Correction: Queen Sono is the first original African series. It is South African, not Nigerian
I interviewed Deirdre Nelson on March 13, 2020. When we spoke, Prague was in the first stages of lockdown, and restaurants were still open until 8pm. There were only a handful of cases of people with coronavirus in Winnipeg, where Deirdre lives. In Prague, there were 141 cases. Since that time, both Canada and Czech Republic have tightened lockdowns and most people in both Prague and Winnipeg are still working from home. Prague, however, has loosened the lockdown and is continuing to do so.
This episode is not about the coronavirus pandemic, but as I listened back to our banter, much of which didn’t make it into the final edit of the podcast, I was reminded of how much has changed in a relatively short time. If you or someone you love has been touched by the coronavirus pandemic, I hope that you are doing better. If you’re grieving about loss at this time, I’m sorry for your loss. I discuss grief and supporting yourself or others who are grieving in episode 20 of the podcast.
For the past few weeks, I’ve interviewed various people about life in the time of coronavirus while also discussing other significant changes in their life. As countries and individuals look at how to transition out of lockdown, we’re beginning to look forward to change and improvement so that we are not confined to our home.
Listen to this wide-ranging conversation between me and Deirdre about travel, teaching English in Korea, making friends, changing tastes. We even get into a discussion about The Cosby Show and other shows from the 80s. Through it all, Deirdre shares an important message, to follow your heart. Listen to this episode as inspiration to think through what is holding you back, and how you can find your way to living your life.
Please share this episode with a friend or family member that you think might benefit. And for access to more resources and support from a community focused on change and progress, join the Changes Big and small Facebook community.
Timeline of the Chat
2:29 – Deirdre introduces herself
2:56 – The pivotal experience that changed her life and what she learned from it
6:29 – The racial makeup of her childhood and teenage years
8:01 – The experience of life as a Black person in South Korea and Japan
11:41 – A discussion of racism, curiosity and microaggressions
13:56 – Other lessons learned from living overseas
15:00 – Predictions and the long way back into teaching
18:47 – Challenges faced and overcome
21:26 – Building awareness of what’s possible and being a role model for younger generations
23:44 – How fear can hold individuals and communities back
25:29 – How she and her husband encourage each other beyond their comfort zone
27:16 – Her future travel plans
28:04 – Yearning for the good old days
29:28 – Discussing The Cosby Show and the why Deirdre continues to watch it
31:58 – Following your instincts and staying true to yourself (wearing a red wedding dress)
35:50 – I recommend a book to Deirdre
37:08 – Social media
Quotes from the chat
Full Interview Transcription
Conversation Between Damianne and Deirdre
Damianne [00:02:07] If you could start off by telling us where were you born and where do you live now?
Deirdre [00:02:34] I was born in Kingston, Jamaica many, many moons ago. And I live now in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. But I’ve lived in other places between now and then, but here I am.
Damianne [00:02:46] If you had to look back at the course of your life, what was the choice that you made that had a domino effect?
Deirdre [00:02:56] If I had to look back, not that I’ve ever done that, but I have on many occasions. I look back and I think in 2003, I was finished school and I was working and I just felt like a change. I wanted to just do something. So I went to teach English in South Korea. And I think that’s going there and living there. I was there for five years. And being there changed my whole trajectory in life. I hadn’t really thought about what I would do for my life and career and all that before that. But being there and everything after has definitely been something I never thought I would be doing.
Damianne [00:03:32] What did you learn during that time, living in South Korea?
