Forty Things I Learnt Before Turning 40: Lesson Thirty-Seven

Mitch Robertson
5 min readSep 25, 2021


I learnt that people really will come into you life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Friends can come from anywhere. Everyone is a stranger until they are not. And sometimes those closest to you become strangers over time. A concerted effort and energy from both parties is needed to maintain relationships.

Over time I’ve definitely come to realise life is about quality over quantity. I think growing up and being in school, we get tricked into thinking having lots of friends is the way to go. And in this day and age of social media, we can fall into that trap of basing our value on the number of friends or followers we have. But life isn’t like Pokémon, we don’t have to catch them all. I’d much rather have a nice dinner with people I love than a party with a hundred people I don’t.

When we’re younger, we find ourselves in situations where we are thrown together with a bunch of new people, whether it’s from starting university, moving to a new city, starting a new job or even a new hobby. Sometimes these people will feel like your chosen family. You’ll bond over triumphs and tears and maybe they will be part of your life forever, but sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they are just your comrade for a specific part of your journey but then you go your seperate ways. It’s sad, but outgrowing people is a natural part of life. Just as a plant will need to move to a larger pot when it’s roots grow too big, we often have to leave people and places behind for our own growth. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have beautiful memories we keep forever. You need to surround yourself with people who fit your future, not your history. Understanding the difference between friendships and situationships is all part of growing up.

Delta Goodrem sings in ‘You Are My Rock,’

I’ve seen people come and go young and old from all walks of life
They all leave a bookmark in the story that I write
Only when your luck’s run out you find who really counts

One of those lessons you learn the hard way is that of fair weathered friends. Those people who are there when life is going well, but can’t be relied on in times of difficulties. I once heard of friendships being described as banks. At first I thought how cold that sounded, but I have come to agree. Sometimes in a friendship you are the one making a withdrawal, leaning on the support of others, whilst at other times, you make deposits through the support you offer them. At times, you’ll instigate a call or a catch up, and other times it will be them. When there is an imbalance, and you are making more deposits than withdrawals, it can be time to distance yourself. I’m a firm believer that energy in should equal energy out.

In his book ‘The Light In The Heart’ Roy T. Bennett says, “Everyone you meet is a part of your journey, but not all of them are meant to stay in your life. Some people are just passing through to bring you gifts; either they’re blessings or lessons.”

Yung Pueblo has a great way of explaining how to recognise those people that you keep close to you in life. He says, “There are some friends who simply bring out the best in you. Even though you are both thoroughly imperfect, you inspire each other to do the right thing and to keep moving into higher levels of growth. Their light makes what is already good inside you shine much more brightly.”

One person who has always been there for me, through thick and thin, from the womb, up until now is my twin brother. Despite moving to different cities and then countries, I am hard pressed to remember many days where we haven’t text or spoken on the phone at least once. He is one person who truly inspires me and encourages me to be the best version of myself.

I have a handful of friends who I regularly check in with, who I may not see daily anymore, but I know that just hearing their voice lifts my spirits and I can rely on them for a good laugh or advice. They are friends whose conversations not only spark joy, but challenge me to think differently and inevitably help me to grow. We share stories about our own experiences, the books we’re reading, podcasts and music we listen to, tv shows and movies we are watching and I always walk away having learnt something new, about myself or the world around me.

A song that makes me truly appreciate the friends in my life, near and far is Delta Goodrem’s ‘All Of My Friends.’

Nobody knows me here
Another reason it turns into years
See, I know I’m fine here, all on my own
But all of my friends, they understand
But all of my friends are back home

I know that these friends are there for me, in those moments where I feel lost and unsure with things going on around me because I’m there for them in those same moments. Nothing compares to the feeling of talking to a friend who instantly knows the right thing to say, which they could only possibly know how to do, because they truly understand who you are.

Over the years, of different jobs, different trips overseas, I’ve met many people, some who become lifelong friends, others who I haven’t kept in contact with, but have the fondest memories of. One of the greatest displays of a true friendship, is the ease in which it picks up right where you left it, despite how much time it’s been since you last caught up.

One song that will always epitomise the meaning of friendship for me is ‘For Good’ from ‘Wicked.’

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So, let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend