HomeCulture6 Things I’ve Learned over the Last 45 Years. Cheers!

6 Things I’ve Learned over the Last 45 Years. Cheers!

Let’s Raise A Drink to Turning 45

I am officially 45. It happened today, in fact. I made the big leap from 44 to 45. Listen. It may only be 3 p.m., but I’ve done big things with this day already. First, I achieved my goal of running 6 miles for the first time in at least two years. Second, I broke my sluggish 10 min and 40 seconds per mile pace with an average of a 9 minute and 58-second pace (nail biter). Then I celebrated with a giant dish of shrimp and grits and two large cocktails. So please forgive me if I slur.

Anyway, I am officially 45. As I mentioned in my last article, I’ve been in no way excited about this birthday, however, it’s turned out to be pretty damned fantastic. In fact, it has been so good that I’ve been reflecting on the most important things that I have learned in the past 45 years of my life. You know, the things I really wish I had learned long ago…but am only recognizing now for their importance. So, I have decided to share my reflections with you (as I sip on this next cocktail that just arrived).

Look, I get it if you don’t want to bother with advice from some lady who may or may not be writing random thoughts down while fully emersed in a midlife crisis and drinking hard liquor. But I’m telling you, you just might learn something from my latest epiphanies. And if I can save you even an ounce of the hard knocks lessons I’ve learned, well then, I can’t ask for a better birthday gift this year. So here it goes.

6 Things I’ve Learned over the Last 45 Years. Cheers!


Don’t Buy into the Scarcity Model

Are you staying in an unfulfilling relationship or job because you are afraid that finding something better is impossible? The scarcity model is a lie. It’s a lie when it comes to lovers, employment options, friends, lifestyles…you name it. You are living in the midst of abundance. We (especially women) have been conditioned to believe that our resources are limited (especially when it comes to male partners). In the 50s men competed for jobs and we competed for men with jobs. Listen, those days are over.

Here is what I have learned over and over and over again. Anything that is less than fulfilling in your life is simply taking up the space that something better needs to come fully into your life. If you have a partner who you’ve grown apart from or are unhappy with, if you have friends that bring you down every time you hang out with them, if you have a job that leaves you feeling like shit—you need to let them go.

There are opportunities just waiting for you to make enough space for them to enter your life. It’s hard to see them when your energy is being funneled into people and experiences that suck the life out of you. I know how hard it is when you’ve committed to the uniform. You know the one. The “good wife uniform” or the “best friend uniform” or the “dedicated employee uniform”. The fact that you want to fulfill the duties that earned you your uniform, speak to your integrity, but sometimes we all need a bit of a fashion upgrade…don’t you think?

Which leads me to…


Make Space for Good Things

Do you ever sit around and wonder why good things never happen in your life? Do you have times when you take stock of the shit show that is your life and feel like everything is going wrong? Listen, this happens to all of us. It really does. The things that served us, that improved our lives in our twenties or thirties, just may have hit their expiration dates. We all change over time. Sometimes we change in lockstep with the people and hobbies and jobs in our lives, sometimes we don’t. What we all tend to do, is hold on to things that no longer serve us.

I can tell you this: every time I’ve let go of something that no longer serves me—a job, a relationship, an extracurricular activity—something so much better has come along to take its place. It may not happen immediately, but it always happens. Make space for good things and they will come.


Running Away Never Works

Life will bring you to your knees. It will take you lower than you ever believed you could go. It will likely do this more than once. And there are oh so many things–indulgences–you can turn to, to escape the pain. I’ve tried a good number of them myself. But, you can only run away from pain so long.

One of the biggest drawbacks of running away from pain is that it usually only elongates the misery. The better you are at running away, the longer you (and everyone around you who loves you) is miserable. So, what do you do?

Once a good friend of mine was going through an incredibly painful breakup. It gutted her. She met me out for dinner and she just sat there next to me in so much emotional pain that she was sweating and shaking. I wish I could remember exactly what she said to me when I asked her if she was ok…but I can’t. The gist was that she was choosing to sit through the pain and let it consume her so that she could get through it faster. What is that saying?

When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.

She was on fire. And, she moved through her pain quickly with zero casualties, and then moved on. Running away from the hard stuff never works. Facing it and sitting in it is hard, awful and sucks shit. But it is the quickest—and best—way to the other side.


“Pretty” isn’t a Measure of Worth

When I was a teenager, my boyfriend left me for another girl. The first thing all of the people who were closest to me said to make me feel better was, “You are so much prettier than her.” I was so heartbroken, and pretty soon I would ask people awful things like, “I’m not that hideous, am I?” (Referring to how ugly I thought his new girlfriend was.)

Fortunately, one day I was having this very same discussion with my mom and my older sister’s boyfriend at the time (you know who you are—thank you!) who was always so kind to me. He looked me in the eye and said something to me then (of course this is not verbatim) that I really couldn’t understand until I was much older. He said, “You shouldn’t measure yourself like that. There will always be someone who is prettier than you or better at any given thing than you are.” Again, I’m sure these weren’t his exact words…but what he communicated was that my worth and my lovability couldn’t be reduced to such small and insignificant things like being pretty.

All of these years later, I tell my kids the same thing. There WILL always be someone who is prettier or better than them at any one given thing. But there will never be anyone who possesses their unique accumulation of qualities. That’s what people fall in love with. If someone only loves you for your looks, well, they are just not worth your while. You are so much more than that.

If You Are Lonely, Look to Your Left

If you find that you are lonely or feel like you have no friends…take a minute to look around you. It’s often the people we are paying the least attention to who make the best friends. If you really take stock of your life and look back over those mostly overlooked moments in your life, you are likely to find that there are people reaching out, that you are taking for granted.

While it’s natural to be drawn to big, fantastic personalities, or the most popular people in the room, I have found over and over again that the real gems don’t need or seek the spotlight. They are the ones quietly doing the heavy lifting in life and showing up when no one else does. They are the ones who are there for you and never ask for a “thank you”. They are the ones you want to fill your circle with.


Lean into Your Authentic Self

Who are you really? What are you hiding from the world, either because you’ve been told it’s unattractive or because you are afraid you’ll be rejected? You will never be truly happy until you live your most authentic life. Look, I know how scary that can be. I know how difficult it can be. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, it’s even risky. Also, to be transparent, I wouldn’t say I’m currently living my most authentic life (Goals for 46?). But, think about it, losing your quality of life to living a lie or a half-lie, or even a ¼ lie is riskier.

Surprisingly, I have found that the more I veer towards authenticity, the more the most amazing people and the most awesome opportunities show up in my life. I’ll update you as things progress.

Ok friends, I know there are so many more big things I’ve learned in my 45 years, but I’ve got to get on with the party. I hope some of what I’ve shared resonates with you. Life is this big complicated, messy and fucking beautiful thing we’ve all been gifted with. It’s true, it will bring you to your knees, but oh man…those beautiful moments in between…they make it all worthwhile.


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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.