Deirdre [00:03:35] I learned about myself. I grew up in Ottawa, which is a perfectly reasonable middle-class town in Canada, not town, the capital city of the country. But it was very middle class, very comfortable. No hardships, no, you know, great upheaval in life other than maybe moving from Jamaica to Canada. But even that was still kind of middle-class. Calgary is where we land before we went to Ottawa. So it was still very comfortable. So I thought to myself, I want some hardship. I wanted some, like, some hardship in life. I’m black and I watched a lot of the Spike Lee movies in the nineties and all of the movies tend to have some conflicts between black Americans and Asian Americans. I’m like, yeah, I’m going to get this hardship I’m looking for when I move to South Korea because, you know, black people don’t get along with Asian people. And just, I had all these misconceptions. That was the main reason I wanted to move to Korea. Life was too easy for me and too comfortable. And I thought going there in a different culture, a different language, place I don’t know very much about, being black. It would be hard. It was a very comfortable life. It was a great life. It was definitely not what I thought it would be with people like, you know, having different kinds of adverse reactions or having some kind of prejudice or racism or anything like that. I did not experience any of that at all. I’m not saying that other people might not have, but I certainly didn’t. My experience there really taught me how to make friends that I didn’t think I would make in Ottawa. My group of friends were black. My social circle had Filipino, it had Muslim; it was all non-white people. So moving to South Korea, I’m the only black person amongst another bunch of expats who are also white and then Koreans. So I had to make friends with people who I’d normally not be friends with when I was living in Ottawa. So I opened up my whole world in terms of socializing with groups of people that I would not have socialized with had I not left my comfort zone in Ottawa. And then through that, I moved back to Ottawa when I left Korea and I just opened up and started meeting a larger group of people, not just the high school friends I had and college friends, university friends, just a larger group. And then I met my husband, who happens to be white. And I think if I wasn’t in that headspace of being open to meet other kinds of people, I would not have given my husband the chance because it’s based on the fact that he was white and I’m black. And before that, I would never think of it.
Damianne [00:06:08] Really, that’s so fascinating to me because…
Deirdre [00:06:11] That never came to my mind before living in Korea to date, someone who is not black, not even Jamaican.
Damianne [00:06:16] It kind of blows my mind that you left Canada or Ottawa, which is majority white. And then you go to Korea to realise that you could have friends that are white.
Deirdre [00:06:29] Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So we went from Jamaica to Calgary and in Calgary to Ottawa. And I moved out on my 5th grade. And even in Calgary, which is a pretty white place. And I was the only black kid in my school until my sister came along. I became friends with the other non-white person, who was Chinese across the street. So we just became friends. And yeah, I knew white kids but I didn’t really play with them. So in Ottawa, as you just said, it was a very white place. But still elementary school, I would gravitate towards black people. And I had maybe two friends, like actual friends who were not black in elementary school. And then in high school it was mostly black friends and then university, it was the same. So, yeah, I was going to Korea where it’s an expat community and everybody there, no black people went to teach English at the time. So I had to be friends with Australians, New Zealanders, British, Canadians, and most of them were white guys. So you know, I got to know white guys really well. I never thought of those things before getting out of my comfort zone. I learned a lot about how black people are seen in different parts of the world, especially black women. So it was a lot of dispelling stereotypes with my students that I had and it was a real eye-opening experience. It’s the greatest I’ve ever had so far. It must have been similar, though, when you lived in Japan, right?
Damianne [00:08:01] I would say that I stood out in Japan and people who had darker skin stood out even more than I did in terms of getting stared, getting pointed at. There was a lady that I knew, African-American from Texas, quite dark skin, and she would always talk about how people would be staring at her. And any time she tried to make eye contact, their eyes would kind of disappear. People would never make eye contact with her. But she always felt the eyes on her and whispers around her. And I didn’t really have that experience. I felt seen. It’s kind of funny because sometimes I’ve felt more invisible in the Czech Republic than I did in Japan. I didn’t feel that people were avoiding eye contact with me. And I’ve kind of been experimenting with that. I’m playing with that in the Czech Republic as well to see my scene.
