Episode 31: The ultimate question of life, the universe and everything
In which our protagonist’s inner activist awakens and contemplates what really matters (in a very rambling manner, for which she apologises in advance)
I turn 42 on Saturday, and I’m looking forward to finally discovering the meaning of life. Forty-two is, after all, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything as described by Douglas Adams’s supercomputer, Deep Thought, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - that means I’m getting the good news, right? I’ll finally know what I’m meant to do and be and what my purpose is?
What do you mean ‘No’?
While geeks the world over have ascribed endless conspiracy theories to what Adams actually meant by 42 (the author himself insisted it was a joke), the number and the circumstances surrounding it does feel significant. To me, personally, at least. Even if I won’t be getting the meaning of life delivered as a birthday present.
I’m here, just over half-way through my year of being self(ish), and still feel like a rollercoaster out of control, simultaneously stuck at the top of the big dip and feeling sick in anticipation of the next roll downwards. This is the resistance, the fear, that I’ve been talking about a lot lately - the paralysis that means I desperately don’t want to go back and yet can’t step forwards either.
And yet… and yet it feels ridiculous today, with the release of the UN’s latest Climate Report and the “code red for humanity”, to be pondering my stuckness and resistance to change and the meaning of life in general. Whatever the meaning, whatever the purpose, our role as humans is to be kind and thoughtful stewards of this amazing planet. However you believe we came to be here, that is the actual meaning of life: to live it, and to live it well, building on what came before while leaving room for growth for what’s to come after us. Not to drown or burn or suffocate future generations.
Dear Reader, we must do this not just for ourselves individually, but for humanity as a whole. And I won’t apologise for getting a bit political in these pages.
Awakening the inner activist
You see, this sabbatical of mine, this space for thinking, is not only helping me remember my purpose and my old dreams and goals, it’s also reawakening the mini-activist in me. That part of me I’d pushed down because I was struggling to deal with what was right in front of me, the slice of being that once cared about justice and fairness and a better life for those less fortunate. That political and activist passion was pushed deep down inside when I started to struggle with the general day-to-day life I was given - no, that I was making. Because it’s all down to choices, good and bad.
Whereas teenaged me handed out how to vote cards for the Australian Republican Movement and studied politics at university, adult me struggled to focus on just earning and surviving. I told myself this is just how it is, that our teenage idealism is tempered by adulting in the real world. But it doesn’t have to be that way - that’s just a cop-out for not getting involved, for putting your nose down and hoping no one notices you. And I’ve done a f*ck load of that in my (refusal to be) adulting.
Since I took the space and time to consider my own needs, to take this journey to being self(ish), that old teenage idealism has begun to reawaken. I’ve remembered my obsession with the suffragettes and the role of women in World War 2, and that’s now manifesting as interest in the continued inequality of women in the world and in the concept of the witch wound - that idea of ancestral trauma going back to the witch hunts that influence the need that those who identify as women experience to conform to society’s feminine ideals. Likewise, the memories of growing up in Australia in the 1980s as the hole in the Ozone took hold is informing my increased interest in the climate crisis and trying to understand the small role I can play to make a difference.
Let’s put the work in for a future with optimism, not fear
The way I see it, if the meaning of life, if 42, brings my focus outward in a healthy and productive way - rather than focusing on people-pleasing and obsessing over whether I’m liked and needed - then that can only be a good thing. Even better, these few months of self(ish) reflection will help me to not be swept up and forget myself again.
Because, dear reader, you may have noticed I am prone to obsessing. I am prone to throwing myself wholeheartedly behind an idea and then giving up when the going gets tough. These activist seeds that are rekindling within me are fragile, but so is my own mental and physical health. I will be no good to anyone if I don’t look after myself first and foremost - and that goes for all of us. Yet we can’t be completely self-focused or we lose sight of the bigger picture. Of the crises in front of us.
That picture shows a society that’s crumbling, humans turning on each other, a planet that’s dying. These are the things I’m contemplating as I face 42 and the meaning of life: that it’s not just about me. These are the big questions of life, the universe and everything. Unfortunately, I don’t think Deep Thought will help us to solve these. We must look within - and we must take action. Just as I must now take action-led steps, to motivate myself to change myself for the better. To be self(ish). To look to the future with optimism, not fear. For myself and my activism, however that manifests from here.
It has been a bit of a rambling mish-mash of a letter this week, testament to the mess of my brain right now, but let me leave you with this thought: we can do this, together. I stand with you, dear Reader. Because we have to stand together. For the future.
The week ahead 🗓
Writing: I had a great creative retreat online with the one and only Chelsey of Pip Cards Tarot on Saturday and journalled for 10 pages fleshing out the setting of my folk horror novel. I’m still also doing writing mindset exercises courtesy of Urban Writers Retreat.
Work: I’m working on a couple of short articles this week as a tentative check-in with my ability to do the copywriting thing, alongside classes for module 3 of my coaching diploma (the mid-way mark). Wish me luck!
Health: I’ve taken to booking into classes at the gym to force me to go. So far it’s not working.
Routine: Self-care in the morning; work and study in the afternoon. Plus,join me and hundreds of others at the LWS Writers’ Hour every weekday: 8am London, New York, California and NZ.
On the stereo 🎧
“Who knew the phrase ‘produced by Jack Antonoff’ would become so divisive?” read a tweet from Pitchfork, sharing its article with the producer-of-choice for the likes of Taylor Swift, Lorde and St Vincent. I assumed Pitchfork was just doing its sneering ‘you’re popular now so we don’t like you’ thing, but it seems Antonoff is actually quite polarising.
I don’t get it; from Fun. to his producer credits to this, his band Bleachers, I am hard-pressed to find an Antonoff project I don’t enjoy. Is he pushing boundaries? Not really. But sometimes you just want a great tune with a big chorus.
Here’s a recent Bleachers single for your reference. It’s no surprise The Boss guests on it.
I’m back on a Wolf Alice trip, binging all three albums. I love this band.
Off the shelf 📚
I’ve taken something of a break from reading this week - my brain has been struggling to focus - so here’s a movie the bunny and I watched on the weekend while the other half was away.
Slaxx is fun B-grade horror available on Shudder, and features a pair of killer jeans. It’s fun, yes, but also has some serious things to say about so-called sustainable fashion and supply chains.
Visual confirmation 📷
I was out in the world last week. It was so good to be back in town. In a cinema. Voraciously consuming pop culture. Absorbing life. Pretending nothing’s wrong with the world, just for a few hours.