“Are you buying a Powerball ticket?” asks the radio morning show host on my alarm clock before I’ve even opened my eyes. The question is repeated throughout the day as the whole country seems to vibrate with anticipation of the $1.5 billion (and growing) Powerball lottery jackpot drawing tonight.
True, it is the largest U.S. lottery jackpot in history, and more than twice the second-largest jackpot from 2012, a sum so large it is impossible to conceptualize (even if you realize that the jackpot cash payout is “only” about $500 million after taxes). I fully appreciate that everyone worries about money, and that getting a cash windfall seems like it would solve most problems. And of course, everyone loves to dream about how they would spend it.
I completely understand and endorse the fantasy. After all, it was a conversation with my sister about what we’d do if we won the lottery that made me realize I was still hung up on my first love, now my husband. I told my sister if money was no issue I’d fly back to South Africa and stay as long as it took to find out if he and I could make a long-term relationship work. Just admitting that out loud was the impetus I needed to pursue a grant to help defray the costs of a month in Pretoria, and I came back engaged. As it turned out, I didn’t need to buy a lottery ticket to win big, just a plane ticket! So
So I’m all for imaging what we’d do with more money, since such musings can help reveal important desires that we can work towards (in more concrete ways than just buying a lottery ticket). As we have seen over and over again, however, money cannot buy health or happiness, and it often proves to be the enemy of both.
In fact, the internet is rife with advice on what to do if you win tonight’s record-breaking jackpot, namely – change nothing about your life (at least initially), except who you are. In order to escape demanding friends and family and potential crooks and exploiters, a winner should eliminate his or her online presence, where a disguise, disconnect phones, and get out of town. What?!? I’m pretty sure no one’s lottery fantasy includes such drastic steps, but it may not be bad advice.
While many of my worries come from a lack of money, I know that a sudden windfall would cause even more stress and problems. More importantly, I already have riches that cannot be bought – the good fortune to be born in the world’s greatest country; excellent health; many opportunities to travel and learn; a handsome, doting husband; strong, joyful children; unconditionally loving parents and in-laws; supportive friends; a stable job; and an attitude of gratitude that make me feel like a lottery winner every day.
So to everyone who asks me if I am buying a ticket – no, but i hope that everyone who does, whether they win or lose, wakes up tomorrow counting their blessings and feeling like a winner.