Deirdre [00:08:51] I’m a darker skin tone than you, and I can tell you that in Korea, absolutely, I was stared at; there’s no question. And everyone automatically just assumed that I was either African or I was African-American. And I’ve had people staring at me. People touched me all the time. There are quite a few incidences where I’m in the elevator and like, people would touch my hand and look away. We’re the only two people in this elevator. Or I would go to the public baths a lot because it was quite comfortable and I like to. It’s like a sauna here. And, you know, older women would touch my legs, but wouldn’t realise it was not a mud pack. And then I’d move and they’d be like, oh, oh. There’s lots and lots of that stuff. Or kids would stare at me because the neighbourhood where I lived, there were no foreigners. And I volunteered teaching disadvantaged kids English. So when I would come in, they would just like stare at me at the community centre. I’d make faces initially, but then kind of become friendly because I looked at it as an opportunity that a lot of the people there didn’t have a chance to meet black people or didn’t know about black people. So this is the opportunity to teach and to showcase and to show and break those stereotypes. I did meet African-Americans from the U.S. military or other teachers eventually, and a lot of them looked at it as, oh, they’re so racist and the stereotype, all these kind of things. I’m like, well, it’s a chance for you to teach and it’s a chance for you to show a different view from what they think you are because they watch the same movies that I watched with Spike Lee and whatever Hollywood garbage. And it looks like black people are aggressive and like getting angry so quickly and Ebonics and whatever. So this is a chance for you to show that’s not the case. So eventually people would come around and I had some excellent friends that I still have today that are Korean. It was a thrilling, wonderful experience. So you have to go with an open mind and be aware of who you are and your actions and how people are looking at you. And it just made me more self-aware. A kid sees you and like your’re nice and friendly, then they have that for the rest of their life. Like, Oh my God, I met this great Canadian woman. She was black. And they’ll have that positive image of black people or black women because of that first experience. There was just so much to show and do and learn about myself and people.
Damianne [00:11:14] That’s something that I wonder about because sometimes I don’t think that something is racist or that something is a micro-aggression. And then I talk to all those black people African-American mostly. And there is a different concept of what that behaviour is or what it demonstrates. For example, if somebody wants to touch my hair, I never quite know how to feel about it because on the one hand, I’m like, well, if you’re curious, I’d rather you asked me than try to do it surreptitiously, right. And on the other hand, I’m not really a doll. So do you know me well enough to be asking me this?
Deirdre [00:11:55] Pull out and play with it? Yeah, sure.
Damianne [00:11:57] So a lot of this kind of talk around, stuff like that, like I’d prefer people to bring things to the surface than to just keep it below the surface. But I’m never quite sure how to feel. And at the same time, I have to be careful that my reaction does not represent all black people.
Deirdre [00:12:16] So now my hair is short and natural, but I’ve had like long relaxed hair as well. And I’ve had in Ottawa in Korea all my various travels, people come and touch your hair and like, Oh, you have good hair. I’m like, black people have done it, white people have done it. But I look at it, especially if it’s a different culture, a culture that’s not exposed to black people, black women, whatever. And some of that oh, can I touch your hair? Yes. I want you to be open and come up front with it. And I will say, sure, no problem, because it’s a chance for people to learn. I think there is a lot of again, micro-aggressions and it could be misconstrued as racism or whatever. But I think it it’s coming from an honest place where someone wants to learn. My husband and I, before we started becoming serious, we had these conversations. I took him to see Good Hair on one of our first dates because he wanted to know; he was genuinely a curious person. This is when we were just friends. So if the person is honest, curious, they’re coming to you from a place of not malice, but just genuine curiosity, there is no reason to think that is racism, micro-aggression. And even if it is, it’s a chance for you to teach. It’s a teachable moment. I think if someone comes and we react in an offended way or react whatever way is construed as negative, that just plays into the stereotype of what people think black women or black whatever is going to be. And that’s certainly not who I am and I’m totally okay with yeah, sure. Yeah touch, it’s softer than you thought. Yeah, sure, whatever. I think having that idea of just approaching things a little bit more calmly also came from living overseas, because my family will tell you that before I left and who I am today are completely two different people, because before it was a very … not aggressive, but just a lot more high strung or just less tolerant.
