Forty Things I Learnt Before Turning 40: Lesson Seventeen

Mitch Robertson
4 min readMay 8, 2021

I learnt that it’s not my responsibility to rebuild a bond I didn’t break. It’s always been in my nature to be kind, going out of my way to ensure people feel good. After any sort of conflict I’d go above and beyond to repair that relationship, often at the detriment to myself. I saw a quote years ago that made me think about the energy and effort I put into my relationships, “Why cross oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.” Until then, I’d always thrown myself whole heartedly into maintaining relationships, despite the distance and time that often separates people as you grow older and are taken down different paths, facing the inevitable bumps along the road that shake and fracture your connections. This quote made me really think about how sometimes there was an imbalance in the energy I was putting into relationships that wasn’t reciprocated, particularly to ensure they were repaired, even when I didn’t think I was in the wrong. I am the kind of person who can admit when I’m wrong and acknowledge my part in any conflict, however I begun to find people would take advantage of this trait and I’d constantly be left to do all the ‘heavy lifting’ to undo any damage done in relationships.

This inevitably leads to some frustration after realising the other party doesn’t put that same effort or energy into acknowledging the part they played and then trying to fix it. The worst is the realisation that, despite giving someone a second (and sometimes third and fourth chances) that they aren’t capable of changing, regardless of all that you do and the only thing to do is cut ties. Taylor Swift explores this perfectly in her song, ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’:

It was so nice being friends again
There I was giving you a second chance
But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand
This is why we can’t have nice things, darling
Because you break them, I had to take them away

So I learnt the power of letting go, letting sleeping dogs lie, to not waste time or energy on people who didn’t have the same value in relationships as me. And this was a hard thing to do, after so long being the person that couldn’t stand the thought of people not liking me and doing all that I could to make things right after a disagreement. But I learnt that you don’t always have to make amends with the people that hurt you. What it boils down to is a problem with them, not you. Dua Lipa sings this with such sass in her song ‘Not My Problem’:

Not my problem, not my problem
Call it what you want, but you’re not my problem
Crying all the time, but you’re not my problem
If you got issues (that’s your problem)

I found that through all the bending I would do after any sort of breakdown in a relationship, I would become a different person to who I wanted to be, for the benefit of the other party, not for me. I realised that this wasn’t fair. Why should I have to always be the one to change, when the other person never appeared to make any effort. This is the exact sentiment in James Bay’s song, ‘Let It Go’:

I used to recognize myself
It’s funny how reflections change
When we’re becoming something else
I think it’s time to walk away

Everything that’s broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me

I learnt that it’s ok to ‘give up’ on a person that you’re waiting for an apology or some sort of acknowledgement of how they hurt you, because sometimes that just never happens. As Heidi Priebe says about forgiveness and letting go, it “doesn’t mean you have to make amends with who hurt you. It just means accepting that they’ve left a mark on you. And that for better or for worse that mark is now your burden to bear. It means you’re done waiting for the person who broke you to come put you back together. It’s the decision to heal you own wounds. It’s the decision to move forward with scars.”

A song that when I heard it, immediately gave me a sense of power, of not being the person that allows people who constantly mistreat me, without any remorse, access back to my life is Delta Goodrem’s ‘Encore’:

And don’t come back for the encore, the encore
Don’t come back like you want more, you want more
Can’t you see that the curtain is closing
You can’t cut me open no more (no more)
Can’t you see that the show’s all over
Confetti all over the floor (the floor)

As Taylor Swift said, in a self-penned article for Elle magazine, she learnt to “Grow a backbone, trust your gut, and know when to strike back. Be like a snake — only bite if someone steps on you.” I learnt to stand up for myself, listen to my intuition and trust it in deciding when to fight and when to let go…for ME!