Well Said Podcast | July 21

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Heather Reisman:
Hi, I’m Heather Reisman, and this is Well Said, a podcast on the art and science of living well. This podcast is brought to you by Indigo.

Our guest for today’s podcast is all about overcoming obstacles. Literally. Perdita Felicien is one of Canada’s greatest athletes, an award-winning hurdler who won 10 Canadian national titles, four world championships, and is a two-time Olympian. Perdita’s national record for the 100-metre hurdles in June 2004 still stands. Today, Perdita is a motivational speaker and a sports broadcaster.

But Perdita’s story really starts with her mother, Cathy, a quite remarkable woman whose resilience, tenacity, and determination to build a life beyond the confines of her native St. Lucia is story worthy. So Perdita wrote it. Her new book, My Mother’s Daughter, is moving and inspiring, and my latest Heather’s Pick.

It is my pleasure to welcome Perdita to Well Said. Welcome, Perdite.

Perdita Felicien:
I am so…. I love that you call me by my nickname, by the way. I love that. Happy to be here, Heather, and pinching myself about the Heather’s Pick. It’s such an honour. Lovely to talk to you.

Heather Reisman:
Well, I’m saying “Perdite” because that’s what your mum kept calling you through the book. And having read the book, I now feel this connection. And man, did you ever write a story. What inspired you to write this—this story of your mother’s life?

Perdita Felicien:
You know what? Growing up, you have a keen sense of your surroundings. I never thought we were poor, but I think by definition we were. I always knew we didn’t have as much as my friends did. But I was always thought that the story that my mom told me about her upbringing—not being able to go to school, you know, at the age of 11 and 12—and then, you know, the fact that she was always keen to have us go to school and wanted that for us so deeply, and then of course I become a sports star, and always in the back of my mind, Heather, it was like, “Well, how did my mother,” all that I know of her, which wasn’t tons, right, “how did I get here then?” Like what is all the stuff in between? And I didn’t have all the answers in between.

And it wasn’t until I was finally done with sport, in 2013, that I’m like, “I have to put these pieces together.” And I’ll tell you what. Putting the book together, as much as everyone loves it—which is amazing—it wasn’t necessarily for the masses, respectfully. It was a woman trying to figure out her origins. And for a long time, track and racing was my singular focus. And I never had to confront who I was. And now it was like, “I’m going to make this make sense for me. All the puzzle pieces that I don’t have, I’m going to go back in the past and try and find them and put this, this jigsaw puzzle of my life, together.”

Heather Reisman:
Were there a thousand drafts that you threw out? Did you scrap? Did you start? Did you ever feel like, “Am I going to get through this?”

Perdita Felicien:
(laugh) I’ve never shared this. So, I started writing in … The idea was 2012/2013 when I retired. I didn’t start writing until 2014, because for two years I was so scared, like, “How do you do this? I’ve never done this.” And so, but as I had the idea I was trying to get agents behind it. Nobody would really take it on. Like they were lovely, they were nice. They were like, “This is great that you want to do this. It sounds like an amazing story but it’s just not right for us.” And so I could not get anyone to do it. And this is up until 2016.

But, Heather, I don’t know if you know anything about Olympians—especially Canadian ones, right—we do not back down, we do not give up. And so I thought, “A-ha! Nobody wants this book, that’s not going to discourage me, I’m just going to have to figure it out myself.” And so I wrote, I wrote. I went to the University of Chicago; they have a two-year certificate program for Creative Non-fiction. I enrolled there. And that program really helped develop, you know, my confidence as a writer that I could do this myself. But I remember Kevin Davis, my instructor on the first day—because I had a little bit of a few notes and stuff—and he’s like, “You have something. This is something. And you can be the one to write it.” And honestly, Heather, it took off from there.

So yes, thousands of drafts after that (laughs) it finally got picked up. But ah, it took a while.

Heather Reisman:
You know, I’ve only lived life in a woman’s skin—so I only know from my point of view—but between my experience and what I’ve heard from so many women, we are so often told when we have an idea, “This can’t happen.” You know, when I was going to start Indigo, I was like close to 50. I had already been working for some time. And I had never been in the book business. I had never been in retail. I’d been in other businesses. And I had this vision for creating something. And if I tell you the number of people who told me I was nutty.

And the final person, you know, said, “The best of businesses don’t make it. Like just know this.” And, as you say, don’t you find the only difference between those who do and those who don’t is that those who do, do?

