Remember when the lottery was a billion dollars? Actually a billion dollars, not just an exaggeratory billion dollars. Everyone you knew was buying tickets, and people stood in long lines at gas stations to buy them on the nights of the drawings. My family and friends were all talking about what we would do with the money — what we would buy first, who we would share it with, where we would go.
The lottery is a game of chance — just a shot in the dark. We know how many people play the game, and we know that nearly 100 percent of them lose the game.
Yet we all sat there, waiting for the news to go off, making plans for a life that would never be and will never be for most of us. And when the numbers appeared on the screen and they weren’t a perfect match to the ones I was holding in my hand, I was disappointed.
Every time I’ve played the lottery, I’ve only ever been disappointed, unless you can count the momentary excitement felt when winning a dollar on a scratch off ticket. The night of the billion dollar drawing, it was somehow more disappointing.
I’ve considered what this says about who I am as a person. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s anything good, but I think back to the conversations I overheard that week — the ones that began with, “Well, if I were to win the lottery…” There were so many of them, accompanied by people’s’ long lists of wants and desires. It hit me then: why do we all think we’re so special?
People of all ages were talking about the lottery and buying tickets, but most of the statements that I overhead — “I’m going to take it all in a lump sum, and fly on over to Costa Rica”— came from people on UNCG’s campus.
More or less as young adults; we are constantly reminded of the jobs that won’t be available, the debt piling before us, and yet some of us are still confident. We’ll spend thousands of dollars on a liberal arts education that promises no steady future plans or payment, and we’ll spend a few dollars on lottery tickets and watch hopefully as a line of numbers appear on a television screen.
But why? What makes us think that we’re so special that any of these gambles are going to pay off?
In a time where people acquire fame from six second videos posted on the Internet, maybe we’re being predisposed into thinking we’re lucky. If someone can make millions of dollars from posting videos of them doing their makeup on YouTube, can’t we all buy winning lottery tickets at the gas station?
Overexposure of these one in a million instances are filling us with this hope, a sense that maybe we too can live a “special” life by doing nothing more than living an ordinary existence. If people can become rich off an Instagram account where they post pictures of their dogs, then really, aren’t we all going to at least do okay in life?
Maybe it’s dangerous to think we’re special. We live in this time where we see all of this attainable success, but we also live in a time where you can’t turn the news on without hearing about death and the impossible hurdles that are to come in the future. More disasters than ever are being thrown at humans, and yet we are still filled with obnoxious amounts of hope. We still want to be successful writers and teachers and artists. We still buy lottery tickets.