I was watching the TV show Castle* last night with my roommate, and Castle kept asking people what they’d do if they won the lottery. Being best-selling author of crime novels, Castle is ridiculously rich, and he said that to him, monetary success means freedom. His money is important to him because as it allows him to live life on his terms — mostly, to devote himself to writing and spending time with his daughter (although he does splurge on things like a gorgeous apartment in Manhattan and light sabers with which to play with his daughter).
And that got me thinking because if I won the lottery, of course there are things I’d want to buy (a nice digital SLR camera, possibly an iPad, the first five seasons of the Eccleston-Tennant-Smith Doctor Who, and a whole slew of books come to mind), but the two things that I keep coming back to are staying in Chicago and TJLP. If I won the lottery, I’d sign the lease on a decent apartment in Chicago — either downtown in the Loop (if I could do so without spending a really ridiculous amount of money — having the money is no reason to being wasteful, and I don’t need a several-thousand-dollar-a-month apartment) or somewhere in Boystown, just off the Red Line. I’d also donate a significant amount of money to TJLP — how much, I don’t know, but I’d like to help it be sustainable.
There are a number of things on which I’d also consider splurging — my friend is getting married next fall, and I’d offer to pay for her photographer as a wedding present; there are a number of organizations that are important to people who are important to me to which I would donate. I’d also give to Bryn Mawr, of course, to my old childhood dance group, and to the theatre department at my high school; actually, what I’d really like to do would be to donate enough money that they would rename our theatre (well, the school calls it an auditorium, but we called it the theatre) after my high school theatre director and tech director. It’s basically their theatre department, and they deserve to be recognized. Plus, that would make me happy.
Ultimately, though, I hope I’d be reasonable. I would definitely indulge myself a bit (So many books and so little time! So many restaurants to try!), but I’d like to think that I wouldn’t go overboard. The episode I mentioned in the beginning of this post ended with the idea of a legacy. As the other people in the office talked about what extravagant things they’d buy, Castle’s partner Beckett insisted that she’d never thought about what she’d buy if she won the lottery. Castle realizes at the end of the episode that Beckett would do something to honor her mother’s memory.
I think that if I won the lottery (which is a moot point because I don’t buy lottery tickets, but for the sake of the argument, let’s say that I did), my goals would be a combination of freedom and legacy. It would allow me some breathing room to live life on my own terms — to stay in Chicago, to not base my medical/health decisions on what my insurance company will cover, potentially to go to grad school just because I want to learn more (not because it would further my career goals). It would also allow me to focus on giving back to the communities that have influenced me and supporting the organizations in which I believe. I would want my money to make a positive difference to many people, not to just make me richer. I would want my money to combat systematic injustices — to get to the root of the problem instead of merely tossing money at the problem as some kind of band-aid. Most of all, I would want the lottery earnings to make life better. Of course you can’t buy happiness, but I don’t see why money, wisely invested, couldn’t help.
*Yes, I’m entirely aware that the show is problematic (it’s a cop show), and there is much about each episode that makes me really uncomfortable and with which I strongly disagree. That said, I started watching for Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly!) and haven’t been able to kick the habit. Moving on. . . .