Damianne [00:14:17] Reactive.
Deirdre [00:14:17] Reactive. Now it’s like yeah, whatever. It’s like, it’s all good. It’s much less stressed. And even my first couple of years, I had a colleague who I’m still friends with today and he said, like, wow, zero to 60 in like 10 seconds. And then now he’s like, you’re not that person anymore. So I think just seeing life, seeing how it is on the other side, away from what we know, you just kind of open your eyes and relax.
Damianne [00:14:48] So when you came back from South Korea after those five years, did you figure it out? Did you figure out the answers to all your questions during those five years?
Deirdre [00:15:00] So before I left, I remember way back in my elementary school days when I moved to Ottawa, I had a fifth-grade teacher once tell me that, this is like on the first day of class. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but when you’re a new kid in school and you come to class and class has already started like two months into the term or whatever? And you’re the new kid. They put you in front of the class and they make you introduce yourself.
Damianne [00:15:23] It’s the best experience.
Deirdre [00:15:24] So I remember Mrs. Paul in Grade five; she made me do that. I’ll never forget this moment. And after I did whatever, I don’t know; I have no clue what I said. She said to me, you’re gonna be a teacher. And I’m like, yeah, whatever. So fast forward to grade, like at that time OAC in high school.
Damianne [00:15:46] So grade 13.
Deirdre [00:15:47] Grade 13. My English teacher, Mrs. Megs, I was doing a project with another friend of mine. And Mrs. Megs was like, you’re going to be a teacher. Yeah, whatever. Move on. Then in university, I volunteered at the exhibit, at the Canadian Museum for Civilization or something like that. I can’t remember the name of it but the Civilization Museum. I volunteered there when I was in university teaching about First Nations culture. Who do I run into? My fifth-grade teacher. And she’s like, I knew you were gonna be a teacher. I’m like I’m not studying to be a teacher. I have no desire to be a teacher. Anywho. Fast forward to now. I’m forty-four years old. What am I doing? I’m a teacher because I went to South Korea. After I got back, I was working in admin stuff at the university and I just really missed being in the classroom. And I really missed, especially teaching English. I really enjoyed teaching English. So I went back to school, got my teaching stuff and then became an ESL teacher. And here I am today. What do you know?
Damianne [00:16:59] So who do you teach? What age level?
Deirdre [00:17:01] I teach college. I teach students who are going into their technical programs or university programs, and they just don’t have that level of English to make it past the threshold that they need. So I teach them essay writing, presentation skills like reading skills, the academic skills that need to be successful in university. So they’re generally 18, 19, 20-year-old students. I do get the occasional older parent, like older student who wants to go back to school. So they have to come back and do their English levels to get into the program. But they’re mostly older teenagers and young twenties.
Damianne [00:17:42] What do you think Mrs. Paul saw and the other teacher as well?
Deirdre [00:17:47] I don’t know. Mrs. Megs and Mrs. Paul, I have no idea. Mrs. Paul, her and I kept in touch. Sadly, she’s passed away, but I don’t know what it is. I never did ask her. But I think Mrs. Megs once said to me that I had a command of the room. And my drama teacher also said that to me in middle school, that I had command of the room. At the time, I didn’t understand what that meant. But now I know when I have people come and evaluate me when I’m teaching, they’re like when you come in, students pay attention; they’re responsive. There’s a presence that I have in the room, I suppose that makes people want to listen. I guess that’s what she saw. But at the time, I didn’t know. Grade five, what do you know in fifth grade, right?
