A number of times in my life, I've felt as if I've won a lottery. I was accepted into an exchange program between Germany and North America when I was 21 and discovered I was the only Canadian female to be picked. I couldn't believe my luck.
In my writing life, I've had the good fortune to be accepted into workshops and a residence and to have some of my stories published. To a certain degree, those instances have felt like winning the lotto, although I knew they had a lot to do with the work.
I've also experienced rare moments when my number was called -- the Christmas Eve overbooked flight when they found me, a standby passenger, a seat. Being on the Vancouver Olympics website just as they released a small group of tickets to a sold-out event.
Even when it hasn't been a matter of luck, I've often felt lucky. When I think about the choices my mother or grandmother had as young women, when I realize how easy my life is compared to others in the world, when I see something beautiful like a hummingbird or Orca whale right before my eyes, I know that I have a very good life.
But that doesn't mean I never feel unlucky. At times, I've certainly felt as if luck wasn't on my side when I've had to deal with difficult or unkind people.
L'enfer, c'est les autres. Sartre
November brought a familiar chill and darkness in 2013. My landlady did her best to make my life hell, work ramped up and my writing time nearly vanished, and I found out that I hadn't been accepted to either writing residence I applied to for 2014. Three blows that took me out at the knees.
Near the end of the month, however, some good news lifted my spirits. I saw one of my co-workers on the nightly news. He had won $25 million in the lotto!!
Have you ever known anyone who's won a fortune?
I'd never known anyone before, and I never thought I would. I'd never bought lotto tickets because I didn't buy into the dream. Yet I found myself excited and overjoyed for my colleague. "Wow," I thought, "how lucky." I couldn't wait to see him at work the next week and congratulate him as he, no doubt, packed up his belongings and wished us farewell.
Everyone at the office was thrilled. We wanted to tell him how happy we were for him, to wish him well and share in the excitement. But we never got that chance.
He came into the office that weekend and cleaned out his desk. He didn't say goodbye or even send us a message. He walked away without a backward glance. It took us a couple weeks to realize that there would be no way for us to celebrate his good fortune. And the mood, which had started so joyous, slowly turned as sombre as the wintry chill.
Three months later, we have moved on. The workload has been crushing since his departure, and we've been putting in more overtime than ever before. But the atmosphere has changed. We're in this together, and we show that we care about each other. We have each others' backs and we appreciate the camaraderie of the team.
It's hard to know how anyone will react in these once-in-a-lifetime circumstances. But I would hope that anyone I know has learned a valuable lesson, as I know I have. You can leave the job -- and no one would blame you for a second -- and still wish your colleagues a fond farewell. Go into the office. Accept the handshakes and pats on the back. Thank the people you've worked with for their congratulations. In short, share the feeling.
None of this has anything to do with handing out cash. No one in the office expected a dime from the winner. What we hoped for was a mutual exchange of generosity of spirit, which would have made a much longer impact than a free lunch.
Strangely, my initial reaction the day after I heard about the win was to acknowledge how lucky I've been. When I thought about luck, I realized that I had a fair share. A few weeks later, when my work days became nightmarish and we realized how we'd been dissed by the winner, I had a momentary lapse of faith as perhaps others did in the office. The winner left us with a feeling that we'd somehow been the unlucky ones. Now, I can step back and see that luck isn't about numbers or a bank account. Like so many things, it's about your outlook. And in that arena, I've won the lotto of life.
A writer's journey