By request of scottfraundorf
It’s true, it did. And it will.
Admittedly, I’ve always lived a charmed life. Not necessarily an easy or a carefree life — quite the opposite these days, in fact, as I struggle from day to day often wondering if I can even make it to the next — but a charmed one nevertheless. That is to say, no matter how impossible the situation seems, no matter the potential for disaster, things always seem to fall into place in the end.
My wife’s cousin gave both me and Cat a state lottery card apiece along with our Christmas gifts this year. A little odd, sure, but I was amused. I’ve never played the lottery, at least not that I can remember. There have been times I would very much like to win the lottery and not have to worry about money anymore, but I’m realistic about several-million-to-one odds.
Cat scratched off her card first and came up with… nothing. “That’s my luck,” she sighed. “I almost had several matches, but not quite.”
“That’s how they make these things,” I complained. “You come tantalizingly close, but not quite, so you’re more likely to buy another. This time it’ll work out, or that’s what they want you to think.”
She shrugged. “Try yours. I bet you’ll win something.”
I laughed. “Not likely.”
But a few minutes of meticulous scratching later, I had indeed won $8. Not a kingly sum by any means, but she looked satisfied with herself. “I told you so.”
And, yeah, maybe. She has the worst luck of anyone I’ve ever met, whereas I always seem to luck into things lining up the way I want or need them to, sometimes at the very last second. When we committed to buying a house last summer, all signs pointed to no. No matter what we did — paying down debts and boosting credit scores, accepting cash gifts from our parents, even convincing my employers to revise my employment status to look more attractive on paper — there was always some technicality that made the lenders turn us away. (Advice: Never try to support a family, let alone buy a home, entirely on a game journalist’s salary.) Yet, finally, on the last day of the last extended deadline for securing a loan commitment, things finally fell into place. Not perfectly, but acceptably.
I look back on my life and I see a system of things falling into place in lucky and often deeply improbable ways. Things don’t always necessarily go the way I want them to, but neither do they ever amount to disaster. I’ve never broken a bone, crashed a car, declared bankruptcy, been laid off or fired, had a run-in with an unfriendly member of the law, gotten into a fistfight. My parents each have several siblings, but they’re the only ones in their respective families to have gotten married and stayed married. I always got good grades in school, even when I didn’t try. I ended up with a massive scholarship to college more or less by dumb luck, having taken the PSAT on a whim without realizing its potential impact on collegiate admissions. Even things that appear to be disastrous failures on the surface, like my idiotically moving unprepared to NYC in search of work and ending up unemployed, living in my parents’ proverbial basement, and dumped unceremoniously by my girlfriend at the time, worked out: That particular scenario directly led to my being hired at 1UP and moving to San Francisco, where I found a much more fulfilling career than laying out used car ads for a newspaper… and, about a year later, met my future wife.
Somewhere along the way, I started to realize just how tenuous my successes in life have been, how much they rely on having been at the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. Rather than making me feel complacent and indestructible, this pattern has impressed on me the fragility of it all. I don’t go a day without pausing to appreciate the gossamer delicacy of the life that’s spun out for me, and how easily it could all go awry. The mere fact that I can even support a family of two while my wife builds up her clientele and reputation here in our new hometown defies the odds: I’ve turned down multiple opportunities to jump out of the games press into far more stable and lucrative areas of the industry, then willingly left a high-paying position at the biggest organization in the field for a smaller company offering far more modest wages and no benefits. We scrimp to get by much of the time, but we do get by, and next month (unless something goes hideously wrong) we’ll even be buying a house — something I never imagined I’d be able to do.
The benefits part was really dumb and gives us no end of anxiety, incidentally, thanks to my wife’s ongoing health struggles, which began when she came down with N1H1 in 2009. Our lives haven’t been the same since, though I try hard not to let the stress of it all show in my public persona or affect my work. Of course, I managed to dodge N1H1 despite going to the contagion-laden PAX that year and then spending several days at a Halo review event sitting a few feet from my video capture editor, who had gotten the disease at PAX himself. It kind of reminds me of the time in college I adopted a stray kitten who managed to give everyone around me ringworm (including my brother’s girlfriend, who never even saw the kitten in person) — but not me, despite the fact the sick little creature clung to me for weeks and even snuggled up to sleep pressed against me in my bed. Pure, dumb luck.
Often I worry that I’m playing roulette with our future, and every day I wake up and wonder if this is going to be the day I push that luck too far. But I continue to follow my heart and my ethics, supporting her on the days she needs support, and sometimes I feel like that’s our shield. That as long as I’m being true to myself and to my wife and family and friends, things will work out. Of course, that’s just superstition, and terrible things happen to good people all the time. But better to be driven to work harder by mystical drivel than toiling under a cloud of defeatism.
Anyway, I ended up giving my modestly lucky lottery card to Cat last night. “You can have this,” I said. “I’m sharing my ‘luck’ with you.”
She shook her head. “Don’t give me your luck! You need it.”
I placed the card in her hands with insistence. “I’m not giving it up. I’m sharing it with you.”
The face value of our lottery cards was $3 apiece, which means that between the two of us my $8 winnings amounted to a dollar each. A negligible amount at best, but coming out ahead nevertheless. In spite of everything, things work out.