When the MegaMillions was the biggest ever, something like 1.5 billion dollars, I considered buying a ticket. I have never purchased a lotto ticket before. I think of the lotto as a kind of hope tax on the poor. I’ve never had a lot of money, but I could never bring myself to admit that my best chance for being wildly wealthy is the lottery.
My mom is the lotto ticket buyer in our family— she’s the lucky one. I always figured that if we were supposed to be rich, the money is safest in her hands.
My thinking started to change a couple of years after my cancer diagnosis. I’d made it through the macabre period of expecting to die. I had survived radiation, my cancer had become undetectable and I was ready to start feeling better. Except that didn’t happen.
My energy levels continued to tank. I wasn’t eligible for long-term disability at my job, but toughing it out wasn’t working. My job reviews read like a list of Lupron side-effects. When I lost that job I had to go live with family. My other choice was homelessness.
That’s when I started thinking about the MegaMillions. I really thought it through. I read articles about how winning the lottery ruins your life. I realized that being that rich must be a full time job. The only career I’d ever really aspired to was teaching artist. I would have been more than content with a regular paycheck that made buying a house someday and getting a new car every decade or so realistic.
I don’t know any rich people, but I talked about it with my family. My mom is from that generation of boomers who believe that their successes are the result of their own hard work, good character and exceptional ability. I love my mom. I think she’s great. She worked very hard and is smart as hell. She treats her wealth as though it’s what she deserves. My brother said if he won, he would just spend it all doing whatever he wanted. Eventually he agreed to give me a small stipend if I wasn’t too much of a dick to him.
I thought about what I would do with all that money. I decided that if I were very rich, I would endow a chair in my mother’s name. I might fund an artists’ residency. Maybe start a non-profit to support vermicomposting in every American home. Mostly though, I figured out that being that rich would mean meeting with bankers and investors and brokers and all the other kinds of people that I never wanted to meet or be. But worse, I’d have to find ones that I could trust.
The most seductive part of the exercise was thinking of how it would change my story. Rather than being a failed college art professor who got cancer, didn’t die but whose life went to shit anyway, the MegaMillions would make me into into someone who….
I never bought the ticket.