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Thursday, November 21

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Bucket List Wed Dec 12 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Gambling and Hangovers aka My Wednesday of Powerball and Dating

Previous Entry: Waiting in Line for a Hot Dog

Number 23: Gamble on Something

powerballjpg_Page1.jpgWhen I was a little kid I LOVED those scratch off lottery tickets. There was something about etching away every single sliver of silver on those cardboard cards that just made my anal little 4-year-old self so freaking happy. I loved them until I found out people paid money for them with the strict purpose of making more money. Suddenly, with the understanding of what gambling was, every little scratched clean card seemed like a failure and a waste a dollar that could have been spent on ring pops.

And so I learned to hate and fear gambling. I hate even standing in a casino, I never play poker for money, and the idea of the lottery seems like the most idiotic invention in human history. And yet when my friend asked me if I wanted to buy a Powerball ticket with him last Wednesday, I remembered this to do on my bucket list: gamble on something.

We headed to 7-11 and we bought a Powerball ticket: 21, 31, 34, 47,48, 08.

That night while people were in Arizona and Missouri were becoming millionaires, I headed to my Round 2 of MeSoFar, a Chicago-created dating event meant to un-quantify the dating world. I had gone to my first MeSoFar back in January, fresh off a break-up and feeling rather gnarly about myself. I had come away from the event embracing my single status for all of its lovely freedom, a freedom I've floated in for almost a year now, the longest I've been single in Chicago.

But this time was different. This time I was returning to MeSoFar as a presenter, not just a listener. I had four minutes to tell 50 singles who I was through a haphazard array of slides about myself. And I was going first, setting the bar so to speak, with my own odd array of emo music references from 2002 and Dr. Seuss quotes on love.

I kept thinking of my Powerball ticket in my wallet as I got up to present "me so far" to 50 strangers. Today I was gambling, and I felt a bit like I was walking on a tightrope over a sea of equal parts fear/rejection/humiliation and joy/acceptance/love, unsure of where I was going to land or if I would win.

The four minutes flew by and as I took my seat, I felt that amazing surge of relief that comes after a shot of adrenaline, like my soul just ran a marathon. The rest of the night was a blur of sincere congratulations from strangers, hilarious presentations from nine other wonderful singles and conversations with amazingly complex and beautiful people in the audience. On my el ride home, I couldn't help but feel I had accomplished something that night and this year. I'd learned to gamble.

And then came the morning. I woke up with what Dr. Brene Brown calls a "vulnerability hangover." And it was wicked. The best way to explain it is that your soul is sore and your chest a little tight like your rib cage is actively straining to protect your heart from any further exposure. It is like buyer's remorse; it is what happens when you gamble and don't win; when you question the numbers you picked. I kept going over and over my slides, thinking I really told people that? I really admitted that I'm a Type A mess whose favorite movie is Little Women. Who wants to date that chick!?

A good friend once told me a long time ago in the midst of my online dating shenanigans, that "all you have to do is be your amazing self and let someone else prove themselves to you." As much as I tried to put away my expectations, as much as I tried to go into MeSoFar with the one sole goal of just telling my story, I think I had her words in the back of my head. I thought if I just put it all out there, if I went all in with all my authentic self, surely I will have found a soul mate by the end of the night. Surely my weird would attract my soul mate's weird.

I wanted instant acceptance gratification. I didn't just want to win the Powerball but the entire jackpot.

Because when you gamble with yourself, with your story, nothing less than everything makes the risk feel worth it the morning after. It is the vulnerability hangover, a direct consequence of indulgence (in this case necessary indulgence) of expectation and emotion.

But like all hangovers, eventually this one too will fade. And unlike a wine hangover, my liver is not damaged and my heart may even be a bit stronger now. Because I think I've realized the best part about gambling with your story is that it is not a finite resource; you are always creating more of yourself to share or gamble or spend wisely. And even if you gamble with it there are only a few lucky bastards in Missouri who will win with easy true love. Most of us are lucky just to win the Powerball. But at least we are trying.

This weekend I bought my very own scratch off ticket, the first one I think I have ever actually purchased myself. I'm pinned it on my board next to my losing Powerball ticket. I'm not going to scratch it off. I gambled and sometimes that is more important than knowing if you won or lost.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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