Trust me when I say that proclaiming my age this publicly doesn’t come easy. Have you noticed that people in their ’20s love adding their age to their social media profiles? Then, a few years after sharing their ‘Big 30’ celebrations, their age becomes classified information? Maybe it’s because they no longer feel relevant? That’s something I’ve struggled with ever since I hit the Big 40, but lately I’ve realised. ‘Hang on a tick, why should I hide my age when 42 is considered ‘The Meaning of Life?’
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy and the Number 42
How did 42 become the meaning of life? For this we need to rewind back to 1979 (one year before I was born) when Douglas Adam’s published the first of his ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ books.
A passage in his seminal sci-fi series announces that 42 is the answer to ‘Life, The Universe and Everything’. The tale goes like this…
Deep Thought a super computer built by super mice is asked the question by the same intelligent rodents: what is the answer to life, the universe and everything? After 7.5million years Deep Thought declares the answer: 42.
The story may have derived from fiction, but it’s a fact that 42 is shrouded with significance.
Facts about the number 42 that will blow your mind
To explain the phenomenon that is the number 42, I’ve rounded up some fascinating facts…
Which of these surprise you the most?
42 and rainbows
All rainbows are created at 42 degrees. This is the exact angle that light has to reflect off water to create a rainbow. So, whether you see one in the sky or on a puddle, it’s all thanks to the number 42.
42 and blood
When you donate blood, red blood cells are stored in fridges for up to 42 days. That’s the maximum days donated blood can be kept and blood = life.
42 and love
Venus is the Goddess of Love and when it comes to the planet Venus, the closest it ever gets to Earth is 42 million kilometers.
42 and sports
Running a marathon is no easy feat yet it’s become the ultimate symbol of raising money to help other lives. A marathon is 26 miles, equal to 42km. Want another sporty fact? There are 42 Laws in cricket!
42 in ancient history
There are many historical references featuring the number 42 but this is one of the most intriguing. In Ancient Egypt after your death you had to answer to 42 judges proving you hadn’t committed any of the listed 42 sins. The answer would decide whether you made it to the afterlife or not.
42 in literature
It’s not just Douglas Adam’s ‘42’ that has outlived him. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is given a drink that makes her sleep (and appear like she’s dead) for 42 hours.
In the Harry Potter books it’s on page 42 of The Philospher’s Stone that Harry discovers he’s a wizard, while on page 42 of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jonathan Harker discovers he’s a prisoner of the vampire. On the same page of Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein reveals he’s able to create life. Also, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland book has 42 illustrations.
42 in tragedies
The Titanic was travelling at a speed equivalent to 42km/hour when it collided with an iceberg and we all know how that went. The atomic bomb that devastated Nagasaki, Japan, contained the destructive power of 42 million sticks of dynamite.
42 in politics
The youngest president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, was 42 when he was elected. Rishi Sunak, 42, is the youngest PM in modern British history. Suella Braverman the UK Home Secretary is also 42. Now let me clarify that I detest both of their politics, I merely want to acknowledge that both of them experienced significant career accomplishments at 42.
You get the drift…42 has a lot of significance but how does that translate into being 42-years-old and does being 42 mean I’ve finally found the meaning of my life?
#42 Meaning of Life and Contentment
Just before turning 42 I started journalling. I’ve kept diaries from the age of seven, blogged on and off for years and share regular snippets of my life on social media. But journalling is proving to be the most revealing practice I’ve ever done.
It was while journalling that I found clarity.
I realised that I’d reached a point in my life where I feel Content. Like I don’t ‘Need To’ do anything else. If I died tomorrow I would feel ok with it.
I’ve never experienced this feeling before. I don’t want to die – far from it. It’s just I don’t fear death any more.
Life from a new perspective
The fear of dying I’ve previously had is because I felt the weight of a huge ‘to do’ list. I worried about the places I’d not been to, the things I’d not experienced, the people I’d not yet met, the opportunities that hadn’t come my way: general unfinished business.
I’ve by no means ticked off ‘The Life List.’ But I’ve pressed pause on the pressure. I don’t need a house, kids and fancy car to feel content. I feel content because I’m alive and I have something no one can ever take away from me…
I week I turned 42 I wrote down all the things that make me feel life I’ve accomplished at life. They are:
All of these things make me feel content. My failures feel irrelevant when I look at this list and I’ve accomplished it all by 42.
In truth, there are two words on the list I’m slightly nervous about – heath because it can change and passion because one can lose it. Otherwise, these are the things that make my world go round and give me contentment.
#42 Meaning of Life and Goals
I spent most of January thinking and contemplating is ‘contentment’ the meaning of life?
But if a person is ‘content,’ how does that affect their dreams and life goals? Do they still have the drive and passion to strive for them if they’re already in a comfortable place?
Like many people, I’ve listened to podcasts, read books on the topic, attended talks, set, met, reached goals and failed them.
Having goals can be a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to stay motivated and to make future plans, but I think it’s also good to take breaks from having them. You don’t constantly need to have a goal in order to have purpose in your life.
That said, a particular social media share from The Tiffany Han recently ended up in my ‘saved folder’ because it struck a chord with me. She said that even if you’re ‘deeply in love with your life’ (which I translate as feeling content) ‘you can still want something different, something more…even if you can’t name it.’
An unexpected twist
And all of a sudden the lid flew off the box of contentment I’d put myself in. Is there something I deeply want even though I can’t name it?
I feel like I’ve entered a road with a turning. I could…
- Stay in my lane, go straight and continue living a life feeling ‘content’
- Turn at the junction and go after this unknown, untangable thing I can’t name
Is the meaning of life to be content by mid-life or is it to never stop seeking more than you could possibly imagine?
#42 Meaning of Life and Magic
I’m very drawn to Magic. Instead of making new year’s resolutions (apart from one to make my handwriting better) I’ve set myself a feeling that I want to embody and share as often as possible: ‘Stir some magic.’
The phrase came to me when I was vision-boarding for 2023.
Afterwards, I didn’t feel compelled to complete my board because these words felt far more empowering.
These three magic words are energising me even though I don’t even know any magic tricks!
I just know I want to put magic into the world. One tangible way to do it is to continue with my mission to make the world a more colourful place.
#42 Meaning of Life and Legacy
Which takes me on to the topic of ‘legacy.’
Should we all be working towards leaving our mark? There are billions of people in the world, should they all be doing the same?
The truth is, I think many people’s legacies end up being something other than what they thought it would be.
There’s a percentage of legacy tied up with what we have done enough for others. Have we volunteered, given to charity, taught, shared, helped? Full honesty disclosure. My answer is no. I haven’t done enough of any of these things but I’m seeking to.
The C Word strikes again
For some, their legacy lives through their children but if you don’t have any does your still legacy matter? I have no children to pass any wisdom on to and I’m closing in on ‘The Hill’ which I’ll soon be over.
Last year, I thought I was peri-menopausal, experiencing the first signs of menopause. I was devastated because that moment genuinely feels like a nail is being put in your coffin, as you watch your former life slip away. But then talking to my girlfriends the consensus was it might not be my body clock. Covid vaccinations can mess up the menstrual cycle too but no one’s talking about it.
Either way, it’s a fact that I’m closing in on a new phase of my life and dang it is hard to grasp. But fascinating too. 20 years I associated lavender with old people and I would ever drink tomato juice. Now I’m knocking back virgin bloody marys weekly and lavender is all over my home, in everything from shower gel and pillow spray to drawer liners. It’s crazy how our tastes change so much with age.
But back to the possible peri-menopause symptoms. It’s taken me 32 years to finally come to terms with, and love my periods. I started them when I was 1o. I think I was the first girl in my primary school to hit puberty as they were not prepared for kids using sanitary towels, but that’s another story that you can read here – it’s a juicy tale, I recommend it!
Up until recently it’s felt like the biggest inconvenience, but now I champion how amazing and powerful periods are.
I’ve eradicated any shame around the bloating, cravings and tears that accompany ‘having the painters and decorators in.’ I now look forward to resting up, eating all the chocolate and taking off any pressure to be productive during this time in my cycle. Recognising that my body needs to slow down sparks ‘meaning of life’ vibes. It’s definitely not the meaning of life to burn out or to see gifts from Mother Nature as a negative, I will miss them when they’re gone.
#42 Meaning of Life and and Living my Truth
It’s taken me over a month to write this piece and I’m still not 100% happy with it! I’ve drafted it more times than anything else I’ve written in my life. Mostly because each day I have new insights so my thoughts about the meaning of life keep changing. But I realised it needed an end point or it would never be shared.
Anyway, last weekend I did a course where I trained to be a Happiness Facilitator. The first thing they asked us was to explain what happiness means to us and ‘contentment’ came out as the most popular answer.
As my cohorts nodded in agreement that contentment = happiness, I couldn’t help but reflect on these words I’d been drafting. I’d spent so long thinking about contentment but then it turned out that my thoughts aren’t just mine: contentment is what we’re all seeking.
But then I remembered my dreams. The ones that are tucked away in my mind that I sometimes forget exist. And I started to think, should I re-open that box that got nailed shut a long time ago when I was still a kid? What’s inside it that could help me today?
Travelling without moving
The older you get the more you think about where you’ve come from as much as where you’re going. Though most people would assume I’m a Millennial; I’m not. I’m the last of Gen X. I remember life so clearly pre mobile phones, internet and social media, I wasn’t even a child, I was fully fledged teenager by the time these inventions came along and while identity politics is usually mixed up with race, religion and gender, straddling between two such different generations is what affects my identity more than anything else.
You give me something
I’ve also recently been deeply consumed by what my ancestors did for me, wondering if I have done enough to re-pay them? Truth is, I know little about them. I vaguely know the stories of my late parents, a teeny bit about my grandparents but that’s where the trail ends. It unsettles my feeling of contentment and I carry the weight of the question – have I done enough with my life to ease the traumas they felt? Were their struggles worthwhile?
I’ve concluded that they deserve more which is why can’t stay still in my contentment.
There’s only one road I can take – the turning at the junction, the not settling for contentment, the opening up my box of childhood dreams.
#42 Meaning of Life – My Verdict
42 for me is the meaning of my life so far – but my life is the sum of so much more to come. It’s no doubt a good age to pause and check in with yourself, take stock of all your accomplishments but remember there are many more to come.
42 the meaning of life – the search continues
I’m not done with thinking about whether 42 is the meaning of life. I’ve taken a personal vow that for the next year of my life I am going to fully throw myself into celebrating being 42 and finding meaning in every single day.
Whatever age you are, I invite you join me in these discoveries…
Take just one minute every day to think about what meaning you’ve found to your life that day – what gives you contentment and fuels your hope and aspirations for what is still to come?
I’ll be sharing any observations on my Instagram so you’re welcome to share your own thoughts, or leave them in the comments below. I would also love to know of any strange coincidences you have with the number 42.
….is now a good time to reveal that I live at a number 42?
There really is no escaping these digits!
Images shot at Canary Wharf’s Winter Light’s art installation, January 2023. Shout out to Jamiroquai (now I’m really showing my age!) for lending so many song titles to the image captions!