Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Gamble

I don’t gamble – never really have. It’s not just because I can’t afford it (usually money problems are an inspiration for gambling, are they not?) but it has more to do with the fact that I find it completely illogical. No…let me revise that…I find it completely illogical because it is logical. How so? Well, when you understand the true nature of statistics, and the likelihood of actually winning at endeavors that involve money, the logic behind playing the odds is highly illogical. Make sense? If you sit back and muse over the surpluses that casinos and lotteries corporations experience, you will start to see my logic. Larger-than-life Las Vegas would not be larger-than-life if it were not for the fact that the odds favour the house. And let’s say that you did “hit it big”, would your winnings really counterbalance the amount that you spent in getting to that win? Oh yes, anomalies do happen. People win the first time they play the lottery and on the first quarter in the slot machine. But what are the odds of that happening? Is it worth the gamble?

Ok, so I have on occasion played the 6/49, and tossed the odd quarter into a slot machine. I don’t win. Never have. The odds against winning are actually increased when I am the one gambling. So the end result…I just don’t do it anymore. But don’t worry – I have found a sundry of creative alternative ways to loose my money.

So while I may not formally gamble, there are tons of daily gambles that we all take. For instance…I show dogs competitively. No, let me rephrase that too…I show a dog competitively, though I train more than one dog. I have one dog that I’m willing to gamble with – and one that I know better than to gamble with. But even my safe bet is far from being a safe bet at times. We’ve blown as many runs as we’ve passed. Maybe more. But I gamble on it, and unfortunately sometimes the house wins.

Right now I am contemplating the biggest gamble that I could possibly take at this moment…yes…maybe bigger than England, because it requires me to essentially start from scratch, and at a fairly substantial cost (see, I do find creative ways to loose my money!). Before I continue let me tell you a quick story…Several years ago I talked to a random individual, who had recently graduated from university. She was laying in debt at around the $60,000 mark…and was heading to Africa on vacation. Naturally, I was curious about the debt versus the travel…
“How can you afford to go?” I asked captivated (mainly because I was trying to figure out how to balance my own debt with travelling).
“Well….when you are $60,000 in debt, what’s another $10,000?”
Logic. I understood it.

Likely I met this person in a “coffeeshop” in Amsterdam.

You will read a lot about my debt load – I can view it with humour, and will often joke about it (generally to alleviate my stress) but truthfully I find it less than humourous. It’s ironic in a lot of ways. At 18 I was investing money from my part-time jobs, and was set for a financially secure future. Then 4 years of university lapsed into 9…and then I discovered that international travel was far more interesting than financial security and mutual funds. Eventually I quit investing, deciding that experiencing life was a better investment than the alternative. I realized that life is short, and really…who wants to accrue a fortune, but never take the time to experience what this world has to offer? I want to die knowing that I lived. And lived I have. Call this depressing, or what have you, but that’s my reality. My mother calls me a fatalist…my accountant (yes I have one of those) is hard pressed to understand it…but its logic, and I stay true to it.
A lot people will disagree with my decisions, and rightly so. Most people want material objects, a big house and sexy vehicle. But…food for thought: I’ve spent a fairly substantial amount of time studying archaeology – time at the 10,000 year scale…when you study increments of 10,000 years, you realize that the 80 years that you are [hopefully] given on this Earth is relatively paltry. 80 years is a mere a blip on the radar. We aren’t all going to leave a substantial mark – not all of us go down in history. Most of us do not become Plato, Socrates, Christopher Columbus, or Hippocrates. We don’t coin new terminologies, discover new planets, or discover a vaccine for Polio. We live, and that’s it. Harsh, right? Keep this is mind too…when someone close to you suddenly ceases to exist, you become startlingly aware of your own mortality. Holy crap, you mean I’m not immortal? Nope. Sorry.

Since I’ve returned from England I have been considering what gamble I am going to take. Yes, I may return to England – ok, more than likely I will. Maybe sooner than expected. I have to, I need a job, there is a job there…yada yada…money, debt…you get it. I have an English work visa, I have time…I have no money – I’ll throw the dice again and see if this time I can beat the odds. Go to England entirely broke (again)…I’m stubborn, and I need to prove to myself that I can live in our Motherland without cracking up. And…I’m already this far in debt, what’s another *insert quantity here*. This is not really the gamble I am contemplating though – England is more of a certainty that I’m building up to.

The real gamble…education. HA..yeah…education. It’s a hard reality to suddenly know that you have made a lot of mistakes. But I have. Right now there is an easy option – go back to Louisiana and teach (which may not be as easy as I make it out to be, but I know Louisiana, and I know that I can get a job). Even if it isn’t Louisiana, I know that I can find a job in the US as a part of the VIF program. Unfortunately America is pretty rigourous about checking the financial background of potential squatters. There could be problems with this solution…

So the harder gamble that I am contemplating…several years ago I decided that I wanted to eventually work with humanity. Pretty broad, right? Ok…let me narrow it down for you…crimes against humanity, 3rd World development, AIDS in the 3rd World, etc. And I can work my anthropological training into this. *whew!* but it’s still not enough. The problem with living in a small community is not knowing how to do what it is that you want to do – Tbay is pretty limited in scope…so I shelved my ideas. But recent events in my life have made me realize that I need to be happy with what I’m doing. I’m not one of those people who can get up every day, wear a fake smile, and go blissfully to the job I hate. I had been prepared to wait before investing in my career “dream” – mainly until I paid off my debt. Now I realize that I could be waiting a loooooooooooong time. So…here’s what I need: to finish my undergraduate thesis (*expletive*), take the programs abroad to boost my CV and employability, and take the national and international courses that will get me into graduate school….and then actually get my *ss into grad school. Oh…realization comes at cost this time...but if I’m this far in debt….

Now that I have the realization, herein lies the problem…take the gamble on my future, spend the money (increase my debt load) and hope that it pays off? I’m taking a course on 3rd World politics in June to help ease myself back into school. It’ll be a noncommittal start to the process…if I hate it, I can change my mind at a limited cost, and of course there will still be a hiatus during which I return to England. Oh..and regarding England – the incentive in my return is the possibility of a volunteer opportunity in Africa, which falls in line with what I want to do. So…England it has to be. Ultimately it is time for me to forget the logic and play the odds – I think I can beat the house…and if not, at least I lived, right? ;)

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