The Powerball jackpot is once again ridiculously high, which means that I, like millions of others, will rush off to buy a ticket with dreams of winning tons of money. There’s a part of me that gets excited about all of the possibilities and opportunities having that much money would bring. However, if I’m being honest, there is also a part of me that thinks winning wouldn’t be such a grand thing after all. The truth of the matter is, I know the odds of winning the jackpot but I’m not sure I know what the odds are of me being happier in the long run if I win. I’m wise enough to know that it certainly isn’t 100%, but is it even 50%? Gambling a couple of dollars is one thing, but gambling my entire life as I know it is quite another.
Some people have a lot of financial stress and hardship in their lives that winning the lottery could save them from. Others are stuck at jobs they hate that money could free them from. For some of these people, the question of whether winning the lottery would make them happier might be a very likely yes. But although I am not very wealthy, I have very little financial stress and am doing the job that I love. So for me, the question is a bit tougher.
For one, I’m afraid if I were to be extraordinarily rich, I would feel like I’d never really know who my true friends were. I’d be forever trying to figure out if people were being nice to me and wanting to spend time with me because they like me or because of what I could do for them. I think that this issue alone could have the potential to make me depressed and lonely. I once experienced the pain of being betrayed and used by someone I loved and it’s a terrible situation to be in. I think that if I won that much money the possibility of that happening again would be almost certain. It wouldn’t be a matter of if I’m being used, only a matter of who is using me and who isn’t. The truth of the matter is, it would be terribly hard for me to be able to truly trust anyone’s intentions, and I’m honestly not the most trusting person to begin with. Feeling like I know who my true friends are is a priceless luxury that I’m not sure I want to risk giving up.
Also, I want the opportunity to be successful in my career, to make something of myself, to have a positive influence on people, to know that all of my hard work, dedication, and sacrifices paid off. If I won the jackpot things would change. People would no longer respect my ambitions, they would laugh at them. “You don’t need the money,” they would say, “let someone else have your job that needs it.” Everything I’m currently pursuing might start to seem selfish and silly. Any true talent or ability to add unique value that I might possess would likely be overshadowed or perhaps even ignored by the fact that I’m just incredibly lucky. Victory just isn’t the same if you feel, or other people feel, that you’ve had an unfair advantage. It’s like if you trained your entire life for an Olympic marathon and then on the big day you were allowed to have someone drive you to the finish line. You’d likely realize that it was never gold medal that you wanted, only the chance to prove that you deserved it.
Of course, those reasons to fear winning the lottery are a bit selfish. Think about all of the good I could do. Wouldn’t the ability to give so much to so many people bring me great joy? Perhaps, but even here there is the risk that it wouldn’t. The thing is, with great power and great wealth comes great responsibility. I’m afraid I would crumble under the weight of this responsibility. I’m afraid I’d stress about spending foolishly, about not doing enough, about spending too much on myself and too little on others. I’m afraid I’d end up like the man in the movie “Schindler’s List,” who saved many lives, but was still heartbroken in the end by the guilt that he could have done more.
So why will I even buy a ticket at all? I guess in the end, in spite of all the fears I have about winning, and the risk that having that much money would not make me happier, there are so many good opportunities and experiences it would give me. I don’t want to be the type of person that allows fear, uncertainty, or my own self-doubts, keep me from embracing opportunity. However, when the numbers roll out, and they are not mine, it’s not very likely that I’ll cry about it.