I feel like talk of this $900 kagillion lottery jackpot is all over my facebook and twitter feeds today. I even had an extended conversation with Soul Twin about what she would do if her ticket was the winning ticket. So, thought I, let me take a break from my dating-angst-filled posts to do something light-hearted. Which, being the Debbie Downer I tend to be, left me feeling not so light-hearted.
Here are the things I would do if I won $100 zillion:
1) Pay off my own student loan debt and the student loan debt of everyone I love.
2) Buy a condo in JP and a hybrid car, and adopt a dog.
3) Pay off my parents house and all their debt and set up a fund so that my mother would never have to work again, unless she wanted to.
And then I drew a blank.
There are other things I want (mostly lots and lots and LOTS of clothes and shoes) but I often feel like if I could just have those basic things, I could be truly happy.
And I mean it.
I am resistant to the idea that money can buy happiness. We all know, in theory, that it can't. But what it can do is expunge the financial mistakes of the past. It can make them virtually disappear--like they never existed. Money swirling out of nowhere, crashing back into nowhere, and leaving something like freedom in it's wake.
It's fun to dream about, no? A financial reprieve so great it's akin to a new life. A life where no dress or apartment or vacation is too expensive. Where eating out for every meal is an option, and deciding between cage-free and not-cage-free eggs to save a dollar is a thing of the past. I feel like the question for me is less what I would do with all that money and more what would I do with myself. What would it be like to be a person with no real financial burdens?
One night last fall, I was riding my bike down Brattle Street when I passed a particularly splendid North Cambridge Home. It was huge (duh), old (most likely) and had a rainbow stained glass window inlaid in the (oversized) front door. Before I passed the house I had been talking aloud to myself, something I frequently do while riding my bicycle, discussing why I was feeling so guilty about having abandoned my homemade lunch in lieu of eating (yet another) Chipotle burrito. "I feel guilty," I believe I was saying, "because that was my last 10 dollars. What if something comes up? What if I need to go to the chiropractor? What if I need to buy tampons or toothpaste? I'm down to zero." And then I rode by that house and thought, "The person who owns that house is never down to zero." And then I cried. Crying while riding my bike is also a frequent occurrence, and I cried the remaining two miles home.
I know I have so many essential aspects of my life that could not be purchased. I have friends with whom I share my life (who share their lives with me), friends who are so much an essential part of my heart they are family. Not LIKE my family; they ARE my family. I have parents and a brother who I love and trust. The safe space in which my parents raised me allows me to remain emotionally open even in difficult situations. Not to mention being born into a middle class family, raised in a safe neighborhood, given access to healthy foods, etc. My life is good. Quite good in fact.
What would an inordinate amount of money actually bring me? It would be nice to buy any dress, go on any vacation, eat out at any restaurant, but does my happiness really hinge on those things? Of course it doesn't. OF COURSE it doesn't.
While laying in bed writing a few days ago, I began to dissect my sadness. I say I want to have more money, more clothes, more love. What do I really want?
I want to acknowledge the unearned gift that is my race, my upbringing, my education, my cushy job. Because even though I often find my life comparatively lacking, the truth is, in the history of the world, I am so, so undeservedly blessed. And in the end, I want that to be enough. I want what I have to be enough.
I wish there were a lottery for that. I would certainly buy a ticket.