83.9 – That’s the average life expectancy of a woman in Canada. 83.9 years. Let’s round up to 84. It’s been a while since I’ve had to do math, but as far as I remember, half of 84 is 42. That’s how I old I turn today.
If I’m average, I’m halfway through my life. Ain’t that a punch of reality right to the solar plexus. I kind of want to push pause on this film I’m living, pop some more corn and stretch it out a bit longer before the credits roll.
Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 1979. In his novel, a supercomputer named Deep Thought calculates that “the answer to life, the universe and everything” is the number 42. (Ironically, the book itself turns 42 this year as well).
For years, fans have tried to decipher the true meaning of 42. Adam’s himself has admitted that he chose the number at random, as a joke, but that has not deterred we geeks the world over from our quest to imbue a more profound meaning.
Some interesting postulations on the mystical number 42. It’s the precise angle that sunlight has to hit a raindrop to create a rainbow. It was Jackie Robinson’s jersey number when he made history as the first African American major league baseball player. There are 42 dots on a pair of dice. In numerology, 42 is a sign, encouraging you to take risks and experience your life to the fullest. It’s a number of destiny.
I like the following theory best, though I know nothing about computer coding, so bear with me, it’s worth it. ASCII (American Standard for Information Interchange), is a basic computer language that was developed in the 1960’s. In this language, 42 is the designation for an asterisk. In computer coding, an asterisk is a wildcard, it can be anything you want it to be. Therefore, “the answer to life, the universe and everything in it” is 42, or * – anything you want it to be.
42. Halfway through. If I’m lucky. 42 doesn’t seem like a lot. I needed a visual. So, like the child I am, I turned to candy. Jujubes to be exact.
42 jujubes fit in my hands. These are the years I’ve already had. Holding a handful of jujube years doesn’t feel like a lot, yet I know they were filled with a lot of living. School and snow forts, friends and Girl Guides. Family trips and broken curfews. First and last kisses, elated and broken hearts. Jobs and travel, deaths and rebirths. Unmemorable days filled with laundry, tedium and television. And days that took my breath away, shook my core and altered my reality forever.
Blink. 42 years. Blink. Blink. Man, that was fast.
So here I sit and, if I’m lucky, I’m staring down the barrel of 42 more jujubes. Though I’ve had the sobering realization that if I’m like my dad, I only have 15 jujubes left. If I’m like my mom, I have 23. A thought that is equally oppressive and empowering. Oppressive because I can’t control the fact that there is an inevitable finish line. Empowering because I can do something about how I choose to run the race.
The fact that I have any jujubes at all is incredible. The odds of any one of us being born in the first place is so infinitesimally small, that frankly we should all be walking around introducing ourselves to each other as fellow flesh miracles! I’m holding 42 jujubes in my hand, my past and future, and I’m asking myself, I mean truly asking myself, “what are you going to do with them”?
42 years equates to 15,330 days. Jujubes go stale, so I didn’t buy 15,330 of them, but I did buy 365. A jujube for every day of my 42nd year. I’ve divided them into months. I’m going to take a single jujube out of a jar every day for a year, set it where I can see it, and ask myself how I plan to spend that non-renewable resource. It’s not about accomplishment, or cliché barometers of success but rather, it’s about intention. Paying attention to where, how and with whom I choose to spend my jujubes.
I worked on a short film last year with a lovely man who bravely shared his story of addiction, illness and resilience. His name is Ron. He invited our small crew into his home and generously allowed us to capture a sliver of his life. I was deeply moved by our time together and was struck by an inspirational quote he had placed in a white frame, which sat on top of a dresser in his small bedroom. It read, “This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever. In its place is something that you have left behind. Let it be something good.”
Why jujubes? First of all, because they’re delicious. Secondly, because I’m a sucker for a classic play on words! I’m calling this my “Good JuJube Project”. Juju is energy, either positive or negative that relates to a person, place or thing. Good Juju is the energy of happiness, peacefulness, positivity and joy. Bad Juju is unhealthy, negative, hurtful or destructive energy. I don’t want to waste my 15,330 days navigating the land of bad juju. This isn’t about never having a bad day, or not re-watching all 7 seasons of the Golden Girls over and over again because I hear the ticking of the cosmic clock. No, it’s about not wasting time on people, places or things that are not deserving of my precious jujube. (Wow, that sounds like a terrible euphemism). This is about being intentional. If I’m exchanging a day of my life for it, whatever it is had better be worth it. When I get to that finish line, I want to look back and know that I did my best with the jujubes I was given.
So, 42. Here I come. Jujube #1 in hand. What’s next? Well, I guess…*