Perdita Felicien:
Right. And we’re not—we’re not asking for your permission. We’re not asking for you to believe in us. Because here’s the thing: we believe in us. And I think, you know, you gave me goosebumps when you described that you started this close to 50, and nobody would take it on. Because how many other women, Heather, have an idea and they’ve been told, “Nah, it’s been done” or “It’s kinda not going to fly,” and they swallow that—they, they put it to bed or they snuff it out? I would say hundreds of thousands. Right?

But I want to encourage anyone listening to us. You have to believe in yourself so fiercely and so much. Right? And the doubt will come. Just because you believe in yourself doesn’t mean like the doubt and the fear won’t be there. But you have to be so unshakable in the idea that you will get to where you want to go.

Heather Reisman:
Do you feel that having at least one person who believes in you as fiercely as possible—even more fiercely than you yourself—do you see that as critical to success?

Perdita Felicien:
I think that’s super important. I think, quickly, the reason that’s important is: one, we all have a dream, we all have something that we want to do. And even if the naysayers come, I do believe you need someone who is there who believes in you, because when that doubt creeps in, when that fear creeps in, they’re almost like a security or safety blanket. Right?

Like my mom realized that I had doubts about racing and doubts about, you know, being, you know, really good on the track that, even when I decided to quit, she was there. Right? She kind of like was able to do it. So I do believe it’s truly important to have that one cheerleader in your corner, so the days that you can’t carry your dream to the start line, right, that person is there to give you that extra tug, and that extra push, and be like, “Go, Perdite. You can do that.”

Heather Reisman:
So to the book. You bring us so meaningfully into every step of your mother’s life—from the time she was a young girl, joyfully selling seashells to the tourists on the beaches of St. Lucia, through her key relationships with the men who fathered you and your siblings, and to some really hard times she experienced trying to build her life in Canada. And I just wonder, was it difficult to revisit your mother’s life so intimately?

Perdita Felicien:
Ahh. Deep sigh, Heather. Deep sigh. So I’ll tell you one of the areas that was really difficult for me to mine—It was how I came to be. Anyone that’s read My Mother’s Daughter knows that I don’t know my biological father. I’ve never met him. I couldn’t pick him up out of, you know, a lineup. And I wrote for a long time around that scene, around that moment, because now I am talking to my mother, not as her daughter, right, but as another woman. Do you know what I mean, like?

Heather Reisman:
Um-hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
And now I have to piece together what were the circumstances that allowed me to be here. You know, how did I get here? Biologically, we get it—ya, ya, ya, ya. But then to dig into that. I knew it would be painful for her. There’s a scene in the book where I talk about understanding that I am, you know, a one-night stand. Right?

Heather Reisman:
Um-hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
As a teen. And I saw my mother’s face flash like, you know, as beet red as a tomato and just how she was affected by my questioning. Like because I wanted to know—I’m a teenager, “How did I get here? Where’s my dad? What’s up?” And when, Heather, I saw her reaction, I knew that I had touched a nerve. And I realized, “Ohhh, my mother is not comfortable with this conversation, this topic.” And I never discussed my bio dad again.

Heather Reisman:
Hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
But I knew, for the book to truly be authentic and for readers to discover who I was, along with me, I had to—I had to show you that time. I had to show you what I found out and what I knew, and that there was no way around it. So revisiting that with her was hard. And of course, the moments where, you know, my father is trying to put her out in the middle of the night, and throwing her things onto the lawn.

Heather Reisman:
Oh. Oh.

Perdita Felicien:
Yes. Having to pick up her purse, and her, her necklaces, and her perfume. And those things were really hard to revisit. And I didn’t realize how close to the surface, decades later, those moments were still for my mother.

Heather Reisman:
I was struck, so many times in the book, by the callousness—the callousness—from the employers to the fathers of her children. And you know, I had to put the book down.

Perdita Felicien:
Um-hmm.

Heather Reisman:
Like several times. Because I felt it in my gut.

Perdita Felicien:
Um-hmm.

Heather Reisman:
Some of it just seemed like cruelty. Like cruelty. But it seemed, at least in your telling, that her North Star ambition for her family…

Perdita Felicien:
Um-hmm.

Heather Reisman:
… was so strong that she weathered it. And I kept thinking like what kept her going? It’s like—it’s almost…. You know, the image I had in my mind is she was a life hurdler.

