I go through certain spells where I find myself daily applying to the Broadway lottery. Every morning at 9:00 AM, I enter my name and email into the available lotteries for shows I haven’t seen and every afternoon, when the lottery closes, I pull up my email and am greeted by the “Thanks, but no” auto replies.
Nevertheless, having seen a handful of shows on the luck of the draw, I still love entering and I still love the occasional joy of, “congratulations!”
That is… when I see it in time.
The thing about the Broadway lottery is that you have 60 minutes upon being notified to claim and pay for your tickets. And usually, because I love Gmail, I’m quick to respond. But a few months ago, I was spending a luxuriously lazy day lounging around at my partner’s home and not minding my phone.
By the time I noticed it, 67 minutes had passed. We won the lottery. I just didn’t see it in time. Cue dramatic flail onto the bed. Why did it seem to hurt more than if we’d just been rejected as usual?
A few days after that, we were walking around the city when we passed a digital billboard at a bus stop promoting a musical. I pointed it out before we both had the same, slow realization. Oh no, he began, did you enter the lottery?
We both checked the time. If we won, it would be too late. I opened my email and we both cheered in relief when it turned out I hadn’t been chosen for any of them. Why did it seem better to lose?
The result of both situations was the same: we didn’t go see a Broadway show. But I’ve been thinking ever since about the bigger implications of something like this. While I know there is a psychological explanation to this experience—being dejected after losing something we once had compared to finding out we had nothing to lose—I can’t help but think of other times in my life where I was disappointed by something I didn’t get.
I can surely think of occasions where I felt let down by something I wanted but didn’t receive. And I can surely think of occasions where I got something I didn’t think I deserved.
But if I think about it a second longer, I can also see things that I wanted, things that I was so, so sure I wanted, and—with a little more years under my feet—be unfathomably grateful I didn’t get.
And on the other hand... How much of the beauty in my life is something I could have never expected, never dreamed of, never dared to believe in?
How lucky we are that we don’t always get what we want.
And how lucky that we still find what we need.