Damianne [00:18:33] So, surely, along the way, as you’ve made those changes and made those decisions of things that you would like to change, you’ve faced some challenges. What are some of those challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Deirdre [00:18:47] Myself doubting, self-doubting. I generally like to think that I’m positive. I wouldn’t say go-getter, but just a positive mentality kind of person. And when people are talking I’ll big myself up and yeah, I can do it. I’m so great. But then in the quiet moments when you’re by yourself, you’re right, I do have that self-doubt, just getting past that and getting over that. A lot of the situations that I’ve been in, I’ve been the only black person or the only, I wouldn’t say the only woman, the only black person period in the room. So getting past that initial okay, I’m the only, you know, whatever or the challenge of not being heard or being passed over or not being taken seriously, I had to get past those negative reactions or negative thoughts and words from people in my life who were like, why are you doing that? There’s no reason to do that. Just, oh, you can’t do that or no one’s ever done that, that kind of negative talk. When I made the decision to go to Korea, I didn’t have the most supportive network of family and friends to say, yeah, that’s a great idea. It was a lot of work. Why? What are you doing there? Why are you going there for? That kind of thing. And I went and had a wonderful time. Now everyone’s like, oh, that was just an awesome thing that you did. And the younger people in the family are asking me for advice and tips and how they can do it. And, you know, it’s opened their eyes. So it’s just trying to get over that, yeah, the negative talk from myself, from other people, what people think that you should do, what you think you should be; that’s mainly, I think, what it is.
Damianne [00:20:33] I always wished that I had had more exposure to know what was possible when I was younger or in high school or in university even. I think sometimes when you’re in the Caribbean community or in the black community and I have to say, my college counsellor was not very supportive in terms of letting me know what the options were. But I think it’s really helpful to have those stories and to see people, other people who look like you, who are able to do these things. Sometimes you have no idea. Because otherwise, I would wonder, like I’m meeting all these people who did a year away, how did they manage to do a year away? Like my family’s not rich. I can’t just go and do a year away. But there are actually opportunities, but we don’t know about them unless we see somebody else that looks like us.
Deirdre [00:21:26] Right. I completely 100% agree with you. I have no kids and have no plans to have children, but I have a lot of my really close cousins who have children who are now getting ready to go on to university. And we’re in those years that they need to know what’s out there. So my husband and I, and my husband comes from a phenomenal family. His parents were little upper-middle-class white Canadians, but they expose their children to like everything. They wanted their children to see and do everything. And my husband’s a curious guy. So he was very into learning whatever he could learn about whatever he could. And he’s a big believer and he strongly supports me in pushing the young kids that I have in my family, the teenagers and the young adults, telling them about what’s out there. He’s got access to things that they don’t even know about, that I didn’t know about. So he’ll contact them or text message them, hey, you should check this out or they’ll come out to see us and then we’ll take them to places where they never thought they would have ever dreamed of going or seeing, because I think it’s great exposure. It’s not a matter I think of finances. I think it’s just the exposure, knowing that there’s other things out there that are not just geared towards like certain people. My little cousins, I call them little but they’re like 19, like six feet tall. But they always come to me and ask me what do you know, what do you think about this. Even though their parents are in my age group and they’ve seen what I’ve done and they’re you know, they encourage me now. But with their kids, they’re like oh, I don’t know, you should, maybe you shouldn’t do that. I’m like, what are you talking about? So I had one cousin who had the opportunity to go to France with his high school. His mum talked him out of it. And my husband and I were like, what is wrong with you? We’ll pay for it for you. But his mum was too scared for him to go, and he was supposed to be sixteen at that age. You know, I never did it. We’ve found that mind-boggling. So exposing the younger generation to anything that’s possible. And it’s not a matter of you aren’t this or you can’t do that. Just do it. It’s an opportunity so take it, run with it. You never know.
Damianne [00:23:43] Right. And that’s where the whole idea of change also comes in, because sometimes it’s very hard to see the opportunity for something that you haven’t done yourself or I don’t know if it’s all Caribbean parents, but my Caribbean parents. There was a big worry about, oh, but is that safe or the influence other people will have on you, and a lot of negative expectation of outside influence, like a need for that close control. It comes from fear because they really do want the best for you. It’s that tight grip that in some ways restrains your opportunity.
