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Turning 40 and the Year of No Fear
Episode 226th April 2022 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
00:00:00 00:23:22

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Turning 40 and the Year of No Fear

Meet Janna Hartley, who celebrated turning forty with a "Year of No Fear," where she addressed, head on, fears she felt were holding her back. She used the milestone birthday to let go of things from her past. To get out of her own way. To move beyond anxieties and fears. She wanted to say YES more. She says she wanted to start experiencing life in a way where she wasn’t so conscious of what other people thought about what she was doing. Even at the grocery store, she says, she felt like people were judging her for what was in her cart. No more!

Guest bio

Creativity comes from all sorts of places. An artistic mind does not have to be the stereotypical hipster, sipping chai in a Brooklyn coffee shop. An artistic mind is not always a tortured soul who suffers for their work. And, most importantly, it is rarely someone who relies solely on instinct, ignoring the untold outlets of inspiration that exist in our world.

Janna Hartley is an artistic mind. One that defies labels, challenges preconceived thinking, and works very, very hard at her craft.

Janna is many things: She is a roller-derby diva. She is an outdoor nut. She is an avid sports fan. She has a world-view shaped by triumph and tragedy. She is also one of the top graphic and print designers in Northern New England.

A graduate of Syracuse University with a bachelors’ degree in graphic design, as well as a masters’ degree in business administration with a marketing concentration, Janna combines the bottom-line realities of business with the infinite creativities of art.

Even though Janna’s bio reads like someone who is chained to a desk 110 hours a week, the reality is that she was well-known and well-respected for her contributions to various New Hampshire non-profit organizations before she relocated to South Carolina.

Janna spent many years as a member of the Board of Directors for Volunteer NH, which promotes programs that strengthen the fabric of New Hampshire communities. She was also a longtime member of the Manchester St. Patrick’s Parade Committee. She has also been involved active with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, New Hampshire Special Olympics Penguin Plunge, and the American Cancer Society. In her new Southern home, she has volunteered for Vereen Gardens doing trail clean up and maintenance.

Her creative and community activities earned her numerous awards, including a Davey and a Communicator Award for design excellence, and a Bell Ringer award for excellence in communications and public relations work in New England. In addition, she was named one of the “20 Outstanding Women You Should Know in NH,” which honors some of the state’s most accomplished individuals. She lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with her husband Jody and their dog Tukka.

Quarter Life Crisis (1:50)

Janna felt like she celebrated her 40th birthday when she was 25. Her twin brother was having his first child and that sent her into a quarter life crisis. He was taking on parenting and she wasn’t anywhere near ready for that. There’s a certain expectation of parallel life experiences when you’re a twin and she was rebelling against them.

He had gotten married and was having a baby. Rather than have a kid, she bought a car. When he had his second baby, she bought a motorcycle. Both were conscious decisions in reaction to her brother’s major life milestones. 

Turning Forty (3:20)

Forty became a milestone in terms of letting go of some baggage from her past. She wanted to try to get out of her own way and do a better job of managing anxieties and fears. She wanted to “say yes” more and decided to do a “Year of No Fear” project. 

Her fiancé Steve committed suicide in 2006 when she was 31. By forty, she was ready to start releasing that grief, which included selling his guitars. Grief counseling turned into managing some OCD and other anxieties. 

 She wanted to start experiencing life in a way where she wasn’t so conscious of what other people were thinking about what she was doing. Even at the grocery store, she felt like people were judging her for what was in her cart.

Around Valentine’s Day, she and a couple girlfriends went out one night dressed up in costumes. She dressed as Sock Monkey and ordered a banana beer. A friend dressed as a cow and ordered a shot of milk. It was a little bit of exposure therapy where people actually would be looking at them.  

Roller Derby (6:47)

She joined a roller derby team when she was 32, about a year after her fiance died. She was looking for something new, a distraction, something to occupy her time and, with the women there, it seemed like it was going to be a really good time. 

She picked her derby name and persona and figured out her hair and clothing style. None of that would have been done on purpose to go out of the house outside *maybe* Halloween. 

Having an alter ego in roller derby helped her start breaking out of some personal behavior patterns. “That alter ego: allowed me to be somebody else, but that somebody else was more me.” 

It was still another several years of gradual transition before she made a conscious decision to get out of her comfort zone (roller derby aside!). 

Getting Uncomfortable (9:50)

She responded to an online challenge from Canadian film director Jeremy Lalonde. In 2014, he asked people to #FaceYourFear and do something that made them uncomfortable. Janna made a video of herself singing, which is something she never does alone or in public - not even Happy Birthday in a group setting! It ended up being the soundtrack of the compilation video of people facing their fears (many of which were eating foods people hated). 

That challenge kicked off her Year of No Fear. 

The Challenge of Perfectionism (10:48)

From birth, Janna was a perfectionist. She didn’t want anyone to see her fail at anything. 

Her mother tells a story of when her brother learned to crawl and then learn to walk. He would go around in circles and Janna would just sit there even though she was three minutes older, and she would knock him over as he came around. And her mom reports that she skipped crawling altogether and went straight to walking. In hindsight she said she thinks Janna was practicing when nobody could see. 

All her decisions, whether conscious or not, were based on whether she could do something well and whether people would think negatively of her. That fear has always been there. She talked second, but she started talking in complete sentences. 

There was always a competitiveness between Janna and her twin brother while also being each other’s best friends and biggest supporters. In high school, their paths diverged and Marc started, shall we say, ‘acting out.’ Janna’s response was to try even harder to compensate; if he was going to be a little bad, she was going to try hard to be even better. 

Tortoise AND the Hare (15:21)

Janna and her husband made what looked like a “fast” move to South Carolina about 30 days after telling me she might, maybe be thinking about putting their house on the market (many years before the current pandemic-fueled housing market!). 

But this seemingly “fast” move was actually 15 years in the making. And, probably the first time she’s done something truly for herself. What looked spontaneous, or sudden, but it wasn’t. It was a long time coming. A long-time desire to go do something. 

Every time she left New England for vacation, she felt like she wanted to stay on vacation. So she chose a location where winter felt more manageable and feels like everyday is vacation. 

She’s already working on her next “all of a sudden” move, which will likely be a transition to nomadic life. 


Presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

Jeremy Lalonde’s Face Your Fear Challenge winner

Jeremy Lalonde’s Face Your Fear Compilation Video

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