business, which consists of an extensive portfolio of YouTube channels in the education niche and, most recently, a book publishing company that is doing quite well.

All in, I’m generating multiple six figures a year.

The fact that I’ve found a way to earn a good living on my own terms is something I’m personally very proud of.

My dad can’t stand it.

His intention with this repetitive comment is to try to make me feel shame (by insinuating that I’m a sex worker) because I’m no longer complying with his vision for my life.

He has lost control — and he knows it.

Out of desperation, he started saying this to other people, too.

Maybe he thinks if he embarrasses me enough, I’ll “fall back in line.”

Nice try.

He says it to friends, relatives, old coworkers of mine …even people I used to date.

Any chance he gets, he blurts out —

“I sent her to law school, but now she’s doing some webcam thing.”

Followed by a chuckle and a disapproving head shake.

This is honestly so gross to me.

Every time I confront him about it, he gaslights me.

He’ll say he didn’t mean it “like that” or that I need to get a sense of humor.

But I see exactly what he’s doing.

And to be clear, he didn’t “send” me to law school.

I paid for it.

I chose to go out of a natural desire to fulfill my parent's wishes.

Having a child who is an attorney is apparently some point of pride for some Boomer parents.

In my family, everything is about appearances.

So they used the old carrot on a stick tactic —

If you do what we want, we *might* finally approve of you.

Of course, I fell for it.

The idea of finally being worthy of my parent’s love was all the motivation I needed.

Unsurprisingly, the love that was promised never came.

For the last 41 years, I’ve worked incredibly hard to earn my parent's affection by living my life for them.

It was a sickness I couldn’t seem to shake.

I exceeded every expectation (often at the expense of my physical health and mental well-being.)

Achievement after achievement.

It was never enough… until it was too much.

Somewhere along the way, I violated the first law of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power

Law #1: Never Outshine the Master.

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents, or you might accomplish the opposite — inspire fear and insecurity.

Years ago, my mother started treating me with a level of cruelty and contempt I couldn’t comprehend at the time.

Now I see that the game was rigged from the start.

There were unspoken rules:

Do enough to make us look good, but not so much that it makes us feel bad or insecure.

Once I realized that my family operates on a system of control, not care, and ego, not love, I decided it was finally time to stop playing their game.

Quitting The Game

I’m not going to lie and say that my life is great now or that I’ve got it all figured out.

On the contrary, this is where the real “work” begins for me.

It’s hard.

At 41, I’m battling CPTSD, anxiety, and depression.

It often disrupts my daily life.

I’m also trying to discover who I really am and live an authentic life that isn’t solely focused on work or the pursuit of material things.

I'm learning how to set (and uphold) boundaries, heal my trauma, and stop using work as a coping mechanism.

For the first time in four decades, I feel like I can finally breathe a little bit.

I’m excited to see where this goes.

And who knows… maybe I’ll set up an Only Fans page just to mess with Dad :)

(See, I do have a sense of humor.)