twenty years later.
i'll be 52.
after a life of hard work and dedication, turned around at the last possible minute to include a dedication to saving up for the second half of my life, it feels good to be where i am.
there were dark days. a lot of them. i started a life for myself that included a husband and a dog at twenty five, when that fell apart years later, it seemed that i'd never be able to start over again.
but i did.
it's a story about making a hard decision that seemed impossible. deciding that life was too short to settle.
i met the father of my children a few years after that.
now, sending the oldest one off to college in a couple years, i can hardly recognize the life that i thought i'd be living.
i moved home after a year of flying solo in the place i'd built my new life.
the stresses of being far from family during such a shitty time made the choice easier than it would have been otherwise.
i had spent eight years working toward my dream and goal for my life. i'd racked up the experience necessary to what i'd dreamed of doing from the time i was nineteen.
at thirty four, i saw that dream come true.
i took the money i'd made from the sale of our first house, and with some help of my parents, turned it into a business that combined the things that i am passionate about: coffee and craft beer.
for the last eighteen years, i've slowly worked fewer hours, and let the business take flight. it's taken care of my family, and i hope it continues to do so.
i'm not saying that it was easy. there were times when i thought i might lose the whole thing. where i thought that i wouldn't be able to survive on the business.
but we've thrived, and can start to sit back now and reap the benefits of years of hard work and dedication.
to think back now, it's hard to believe the life i almost lived. this is such an improvement over that life.
to have a man in my life who loves me, and gave me two beautiful children. to think that i almost missed out on this part of my life is just unbelievable to me.
i'm so glad for the chance to have started over. if you'd asked me then where i thought i'd be at 52, i'd never have thought this possible.
but here i am. and this is my life.
* * *
i never really believed that one thirty second decision could change my life.
but it really did.
i was thirty two. stopped for gas at my usual gas station in delaware on my way back to philadelphia from work.
it was routine.
i stood pumping gas, and then ran inside for a drink.
it was almost my birthday. it was december third.
while i waited to pay for my drink, i saw the blinking sign for the lottery jackpot.
i didn't always buy tickets. less than half of the time, i'd add three tickets.
sometimes only one.
this time, i added three. i never played powerball, because the probabilities never worked in my favor.
so on this day, i got tickets for mega millions.
it was a friday, so i went home after work, went out to my favorite bar, and woke up saturday feeling like everything was in order. i was about to go on a hard earned vacation for two weeks. it had taken five months to save up the money i needed to go. i was also going through a divorce at the time, and it seemed i was always worrying about money. how i was going to pay for everything, and what the financial impact on my life would be.
that saturday was any ordinary saturday. i cleaned the place up, and made plans for that night. a fog was starting to lift from my life, and i had been feeling progressively better over the course of the last months before my life changed.
i went out that night, and stayed in on sunday night to try to save money. i had completely forgotten about buying the tickets, much less checking them on friday night. i didn't have tv at the time, so i certainly wasn't watching the draw.
i woke up for work on monday, like any other monday and like every other person, dreading the day.
i rode my bike in the cold to work, went about my day. rode home. unlocking the door to my shitty apartment, i remembered the tickets in my backpack, and went inside to check them. but i got distracted on my way, so it wasn't until much later that night when i finally remembered.
and i sat down to check the numbers, thinking that, like every other time, i'd get maybe one number on one ticket. a few times i'd gotten one or two numbers when it paid a $2 or $4 prize, and that had been the extent of my excitement.
so imagine my surprise when, one by one, i underlined the numbers.
i was certain it wasn't possible.
i pinched myself first. i was awake.
then i went to a different website. same numbers.
then i checked the drawing date, thinking it would make perfect sense to have the winning numbers for the wrong drawing.
i could not believe my eyes.
i called kit.
despite being beyond excited, i was actually having a panic attack.
i tempered my voice, 'hey. i need you to come over as soon as possible.'
'are you okay? what's wrong?'
'i just... i need your help.'
'i'll be right there.'
i sat on my stoop, smoking and staring at the sky.
it just was too hard to believe.
she came around the corner in a near sprint, winded.
'what is going on? are you ok?'
'yeah. sit. smoke. let me show you something.'
she sat, and lit a cigarette.
i had the ticket in my pocket.
'i need you to use your iphone magic.'
she looked at me with a frown.
'what is going on?'
'pull up mega millions delaware.'
she looked at me.
when she had the winning numbers up, i told her to check the date.
'december 3rd. got it.'
'i just need a second set of eyes. here.' i handed her the ticket.
she looked back and forth, from the ticket to her phone, more than seven times in total.
she looked at me with disbelief.
'i know,' my hands were shaking.
'what are you going to do?'
'i don't know. sit here. smoke. drink. yeah, actually... come have a drink with me.'
so we went to favorite bar.
and had a couple beers. it was impossible to talk about anything else.
but i was trying to be quiet, and i was trying to stay calm.
it was decided then that i'd take the lump sum, almost $17 million. and i had my paper journal, writing down how i was going to split it all up.
i was going to give her a nice chunk, and nina, for being there for me and helping me through my hardest times. i'd give my parents a couple, they had helped me so many times. i'd pay for my sister's schooling, and give her a little for herself. and my brother would get a nice wedding present the next year.
and the rest was mine.
i paid off the house i owned with my ex husband, and kicked him out of it for being a dick during the time when i was being generous to him, and paid to have the divorce expedited.
i'd wanted to hold onto the house because my family had put so much time and money into the house. i thought it would be the perfect vacation home.
of course, he tried to get his hands on some of the winnings, but all i gave him was a clean slate, paying off our joint debt, and the equity i decided he deserved from the work he had done on the house.
i know that a lot of people tend to lose everything when they win the lottery.
i was actually grateful for the size of the jackpot, because it wasn't ludicrous, and it wasn't obscene. it was just right.
somehow, i wasn't even convinced that i wouldn't have to work again.
i sat with kit at the bar, tipped our favorite bartender $100, and went home to go to bed. to go to work the next day. i didn't sleep much those first couple weeks.
i had to pretend like everything was normal for a while. i didn't have the luxury of quitting my job that day. i ran a business, and i couldn't do that to the owner, and also not to my employees.
i scaled back the hours i was working. and i only had two weeks until my vacation, so i was already setting myself up.
i don't know why, but i didn't want to tell anyone.
when i went home from work that first day after knowing, i told my parents. and then i told kenna, the owner of the company i ran.
and then i contacted the lottery office to get instructions on claiming my prize.
as much as i tried to keep things the same, my life was never the same after that.
i tried to be reasonable with the winnings. i did spend on clothes and other things i didn't necessarily need.
but i wanted everything to stay as close to the same as i could. i didn't want anyone to know, because i didn't want anything to change.
and what i did with the part of the winnings i'd allocated for spending instead of saving/investing was what i'd always wanted to do.
i opened a bar and a cafe side by side. and then i went on a tour of the world. and i took a few of my friends with me. and then i went on a different tour and took my family with me.
i guess that now, looking back, that time was as stressful as it was magical.
and luckily i invested wisely back in those days.
and now, at 52, i don't ever have to work again.
i've done everything i ever wanted to do but never had the time or money for.
my life has been enriched.