Jane Park, the UK’s youngest EuroMillions lottery winner, told Sunday People at the weekend that she wishes she hadn’t won the jackpot. ‘At times it feels like winning the lottery has ruined my life,’ she said.
‘I thought it would make it ten times better but it’s made it ten times worse. I wish I had no money most days. I say to myself, ‘My life would be so much easier if I hadn’t won.’’
Due in court next month on a drink-driving charge, Jane is calling for the lottery’s minimum age limit to be raised from 16 to 18. She was 17 when she won £1million – ‘far too young,’ she has claimed.
‘People look at me and think, ‘I wish I had her lifestyle, I wish I had her money,’ but they don’t realise the extent of my stress,’ she said.
Before her big win, Jane had a job and lived with her mother. Following it, she drove a Range Rover – a car she labelled ‘flashy’ and ‘too big’ – bought designer handbags and a dog that she ‘didn’t have time for’ and subsequently gave away.
‘I have material things but apart from that my life is empty. What is my purpose in life?’ she asked.
It’s a tall order to expect anyone to feel sorry for a lottery winner because of their win, not least this one – a woman who, in spite of claiming the money has ruined her life, also said she’s never contemplated giving it away and is reportedly considering suing Camelot for allowing such a young person to play the game in the first place (suing, presumably, for money…) So yes, I don’t expect anyone to be reaching for their violins on account of Jane Park.
But I do think she has raised an interesting point. Which is that the reality of winning a substantial amount of money might not be as dream-like as we imagine. It could actually be a total headache.
It’s for this reason that, whilst I love dreaming of winning the lottery, I’m not sure I’d ever want to win it.
Let me explain…
First and foremost, I’m pretty certain I’d get Lottery Guilt. Google tells me this is not yet a verified term, so I’m claiming it: ‘Lottery Guilt – the guilt I’d feel acquiring and spending money I hadn’t earned but won in the lottery.’ It’s one thing to make a fortune – to become eye-wateringly wealthy on account of hard graft. It’s quite another to be gifted wealth for something so simple as selecting a few numbers. I’m sure I’d feel I didn’t deserve it. Already I feel bad imagining the people who diligently put money into the lottery each week; it’d be their cash I’d be spending. Let it not be forgotten too, that it’s not for nothing the lottery has been dubbed a ‘tax on the poor’.
So yes, there’d be the guilt. Then there’d be the monumental task of managing all the money. Managing wealth is a full time job for many and I’m sure it would be a full time job for me as ‘lotto winner’. The thing is though, I don’t want that job. I want this job, the job I’ve got (that of a journalist). And I wouldn’t change my job for anything (no, not even a million pounds).
Fundamentally, I – like most humans – don’t like change. And winning the lottery would change my life. Yes, there are changes I’d like – such as waving bye-bye to the struggle of paying rent, and hello to my swish pad with a riverside view. But there are plenty of changes I wouldn’t like. Most of the things I do in life revolve around what I can and can’t afford, and if I could suddenly afford everything, everything would change.
To give just one example: I rarely use public transport because it’s unreliable, uncomfortable and expensive. I can’t justify the cost of it on a daily basis. To get around this, I walk, everywhere. (And I mean everywhere.) Most days I cover over 10 miles. I don’t care it takes twice as long to get places, walking feels great. I love it.
However, if I could afford a driver… TOTALLY different story. Because, whilst I love walking, what I do not love is lugging heavy bags across town. Neither do I love getting through endless pairs of trainers (also expensive, and sad to replace once they’ve earned the status: ‘trusted friends’). I don’t like arriving at events bedraggled and flustered from whatever weather London has thrown at me pre-arrival. Nor do I like breathing in the city’s smog. I don’t like waiting patiently at pedestrian crossings only for buses to zoom passed and splosh my clean trousers with roadside puddles. I often dream of a warm, chauffeur-driven car waiting outside to drive me around, morning, noon and night.
If I won the lottery, that dream would become a reality. I’d buy a car and hire a chauffer to drive it. Obviously, this means I wouldn’t walk everywhere, and that also means I wouldn’t exercise (saldy not someone who exercises for exercise’s sake). I’d put on weight and feel lethargic. I’d get no fresh air in the day and I wouldn’t sleep. All those traffic jams I breeze by each morning – I’d be stuck in them, scowling at the pedestrians that are holding me up yet again as they cross their zebra crossings. I’d be scowling at, effectively, pre-lottery versions of me. And that wouldn’t feel good at all.
It’s not just the changes of a lottery win I’d grow to resent though (and I do think changes would be unavoidable, no matter how ‘normal’ you try to keep life – money changes people, fact). Mainly, I don’t want to win the lottery because needing to make money is what drives me. ‘Needing to earn’ makes me bold and ballsy in situations I wouldn’t normally be. It makes me try, try and try again. Working freelance isn’t easy; it’s ‘need’ that gets me out of bed when all I want to do is hide under the duvet and not open my laptop on a Sunday morning.
Take away that ‘need’, and what would I do? I’d think about working, then lie-in till midday; I’d think about working then take a nice long lunch; I’d think about working then pop to the cinema; I’d think about working then have after-work drinks with my hardworking pals (‘trend research’ I’d call it); I’d think about working, but DINNER AT A FANCY RESTAURANT ANYONE?
My life would be made up of all the things I currently reward myself with for having done something worthwhile: and that is, work. My treats would cease to be ‘rewards’, they’d be the norm. Then what would I reward myself with? More of the same, probably. I’d have a life of spoilt excess. I’d lose sight of reality. I’d alienate myself from my family and friends. Crucially, I’d alienate myself from my-old-self.
No, I really do not want to win the lottery. Which is why I can rest assured that even if I ever find myself in possession of a EuroMillions ticket, with a one in 116,531,800 chance of ever winning the jackpot, I can safely bet I won’t.