I’m Danielle Fried. I’m 45 years old and probably at the happiest I’ve ever been though also the most challenged I’ve ever been in my life. I am a photographer. I’ve been a photographer for 15 years. I’m recently divorced after being married for 17 years. So lots of changes. Lots of great changes but also lots of difficult things have happened. Free falls are tricky. I find myself exploring what I want the next 20-30 years to look like and that’s really cool — it’s terrifying — but really cool. It’s a time of fear but also strength. I’m digging down and finding lots and lots of strength. I feel like I am really at a crossroads, which is making this the most interesting point in my life. I guess every single day can be a crossroad but allowing myself to really face that, instead of just continuing forward, the challenges and excitement that come with that are big responsibilities.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
Acknowledging and facing that I wasn’t present before. I was living in a little bit of a fantasyland and ignoring what was really going on. I was very attached to the story that I had told myself and coming to a place that I faced that reality was the biggest shift. On the other side of that shift, I’m really listening to myself and others and working on being more present. I’m also much more in touch with my own needs than I have ever been and I have the confidence to explore those and not ignore, even though sometimes I want to because it’s so scary.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
[Note from Sara: Danielle was the first person I’ve interviewed to push back on the word “powerful” and we had a really interesting conversation that I may find a way to share with you separately. The following are her answers with that conversation (at least my side of it) edited out.]
Powerful — that’s a HUGE question! So many thoughts came into my head. I guess I picture myself working but I don’t know if that’s powerful or if that’s just love. It’s weird how power can have a negative connotation.
When I think of powerful I think of love and playing. I think of playing with my sister’s kids.
I feel powerful when I am surging full of love. Which is really maybe cheesy but it’s how I feel. The ability to love and be loved gives me strength. I get strength from a lot of my relationships. You feed off of each other’s energy. It’s like coal into the fire.
What are the top three most important things to you right now?
- My family
- My work
- My health
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
Why do I find that a difficult question? I do.
I schedule the time to be with and work on two of the three [laughs]. The third falls by the wayside. I would say I am always working on better plans to honour those in more appropriate time allotments but I need to keep working on this.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
That’s another tough one. Again I go back to relationships. Growing and playing with my [niece and nephew]. Spending that time with them, I hope it will impact the rest of their lives in a powerful way. And, certainly, in my photography, I hope that the portraits will go down in history. I feel like those are seeds that go out everywhere across the world. In a way, they are gifts for the future generation. The joy that even babies get out of seeing people they love [in a photograph] is such an awesome gift. So I guess I’m planting lots of seeds.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
I would recommend having somebody hold your hand. Big time. I feel like for me that has been and continues to be mind-blowing. To sit in that discomfort and have that exploration happen instead of thinking you can do it on your own. It takes a village. Having teams and groups, and a coach, even more than one coach for different areas. For me, it’s all about self-exploration and being open to having help.