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What I Learned from Being the Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything

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Between August 2020 and August 2021, I was the Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything — I was 42 years old. Just hush with the reminders that it’s only a joke in a science fiction novel; like many other fans, I had already decided that this number would be significant to me throughout the year. I was ready to have cosmic wisdom bestowed on me.

So, what did I learn while I was 42? The fact we were in the midst of a global pandemic did make for some interesting circumstances and situations to mull over or to seek information from. This also meant that how I would usually have defined my personal goals for a 12-month period needed to be adjusted — without any guilt or blame directed towards myself if I happened to fall short.

That would probably be the first big lesson: Let plans change and don’t feel bad about it. If lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing taught us anything, it should’ve been that being able to adapt to a sudden, uncontrollable shift in one’s environment is healthy and helpful. While I absolutely would rather have been in the dance studio and writing more than attempting to homeschool Muffin, the situation was out of my control and I shifted my expectations and priorities to cope. I didn’t have to release a new book; I didn’t have to hit that next follower mark; I didn’t have to read every hyped publication. And all the things I wasn’t doing should have no effect on my self-esteem.

If you aren’t where you thought you’d be by now, it’s totally okay. When I was 35, I decided that I’d like to open my own dance studio by 40. Obviously that hasn’t happened. At 41, I was kinda sad about this. But there were many valid reasons why the resources just weren’t available, and needing to push back a goal I really wanted to stick to became easier and easier to accept. I hadn’t failed; I hadn’t let anyone down; there was no one I needed to worry about disappointing or messing with. Not even myself.

Knowing what you like, how you are, and sticking by it is completely all right, no apologies required. I’ve been approaching this pretty steadfastly for the last few years, but now it’s quite stuck in. There’s nothing wrong with me liking light-hearted fantasy, television and movies that ask for a suspension of reality, and YouTube channels that revolve around video games I’ll never play. I don’t have to defend my talking to Muffin’s stuffed animals while making his bed. I won’t be ashamed that puppies and Baby Yoda always make me smile — no matter what else has gone on in the day. I choose to be a glass-half-full person, approach tough times with a bit of humor, a lot of sarcasm, and vast stores of hidden bravery, and the world can just deal with it.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. While I knew this refrain for most of my life, I don’t think it really kicked in until recently how it applies. I have to accept if someone ends a friendship I’m not done with. I have to accept that some people will never like my tastes, my preferences, my views. I won’t win any friends or favors by pestering people to concede to my opinions. If there are ideological issues that will only result in hitting a brick wall, then cutting ties, letting go, and wishing others well is a mature and compassionate path forward. (By the way, I’m not targeting anyone specific with these remarks — I think we can all relate after such a year of division.) I don’t need to try to change beliefs that I hold steadfast, to, either, to find more online community; I’m doing myself a great disservice fighting to fit into a mold that I break. Connecting with folks that I get along with and who listen and show respect will fill my inner well a lot more.

Life is what you make of it. I’m disabled, with a chronic illness; I have children that sometimes test the very limits of my patience; I have many daily frustrations. I could be bitter and complain and rage constantly. Or I could smell the roses, pet the cats, look for the unicorns hiding in the forest. I could seek peace and growth. In some ways, I do feel rather zen these days about determining what matters and what I can let go of.

When I passed the torch to whoever may have turned 42 this August 14th, I did experience a bit of sadness at the mantle being lifted. But more so I felt proud, and grateful. Whatever the cosmos and the divine hoped to teach me during my 42nd year of life, I hope I got it.

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