42. It’s the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. At least it was for Douglas Adams and fans of his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books. It’s also the age I will turn this weekend. I’ve been reconciling with the notion this past year and, besides, Adams’ spin on the number, I comforted myself with easy math like: Turning 42 is like being six, seven times — so, you know, eternal youth. This worked until I realized that 42 is also two 21’s. The only upside to that equation is that not only can buy alcohol, I can afford twice as much.
What I find interesting is the existential gulf between the despondency of turning 40 and arriving at the Answer of the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything a mere two years later. In other words, we go from mid-life crisis to all-knowing guru in 24 months. It sounds like a self-help title. And it’s totally true — I can personally attest that I’ve become a master of the universe this past couple of trips around the sun.
My son is now five and assumes I know everything.I haven’t proven him wrong since I’m not afraid to lie and make up answers when necessary. My fall back, “Because I say so,” has led to some confusion. Answering questions like “Why is the sky blue?” with this default answer can lead young minds into spiritual crises they’re not equipped to handle. The sky is blue because I said so. I did that right after I said, “Let there be light” and there was. Wait ’til he learns I’m also Santa Claus. Five-year-old mind = blown.
Back in July 2012, when I turned 40, I published a column in the IT about the dreaded number that has enjoyed a half life on my blog. It’s been a consistent traffic magnet because, as it turns out, people turn 40 everyday. Apparently, they also feel the need to Google what that might mean. Below is a sample of actual search terms that have brought people to that piece. Throughout, one might note a persistent note of desperation, which, because I’m evil, I’ll eventually leverage into a tidy little bundle of false hope in the form an ebook. When applicable I’ve offered commentary.
I’m 40 now what? What it means to be 40 years old… What to do now i’m 40… Milestones for 40 year old… Who is 40 years old today? I’’m 40 — the 90s… I’m turning 40 this year, what year was I born? (I hope Google answered this last one with “Um, you should already know this.)
But wait, there’s more:
Look of average 40 year old man… Generation X turns 40… 40 is so old… I am 40 yrs old but feel like I’m 25-30… (What’s marvelous about his last bit is that the person searching Google clearly “just wants to talk” but since they’ve chosen a search engine for their interlocutor we can assume they scared away the real 25-30 year-olds and the other 40-year-olds weren’t having any of it).
Turning 40 — how to get through it? (The same way you got through turning 30 – drink too much and have a fight with your significant other.) Being 40, now thats old… I am turning 40 and I am a waste…(You’re not a waste, just the first 40 years of your life were a waste).
Whew. Glad that’s over. Being 42 is much easier. It might even be easier than 41 — I wouldn’t know, I spent the year in shock that I was suddenly “over 40.” Now that I’ve inherited the knowledge of the universe, I’m actually looking forward to getting through 42 as fast as possible. Because 43, after all, is prime.