Perdita Felicien:
Could I steal that? Can I coin that? (laughs) I’ll always cite you. Because that’s beautiful how you said that: a life hurdler. Right? Shouldn’t we all aspire to be that? Yeah. (sigh) You are right. And that’s one of the things I wondered about as I was writing and discovering these things. Like the scene of when I come into the world. You know, she’s in the basement of this family that she’s taking care of. She goes into labour with me, but before they can, you know, kind of reluctantly take her to Oshawa General Hospital, she has to make them tuna sandwiches. And very specific tuna sandwiches. Right? She has to rid them of their crusts; she has to cut them in a certain way; and then freeze them in, you know, paper towels so that they’re preserved longer and they don’t get freezer-burned. I didn’t know that.

And so, I’m a trained broadcaster. So as I’m really mining these stories from my mother, there’s a part of me—and I’m not proud to admit this—there’s a part of me that like I had that broadcaster hat on. So I wasn’t emotionally connecting with the stuff. What was most important to me is the details, and are they truthful, and what is remembered and what is not. It wasn’t until after that I’m reading the book, and women and readers are reacting to that particular scene, that I actually went there. And I’m seeing my mother and my humanity and how I came into the world. This woman is in active labour and having to make food for her employers.

You used the word “callous” and it’s so right. So many people were so callous…

Heather Reisman:
Oh.

Perdita Felicien:
… you know, in their treatment of her.

Heather Reisman:
So, your mum really encouraged you. Like, I think what was amazing is you were sort of winning these meets, and two people—your mom and a boyfriend—actually had to encourage you. So tell us a little bit about how you’re on this transition moment, you’re applying to college. You’ve got all these colleges wishing for you, and you’re kind of like leaving those requests in a shoebox or somewhere in a corner. And share a little bit with the audience about that moment. And take us, you know, through the boyfriend and up to your mum’s borrowing that $5,000.

Perdita Felicien:
You know, I’m 40. I’m turning 41 in August of 2021. And I cringe, Heather, at if 17- and 16-year-old Perdita would’ve gotten to run her life. Right? Like, what would’ve happened.

Heather Reisman:
(laughs)

Perdita Felicien:
So. Yeah. I was a gifted athlete. Right? I was very gifted but I didn’t know how gifted I was. And I remember my boyfriend at the time was a track star. And this is like Grade 9 and 10. And he said, “You are one of the best athletes, if not one of, you know, the best track and field athletes Canada, you know, especially on the women’s side, has ever produced.” He was like, “You don’t know how good you can be.” And I shrugged it off, “Whatever.”

And I went to this one race. You know, running was great but it wasn’t my passion. And I went to this one race, and I would just win. And I started getting heavily recruited from American universities. Fulbright Scholarships, Harvard, USC, Illinois, Purdue, Notre Dame—all over the place. And I would just, “Oh, this is great. This is fine.” And I would take all the recruiting letters and all the, you know, their programs and put them in this milk crate and just put it in my closet.

And one day, my boyfriend—who I’d have to say loved track and field, who his whole life wanted to just go to the States and compete but could not get any offers—so then he sees his girlfriend, you know, over a year and a half has all these recruiting letters. And he’s like, “You are just going to regret this one day.” At the same time, my mum is getting wind of this. You know, because he’d come over and he’d talk about it. And so my mother’s on like this thing now where, “Oh, you know, he says that this is an opportunity.” And so she’s nagging. And you know, back then it was nagging; maybe it’s encouragement but it was nagging.

And I reluctantly agreed to go down this path. But, Heather, I’ll tell you why I didn’t want to go down the path is I didn’t like the idea of leaving my mom. And I didn’t like the idea of leaving her, because, you know, she depended on us. She needed us. And my mom is fiercely independent but you—I was her protector. Right? I was her witness. How could I leave that?

Heather Reisman:
You were a unit.

Perdita Felicien:
Yes (claps). Exactly. Brilliant. And I’m not going to break us up. To go to the big mighty U.S.A.? No. And these are Fulbright Scholarships. And they constantly call you. So imagine every week having to be on the phone with some coach, “I’m not interested.” And I would say, “Don’t call me back. I’m not going.”

I guess I finally gave in because my mother was on me so much and so was my boyfriend at the time. Which, Heather, let me add. Right? And this is as the, you know, 40-year-old woman now. You know, we were teenagers. What did we know about anything? Right? First love. And we loved each other deeply; I’ll always say that about us. He could’ve been jealous. He could’ve been vindictive. Do you know what I mean? He could’ve been that kind of partner who was like, “Well no, you don’t get to do that.” Do you know what I mean? Like, he was not.

