“Why do you buy a ticket when you know you’ll never win?”
“It’s a dollar, and it’s not about thinking I’m going to win, it’s about having a chance to dream up the ‘what-ifs’ of winning. It’s letting yourself believe for those few days before the draw that everything you can think of is about to come true. It’s a dream, and $1 is a pretty cheap dream.”
When I was little, I would have this conversation with my mom when we would stop at a gas station to buy a lottery ticket, it didn’t happen too often, but I still remember. To this day the “what-if” game is my mom’s favorite, and on the rare occasion of her buying a lottery ticket, we have to play it.
Now, being in the transitory stage of life, my what-ifs are either too practical for my mom, and now dad that chimes in with a quip here and there, or too ridiculous, like cure cancer, sink all the shark-finning boats, or go on a great journey to find and meet, and hopefully not be killed by, a Sasquatch (they like the soothing tones of female voices). She wanted dreams that are reasonable, but just out of reach at this time.
I always play the game, and with my imagination, quickly start to spin off to the illogical, improbable, and sometimes just plain fictional possibilities. This week, I decided to play the game for real. Picked my numbers and everything. It may seem silly to some people, especially to fellow creatives, that I felt the need to buy something to help me dream. It isn’t that I need help letting my imagination run wild with the blue prints of my future, side note, crayons are not erasable.
The thick glossy strip of paper in my hand acted as an anchor to my mind. Just like the question, “You’re house is burning, you have 30 seconds to grab anything you can and run, what do you save?” I stared at the random numbers, odds and evens, primes and whatever the name for not-primes is, and I asked “If you got the money, what are the top things you would do?”
1. Pay off my student loans, and pay back my parents for all the money they spent on my education.
2. Road trip. I was going to say get my own place, but then decided to be a nomad, to explore the beautiful country I live in, and have seen so little of. Then I would travel around to all of the butterfly sanctuaries of the world, just be covered with butterflies, and write a book about it.
3. Get my own place, after I am done being on the road full-time. Why would I pay rent for a place I’m not living in?
4. Charities, I like volunteering, and give what tiny amount I can, but I would love to drop some dough on the causes I have supported all these years.
5. Sharks. I would get dive certified and go around the world touching as many sharks as I can. This may fit in the nomad section.
6. Open a little bookstore cafe with my best friend. I don’t know that this will ever happen, but it is always the joke between us that someday we will be the eccentric ladies with a witty named coffee-bistro-books-music hybrid monster.
7. I was happy that I did also still want to get a job, being an editor’s assistant, or working my way from intern into the creative department of a studio. It just made me smile that the hard worker gene in my family transcends the possibility of money.
The point of all this, to realize that this little piece of mulched, soaked, treated, steamed and pressed tree is not the thing keeping me from my dreams. I am. All the years of crying, laughing, yelling, and shaking my head at luck, and how fickle it can be. All those days, believing in God, yet not trusting that He knows what to do in my life. How brave I think I am, and yet in the mirror stares back a little girl, not daring enough to tell her reflection how to achieve her dearest wishes.
How many people look at a scrap of paper very similar to the one that is now resting on my dresser, and dare to dream about the blessings that I take for granted every day? For that matter, how many people wish to have a single dollar?
I don’t expect to win, I’m not that good at math anymore, but I can understand the slim odds, and that’s fine. I will work for my dreams, I’m a get-stuff-done kind of girl. But if once a year, or once every few years, I lose sight of what it is I really want to do with my life, I will buy a smidgen of dead tree with black numbers printed into it. I will buy a lottery ticket, not only for the anticipation of dreams, but to remind myself of one very important fact.
My life, my family, my faith, and what I have experienced…I’ve already won the lottery.