April 21st 2014
Story originally written and experienced: August 12th 2010
I heard the door slam in the garage.
High heels rHyThMiCaLly harmonizing with the cement floor as she t-r-a-v-e-l-e-d from the driver’s seat
She was home.
My mom, that is.
Crinkled grocery bags in her hands after a hard day’s work.
Rustling for her keys while humming along the way.
I guess I always thought the most underrated part about my mother, was that no matter how terrible or magnificent her day seemed to be.
She would always come home exactly the same.
Happy. Smiling. Grocery bags full of rice. And probably orange juice too. Make a joke. Maybe 3. Cook some dinner.
Ask about my day. And then my sister’s.
Finish her evening with a cup of green tea, and voluntarily leave every one of her dilemmas at the door. Because they weren’t allowed to come inside.
And never would be.
And this time was no different.
This time when she came home and I could tell she was particularly excited. And I was curious to see why.
Her high heels p-a-c-e-d more quickly as
And as soon as she waltzed in, I could hear her say “Hey! I bought 2 lottery tickets today!” with a big grin on her face, as she waved them in the air frantically with one hand with her new groceries weighted on the other. “I bought them just for the fun of it!”
“Well that’s exciting,” I said as I continued to
on the kitchen counter
Slowly packing up my necessities before my last year of college.
“Yes! We find out the results tomorrow. Will you watch it with me?”
“Yes but. You know we’re probably not going to win, right? The chances are wildly low.”
“I knowww. But who cares. It was $2 to buy in. Just live a little.”
We both laughed as she fired up the stove and I continued to stuff my suitcases with snacks from the pantry and fresh socks from the laundry room nearby. (…not together) And in between small talk with my adorable Korean madre, I eventually ended up asking her.
“Mom, what would you actually do if you won the lottery?”
“Hmmm.” she contemplated as she sifted for utensils through numerous drawers, “I would travel. And I would keep my job. And I would help my family. Mostly help my family. And that’s it.”
And she said it so matter-of-factly. Without a pause or any second-guessing.
“Why would you keep your job if you had millions of dollars?”
“Because I love my job.”
“I worked hard to be a doctor. Plus, I just like it. And if the lottery money runs out…then what?”
“I’m not sure…you know sometimes when I hold money in my hand, I think about how it looks like just regular paper. And it doesn’t really feel like it’s worth anything until I think about how I got it and how I use it. What do you think?”
“Definitely. That’s everything.”
“Do you think you would give any of your lottery winnings to charity?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’d probably give most of it to my family. I think that would make me the happiest. Did you want me to make the dumplings tonight or the tofu?”
“Okay. I can do that. Dinner will be ready in 10! Set the table please.”
We continued our conversation over soy sauce and dumplings and had mindless conversation about this random thing and that. But as I dragged my oversized suitcase back up to my room later that night, I remembered thinking that
I believed her.
I really did.
I absolutely believed she’d give almost all of it to her brothers and sisters, keep her job, and be the most content person in the world.
And I wondered if most people were to win the lottery, if they would claim to donate it to charity or share it with others. But if it happened.
If it really really happened.
If they would quit their job and keep it all for themselves.
I mean I might. Probably. Who knows.
But I guess it made me think of the spontaneity of good fortune. And how it happens to everyone. And how we seem to react to it.
How we crave for that perfect person. That perfect job. That brand new thing.
Even when we get it.
It only temporarily feels nice.
Not because we’re not grateful. Or that we just don’t care.
But because once we get it
We really love it.
But once the glory fades. And you’re comfortable with that person. And with that job. And with that thing.
We sometimes forget how badly we wanted it once.
And why it was so great in the first place.
And it made me think of my friend James. And the med school that he studied and studied and studied and studied to get into. And then he did. He got into it. And he was really happy. And he was really grateful. He threw a party. He changed his Facebook status. He got 123 likes. And he showed up early on the first day.
Fast forward 8 months later >> and he steps out to make a phone call after 13 hours of studying on a particularly difficult day. And he asks the person on the other line how he got there. And where his life went. And why. Forgetting that really. If he were to think about it. He wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Doing anything else. Because in this exact moment. He was in the process of living his dream. And how that dream was still exactly the same.
And how cool that really was.
And then there was my friend Benjamin. Who saw this girl in a coffee shop once. And I only remember because I just so happened to be there at the time. She was flawless in his eyes, and he wanted nothing more than to pursue her. Relentlessly. So he did. And it worked. And he took her on a few dates. And they went really well. And then they got engaged. And eventually they got married. And she would really piss him off sometimes. And he would piss her off too. Anything from forgetting to bring chicken home for dinner or switching the channel from Pretty Little Liars to Game of Thrones. And they would complain about each other—often. Mostly about meaningless things. But I guess it was interesting to think that at one point they were the only thing that the other person ever really wanted. And if they were to think about it. They still were.
And that was really great.
And it reminded me of this girl Leyla that I knew, who saved up for this bag and saved up for this bag and saved up for this bag. And she never bought it. Because her friends ended up pitching in money. And buying it for her birthday.
And she decided that day.
That it was the best birthday present she had ever gotten.
Not because it was the bag, but because of the meaning that went behind it. They were really good friends. And she was too. And she was very happy with their gift. But you know, as time went on she would get in fights with her friends here and there, relationships happened so sometimes they would drift apart. But one day she was packing up her things in her old apartment to move herself into the new, and she found that bag. In the back of her closet. And then she kind of remembered where it came from. And why. And when she thought about it again. It was still the best birthday present she had ever gotten. And she sent a text to all of them. Telling them that.
And that was really great too.
When good things happen to us.
We feel really wonderful about it.
But rarely revisit why it was ever initially so great.
How you felt when you got that job. Met that person.Were gifted that thing.
We get anchored by the comfort, by the negatives an how ancient the initial desire and excitement for it really was. Sometimes we think about how things didn’t work out. Or how far away that moment was. How things have changed. And how much more we really want. Forgetting to reappreciate ourselves and other people along the way. Regardless of the outcome. Whether grand or unexpected.
Because break ups and bad days don’t need to be associated with a waste of time.
And successes and achievements really can feel that much sweeter.
And where you are now will just feel like regular paper unless you remember to measure its worth by how you attained it all in the first place, and how you use them now.
The next night I sat with my mom and we watched the results. We didn’t win. And I asked my mom if she was bummed out. And she said no, not really. Because she had already had everything she wanted. Without a stroke of luck. That luck would be nice. But.
Luck can be granted just as well as it can be earned.
Because the good friendships stay around because you took care of them and you kept them there. And every achievement thus far is deserved solely because of you. And the best part about earning, keeping and having all of these things.
Is not only realizing how responsible you and other people are for the good things that have happened to you. But even better.
Realizing them again.