15: The Next Chapter of My Life

15: The Next Chapter of My Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

The Next Chapter of My Life

Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.

~John Wooden

I was living above my tiny antique shop when I dreamt that I won the lottery. Even after I woke up, the event felt real, which was odd because I knew I hadn’t bought a lottery ticket.

I did need some sort of miracle, however, because my business was failing.

Later that day, I bought a lottery ticket. I didn’t know which of the lottery games to choose, so I just decided to ask for two Lotto tickets and then went home to watch the drawing on TV. When the announcer pulled the winning balls from the tumbler, I didn’t hit a single number.

I went back to my antique shop to work and try to think of new ways to make money. The fact was, on most days, my shop didn’t make any money at all. If it did, it was often less than I’d spent to refurbish the furniture. The more days I was in business, the more worried I had become. My savings were nearly gone, and I was bored and unhappy with the work. As I sat polishing a dresser, my thoughts returned to the dream of winning the lottery. “If I won,” I said to myself, “I’d follow my real dreams.”

The day I’d bought the lottery tickets I knew I was gambling, but I told myself, “Believing in dreams and miracles is a good thing,” and justified buying two, even though I know that two tickets insignificantly improves the odds over buying one ticket. I told myself, “It’s not like I buy lottery tickets every day, and if I win it will be a miracle.” Two dollars just felt luckier than one.

I should mention that a few of my dreams have come true. As a girl, I’d dreamt that my thirty-four-year-old uncle died from a heart attack by the Snohomish River. When I’d told my father about the frightening dream, he had reassured me that dreams weren’t real. But when my uncle didn’t come home, my father went searching for him at the river. To everyone’s surprise, he had died as I’d dreamt. No one could explain it. Over time, there were other premonitions about auto accidents, meeting the partner that I would spend eight years with and then, sadly, the dream of his infidelity that ended our romance. These special dreams were few and far between, and the older I’d become, they had become fewer, although my overall intuition was quite good.

What I wasn’t good with was money. Everything I had was tied up in the antique shop, and it wasn’t earning enough to pay the bills. My savings had already run out. I knew I would have to close shop. I took out an ad to find someone to take over the lease, since my one-year-in-business anniversary was approaching. I figured that would be a good time to turn the shop over to someone with greater resources.

To tell you the truth, I regretted opening the store. Selling antiques was never my dream. It was my mother’s dream. She loved antique shopping and had cultivated a beautiful collection that she and my father enjoyed. I only thought that I’d wanted it because it reminded me of the fun I had antique hunting with my family growing up.

My true dream wasn’t in sales or refurbishing furniture at all. I wanted to be a writer. If anyone ever asked, “What’s your dream job?” I always said, “Writer,” and I’d always acted like one. I kept journals since kindergarten and was an avid reader. I tested at a college reading level in fifth grade, and wrote and bound my first poetry chapbook before I reached junior high.

For all practical purposes, I should have become a writer, but my life was riddled with hardships along the way. I was bullied in elementary school for being “too smart.” Later, in high school, I fell into the wrong crowd. And, since trouble begets trouble, my twenties and thirties became about drinking, a hopeless search for love, and a series of dead-end jobs. I still wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to get there. I no longer wrote in journals, but still dreamt of literary success.

After I lined someone up to take over the shop, I held a closeout sale, but even with a big red-and-white “Going Out of Business Sale” banner draped across the front of the shop, I sold little. I remember sitting at my empty cash register with my eyes closed, apologizing to God for making so many bad choices.

The apartment I lived in was connected to the shop, so I had to move out of there, too. I didn’t have enough money to rent a new place, which meant I would have to be a middle-aged couch surfer who relied on the generosity of family and friends to survive until I saved enough to start over. All of it depressed me. I regretted the years I’d wasted partying in bars and I cried about not having found true love. Most of all, I regretted not pursuing my dream job.

On the second to the last night in the shop, I wrote in a journal for the first time in years. Afterward, I accepted that I would have to ask friends and family for help and felt genuinely grateful to have people who would help me. When I fell asleep, I dreamt I won the lottery again.

This time, I saw a specific grocery store, the QFC on 45th St. in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. Inside the store, I also saw the clock on the wall behind a specific clerk. It said 9:50 a.m. I heard myself ask the cashier, “Is there a game called Lucky for Life?”

When I woke up, I knew I had to go to the QFC in Wallingford. As I stepped up to the counter, I felt a surge of energy shoot through me when I saw the sign advertising the game from my dream. The clerk said, “It’s a two-dollar ticket.” I smiled, remembering I’d felt compelled to buy two one-dollar lottery tickets after my first lottery dream.

Afterward, I went home to finish packing. I was excited, even though I knew that the odds of winning the lottery were incredibly small. It felt good to be hopeful even if it was silly. It gave me something to fantasize about while I finished packing up the shop’s inventory and my apartment.

The Lucky for Life drawing was held the night before I had to be out of the antique store. I decided, win or lose, that I would go back to college and finish my bachelor’s degree. It seemed the wise choice for someone who wanted to be a writer.

I couldn’t watch the Lucky for Life drawing on TV because everything I owned was packed or given away. The next morning, I drove to the store where I bought the ticket. I signed the back of it before I held it under the ticket-checking scanner. The words “Winner, See Retailer” appeared on its tiny screen. I asked the clerk, “Does this mean I’ve won something?”

She checked my ticket on her side of the counter and then looked up at me, eyes wide. “You’ve won the jackpot!”

I won the Lucky for Life lottery! I receive $52,000 a year for the rest of my life. The winnings allowed me to go back to college and earn a bachelor’s degree. Immediately afterward, I was accepted into a creative writing program at the University of Washington’s graduate school. I graduated at the top of my class with a 3.98 GPA and got my MFA in Creative Writing. I’ve written four poetry chapbooks and last year I published my first collection of short stories.

Sometimes it still seems like a dream. I followed the instructions in my dream about the lottery, and I ended up being able to pursue my dream career!

~Kelle Grace Gaddis

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