Heather Reisman:
Well, what struck me—just as a sidebar here—often we hear that people pick, in relationships, the same kind of partners or spouses that their parents picked—mother or father. And I was struck by, even he’s a small part of the story… he seemed the opposite. He seemed so generous, so loving. I mean, he didn’t just encourage you once. That was interesting to me.

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah. Let’s get back to that. I love that—that you’ve noticed that, and other readers definitely have as well.

So. I get the scholarship offer. I decide to go to the University of Illinois. But there’s a hitch in the plan. Which there seems to always be with anything that has to do with (laughing) my mother and I. The university says, “Wait! You got a full scholarship, fantastic, you don’t have to pay anything.” So we think we’re scot-free. Except we get a letter saying, “Oh before you can even arrive to campus, your parents,” you know, they think I’m in a dual-household, they don’t know, “have to show that they have a minimum of $5,000 in the bank, just for your own security and, you know, anything, you know, for you to get true admission.” Well, Heather, $5,000 (laughing)—what? No. Fifty dollars in the bank, to my mother, is a good balance to have. But she’s cheque to cheque. My mother didn’t have the money. And that is the one big hiccup.

So this is what happens, which serendipity, a bit of luck—however you want to frame it. My mother likes to play Bingo occasionally. Right? It’s like her escape. And so if anyone would call the house when we were kids, and they’d be like, “Where’s your mum?” We’re like, “Oh, she’s at the office.” Well, we knew where the office was. The caller didn’t. It was Bingo; Bingo was her office. So mum’s at the office, and she has a Bingo buddy. And so one day, as I’m going through this, as she’s been for weeks trying to find this $5,000—which is the one thing stopping me from actually getting to university—her friend calls her, her long-time Bingo buddy, and she’s won, guess what, the jackpot. The exact amount: $5,000 (laughing). Like, like, come on.

And my mother has to…. Now, they’re good friends but do you just give someone $5,000 cash? My mom asked this woman to borrow it. And they concoct a scheme (inaudible).

Heather Reisman:
Just long enough. Just long enough. She wants it just in the bank. Right?

Perdita Felicien:
Yes. Just in the bank, so she can get the deposit slip, get that slip, and show it to the university. Well, the woman is, you know, a little hesitant and doubtful, and doesn’t… But then she agrees. And that’s how my mother gets the money to show the university. And right away she takes it back out and gives it to her friend. So her balance goes back to zero or whatever it was, which is not tons of money.

And do you know, Heather, I still have that slip. CIBC bank. I still have that slip.

Heather Reisman:
(inaudible)

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah. 1999. I’ll never forget. October.

Heather Reisman:
And your mom, you talk about her being your biggest cheerleader. Your Olympic career came to a pretty devastating end in Athens—I mean, that’s incredible—when you caught your foot on one of the hurdlers.

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah.

Heather Reisman:
And we get a sense of that devastation, as readers. But your mum says, “Dry your tears. You are gold.”

Perdita Felicien:
Ohh. Yeah. Yeah. Like, “You are the gold.” Like honestly…. OK. So you have to imagine the aftermath of falling at the Olympics, as the world champion, as the favourite. I have not lost a race at the Olympics, and then I get to the final and I fall at Hurdle One. So in the immediate aftermath, nobody knows what to do with me. I am inconsolable. I’m a crumpled mess. It’s almost like my body doesn’t have bones. Like I’m just soup and just loopy. So they’re dragging me, and they’re taking me to this room. The only thing anyone can think to do is to call my mom.

Now, cell phones and satellite phones back then were very clunky. So they take out this big clunky phone and they call her, from thousands of miles away. And just to connect us. Just to connect us. And the first thing that strikes me, Heather, is how clear and, and confident my mother’s voice is.

Heather Reisman:
Mm.

Perdita Felicien:
Because I—I don’t have my voice. I can’t. You know, everything is gone from me: the wind, the life, everything is gone. And here is my mother, so sure and so, “Perdite, dry your eyes.” Oh, I know this voice; I’ve heard it all my life. And I—it commands me. And that, Heather, gave me life. It gave me breath.

Heather Reisman:
Amazing.

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah. And then she says, “You are the gold.” And I’m like…. I could…. I’m like, “Are you a poet? Like, who…? Are you a writer? Like where did you get that from?” Like it was so—it was everything I needed. Do you know what I mean?

Heather Reisman:
I choke up. I choke up just reading it, it’s so beautiful.

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah.

