My father gave us a Heart and Stroke Lottery Calendar for Christmas. There's a daily prize of $5,000. There are also bonus draws: $10,000 every Friday and $100,000 on the last day of the month. Special occasions merit special jackpots, such as this Thursday's $30,000 St. Patrick's Day lucky chance. At first I thought this was an odd sort of Christmas present (sorry, Dad). But I confess I check the Prize Calendar Site daily. Sometimes more than once. Now every day seems filled with possibility. When I wonder how I'm going to pay the Visa bill, or when I'm dreaming of swaying palms, I simply check the Winners' Wall. Never one to buy lottery tickets or go to the casino, I wonder at all the years I've been living without such a simple solution to hopelessness (financial hopelessness, that is).
This is how I can tell that I'm at a "career" crossroads. These are some of the paths to choose from: 1. Remain a starving writer (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration as I have an Italian husband who likes food so much he's willing to work on cruise ships and feed us). 2. Return to school and learn a "hard" skill rather than another "soft" skill. Apparently artsy things like writing are soft skills (translation: difficult to observe, quantify and measure (in order to pay writers fairly, or at all)) 3. Believe that the Winners' Wall will soon display our names (preferably on the last day of the month or a jackpot day). Am I wrong to choose option 3? To believe and believe with all my Heart and Stroke? They have won in Yarker and Beamsville and South Porcupine--doesn't Cowichan Lake deserve to grace the Winners' Wall?
If it doesn't, I fear for the worst. Now that I'm a volunteer receptionist at Cowichan Lake Community Services and Employment Centre where I have learned to send faxes, sell bus tickets, and loan out commodes--I have access to the latest job opportunities in the region. Unfortunately, I lack the hard skills required to become an air duct cleaning assistant (no ventilation system or boiler experience). I also lack experience as an Industrious Water Blaster Operator, and do not possess a Workplace Hazardous Materials Information (WHMIS) Certificate. These are the types of jobs that pay over $10 an hour. For less, I could promote credit cards at Thrifty's, deliver pizza, or sell cars. It seems I am qualified to do these things. Did I mention my Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of British Columbia? My list of publications? Did you know I've spent twenty years living all over the world and speak the travel lingo of several languages?
You can see why I'm praying with all my Heart and Stroke. My horoscope said this will be the month I realize all my hopes and dreams. There are seventeen days left. One Jackpot. Two Friday bonuses. One chance for a hundred thousand. I used to think money didn't matter. That was before I was on the brink of turning forty with an ailing Toyota Corolla and a set of teeth that need cleaning. I'm not saying it matters now--as soon as I'm on the Winners' Wall it won't. For the reality is that anything you worry about every day begins to matter whether you like it or not. So maybe I should simply worry about something else. Like AIDS orphans in Africa or the earthquake in Japan.
Maybe these money worries are simply a symptom of self-absorption. Maybe I should just buck up and get a full-time job. Any job. The majority of the world does it--why shouldn't I? Nothing held me back before. I started working at the tender age of twelve making pizza at Square Boys. I went on to bake doughnuts, wash dishes, clean houses, waitress, plant trees, tutor, survey caves. I've even been a telemarketer. This was all before I qualified (in the eyes of The Canada Council for the Arts) as a professional writer. Perhaps I've simply become a snob with credit cards. Just like The Heart and Stroke Calendar, my credit cards provide me with the illusion of imaginary wealth. They also provide me with a daily activity--the counting of accrued interest.
It's ironic that the calendar was a gift from a man who once said: "I don't care if you shovel shit. Just get a job." I come from a family with a strong work ethic. They're not the type to sit around and watch The Winners' Wall. I'm certain my father didn't realize he was, to borrow a social-worker term, enabling me to dream of a change in circumstance rather than take action. But please don't take away my calendar. Is it so bad to dream just a little while longer before I learn about Class D2 Poisonous and Infectious Materials (including carcinogens, sensitizers, and embroyotoxins) or how to scour a boiler? Is it so bad to dream with all my Heart and Stroke?
Thank you for reading.