Heather Reisman:
So you have a daughter now, of your own. So are there elements of your mum that you recognize? And how do you approach instilling in your daughter the things that you so value that your mum instilled in you?

Perdita Felicien:
So I will say this. And I’m trying not to get emotional when I think about my mother, and my journey, and my daughter today—who is two. Getting Nova to come to the world was hard. She was an IVF baby. And I was writing My Mother’s Daughter at the time. So there was something that felt so cruel about my life, at the time.

Heather Reisman:
(inaudible)

Perdita Felicien:
That I’m writing an intimate story about my mother. I’m married. You know, I’m now 38. I put, you know, my whole life into track but now I want to be a mom and I can’t conceive. And the only way to do that is with intervention.

So Nova comes into the world in 2019 of the spring. And it was not an easy arrival. She’s in the NICU, and it’s hard. And I will tell you, I was—I was concerned about her safety, and her life, and, you know, the risk to her and to myself, yes. But one of the things that was in the back of my mind the entire pregnancy, and I’m not…. I’m embarrassed to even say it, but it’s the truth, is I was like, “God, her life is not going to be as hard as mine. It’s not.” And I thought that would be a disservice to her. Right? At the time.

Heather Reisman:
Um-hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
I don’t feel that way today. And the epiphany came to me only weeks ago, as My Mother’s Daughter is out into the world. And this is the epiphany. Yes, I do believe that my mother’s hardship, and our hardship together, has made me. And made me who I am. And the pain of it, yes. It’s what my mother did with her pain and what I’ve done with my pain that matters. But truthfully, what I got from my mother is more than the pain of it is the example that she had.

Heather Reisman:
Um-hmm, um-hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
Regardless of what the hardships would have been in her life, it’s the example of who my mother is. And so in the last few weeks and months, I realized I simply have to be an example to Nova—who is two—of what I want her to be. It’s her seeing me being resilient in my own life. It’s her seeing me be grateful in my own life. It’s her seeing me fall and coming down in my own life but standing up and being tall. I don’t have to pass on my pain to my daughter. I thought I did.

Heather Reisman:
Um-hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
I thought she needed my pain to be resilient, and to be thankful, and to be great. It can stop here, and she can still be as strong and stronger than all the generations of women who came before her.

Heather Reisman:
She’ll have her own journey.

So what does your mum think of the book?

Perdita Felicien:
(laughs) Has she read it all?! (laughs)

Heather Reisman:
What does she think?

Perdita Felicien:
She, ah. She loves it. She loves it, she loves it. But I—I know that there are parts, and she said this to me, “I can’t read the hard parts.” The parts with Bruce—my dad—she can’t read it. You know, the parts with him putting her out. There’s parts that she has to skip over. But what she has left me with is, “I’m so proud of this book. Because the hardest thing….” And I didn’t know this. “The hardest thing, Perdite, that I’ve ever done in my life was leaving your dad. Was leaving your dad.” I thought the hardest thing would have been her leaving St. Lucia and leaving her kids; no, it was leaving him. That breaking that cycle of abuse and being on her own without him was hard.

And so she says to me, “This book is showing other women, who were in or are in that situation, that they can get out. And they can just reframe their life any way that they want.” So she’s proud.

Heather Reisman:
And what advice would you share with others on how to take a gift or a passion and turn it into something that’s one’s biggest dream?

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah. So two important things. And this is just being real. If you look at my résumé, you know, I pretty much have everything that there is to have in sport, except one thing—and that’s Olympic Gold. And at the beginning of my career, that’s what I…. Once I knew that’s what I really wanted, if you had told me that I wouldn’t have gotten it, I don’t think I would’ve believed you. Because I chased it fiercely. So I think what I will start by saying is you have to understand that big dream—whatever it is—that big goal, it might not, once you do get there, look the way you thought it would look; and that’s okay.

But the biggest thing I would say—to piggyback off of that—is anyone that does have a big goal and a big dream, before you can fall in love with that gold medal or what that final destination is, you have to first fall in love with the pursuit of it. You have to fall in love with the chase of it … and everything that goes into that. Yes. Because if you fall in love with the pursuit and the chase of it first, Heather, when you get there and it’s not exactly as you dreamed it, or it tastes different or looks different, it’s OK—because you love just getting to that point.

And I will always say this. That Olympic Gold, that Olympic moment—being in the shape of my life—in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, and not getting it, will always be the one that got away. I would be lying to anyone if I acted like, “No, it’s been 17 years, I’m good.” No. But what I do have, Heather, is that chase. And boy, can you sink your teeth into that. Boy, has that satisfied me. And that, to me, has made it worth it—that whole entire journey. And it has to be worth it to you.

[music]

[announcer voice]
We hope you’ve been enjoying Well Said and the meaningful conversations with experts, authors, and thought leaders to help you live with purpose and intention. Don’t forget to visit indigo.ca to explore more books from your favourite podcast guests and our full Wellness Collection designed to help you live well.

[music]

Heather Reisman:
Just a couple of fun questions that we always like to end with.

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah. Yeah.

Heather Reisman:
What book or books, if any, have had a profound impact on your life?

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah. So this is an old one, and it’s called—it’s a child’s book—it’s called Bridge to Terabithia. The reason it resonates, even until now I’m thinking about that book, is I’m a young child, I don’t—I might have been in Grade 4 or Grade 5, or maybe even Grade 3, but the character, the main character, he was a runner. And I thought that was really cool. Because I loved—I loved gym class and all those things. But the character in that book dies. And as a child that was the first character in any book that I’d ever read that passed. And I felt that the mourning—I felt like, you know? And to this day, I’m now going to be 41 years old, I will never forget that impact of that book, of that loss. And so that one was it.

And it, I think the sense that it gave me—you know, as much as it could—was, wow, life is fragile. Now, I didn’t literally think of it like that. But it made me think of this young boy is gone. And when you’re a kid, you think your life is, you know, infinite. You don’t—you don’t think of that.

Heather Reisman:
Um-hmm, um-hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
And for me there was a bit of a switch that flipped, like, “Oh, life is not eternal for everybody.” Like, “Oh. OK.” So that one.

Heather Reisman:
Make something of it. I know that book. That is a beautiful book.

Are you reading anything now that you’re particularly into?

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah. So Saga Boy by Antonio Michael Downing, I just ordered that off of Indigo. And I haven’t started it yet but I’ve heard great things. And I mean, Gutter Child by Jael Richardson, like I mean, isn’t everybody reading her (laughing)?

Heather Reisman:
(laughs) Yes, that’s a good one.

Perdita Felicien:
Yeah.

Heather Reisman:
What brings you joy in life now?

Perdita Felicien:
Hmm. God, I love your questions, because they—I have to go deep. I think knowing that the people around me are safe and happy. Because for a long time that wasn’t always a thing.

Heather Reisman:
Um-hmm, um-hmm.

Perdita Felicien:
So knowing that my sisters are fine, and my brother is fine, my daughter is fine, and my mother is great, that gives me joy. I will say, when I was at university I would constantly worry, “What’s happening? What’s going on over there? Do they need me?” I don’t have that worry anymore; that gives me perfect peace.

Heather Reisman:
And what does living with intention mean to you?

Perdita Felicien:
I think it means…. I’m finding myself in these new spaces and they’re wonderful. They’re wonderful. And I’m reminding myself I only have to be me. I only have to sound like me; dress like me; talk like me. And that is enough. And I think sometimes, especially, you know, as a young, you know, Black woman sometimes I don’t always see myself in these spaces. And you wonder, “What do I have to pretend?” or “Do I have to be somebody else to be here?” But no, I’m here based on my merit. I’m here because I am here. And so my intention every day is just to always be Perdita.

And that means not dimming my lights, you know, not playing things small. I think turning 40 did, last summer of 2020 during the pandemic—I’ve had two pandemic birthdays now, or will have—made me realize something. And I don’t know if you felt that way in your 40s. But I’m more sure of myself now, Heather, than I’ve ever been in my life. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. I don’t do something unwillingly. You know? And I love that “no” is “no” for me. Like, “No, I can’t do this ask.” Without the guilt or having to explain what that “no” is. That is who I am. And I love who I am right now.

Heather Reisman:
I will say I am now well through my 40s, but I had the same experience—that there is…. It’s a beautiful time in life and yet there’s huge amount of runway ahead. You know? So much, as I said early at the beginning, I only started Indigo when I just shy of 50. I was only—it was almost my 49th birthday. So.

Listen, this has been a joy.

Perdita Felicien:
Thank you.

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Heather Reisman:
Thank you for tuning in to our conversation with Perdita Felicien. For more ideas to help you live well, including the book featured in this episode, My Mother’s Daughter, visit indigo.ca/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a rating on Apple Podcasts. Of course, you can follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Well Said was produced for Indigo Inc. by Vocal Fry Studios and is hosted by me, Heather Reisman.

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