Deirdre [00:24:20] Right. I think it’s fear of the unknown. My parents were the same. It’s a lot of I don’t know that. So because I don’t know that I don’t want you to be exposed to that because something bad might happen.
Damianne [00:24:31] It might be unsafe. [00:24:31] Right. Right. But I’m like, oh, I don’t know. I want to know. There was a lot of butting heads with my mum because I was like, what’s over there? And I always wanted to go and see and look. And it was like, well, I don’t know about that. So you’re not going to see, touch and look. And it was a lot of fun. Like I’ll do it anyway, because that’s just who I am.
Damianne [00:24:52] Where did you get that spirit, that fire, that whatever is necessary to be able to overcome those strongholds that could happen?
Deirdre [00:25:01] I honestly don’t know where I got it, but I think it’s just the fact that I wanted to rebel against my mum. Holding you back makes you want to do it much more, possibly. So it could be that. I’m not sure. As I’m older now and I live by myself, my husband and I. We don’t have the control of our parents. I don’t think I’m as free-spirited maybe as when I was younger. However, on any given day, I’m home, like I’m going to be home. I’m not going to go out and explore the city of Winnipeg. I’m I’m home. But when we do travel, when we travel quite a bit, when we do travel there, sometimes I just want to stay in the local area or whatever, just I’m too tyred or whatever. And then my husband. He’s a very adventurous and curious guy. I want to go see whatever. And I go, I don’t like doing that. And you’ll say, OK, no problem. I’m like, no, it’s the focus saying we’re going to go do it. We’re going to have the opportunity to do it again while we’re in Barcelona. You want to see whatever. Let’s go. OK. You don’t want to do it. That’s right. So now when we travel and I’m like, I’m going to record it. And then we’re happy for that, because you never know when you going to get that opportunity again and take it when you have it. I’m trying to get back to that as I get older to get done. Joie de Vive, as we say.
Damianne [00:26:21] Sounds like your husband is the one that motivates you.
Deirdre [00:26:25] We motivate each other in different ways. We’re planning an African trip in a couple of years, and that’s all again, it’s all me because I’m curious. I want to go. Most of our trips and travels outside of the country is me. Inside the country, it’s pretty much him.
Damianne [00:26:41] So you are into the big trips, the big planning.
Deirdre [00:26:45] Yeah, because I’m curious about what’s out there. Because as you said, growing up, we didn’t have that push to go, see and do. So I’m really curious to see and do now. He was pushed to go see and do so. He’s done a bit of travel by himself. I’ve been travelling on my own, but mainly when I lived in Asia. So I’ve been around Asia. But now I’m like, OK, I want to go further afield and see what’s out there and maybe bring, you know, one of the cousins, a little cousin along with us if we can.
Damianne [00:27:12] Where are you planning to go in Africa?
Deirdre [00:27:14] Well, I have the Africa map right behind me by just sheer coincidence. Actually, Stefan, my husband bought it for me, for my birthday. So we’re thinking of Tanzania, Kenya, that kind of area, so East Africa, but we haven’t really gotten too in-depth yet.
Damianne [00:27:37] You know, there’s this Queen Sono series on Netflix and it’s the first Nigerian show that Netflix has produced.
Deirdre [00:27:47] But was it the first Nigerian or first African?.
Damianne [00:27:50] I think the first African actually but I think it’s Nigerian. But the opening scene has a shot of Zanzibar. It’s a little bit gory.
Deirdre [00:28:00] Gory how?
Damianne [00:28:02] Some of the scenes get pretty violent.
Deirdre [00:28:03] Oh yeah. I’m not Into that.
Damianne [00:28:05] That’s another thing actually since we’re talking about change. My tastes in movies and music and entertainment, in general, has definitely changed. I don’t know if it’s because of being older. I don’t know if it’s because of the environment that we’re living in now, the state of the world. I am very nostalgic for the good old days. It started with maybe even, this is gonna sound terrible, but my husband thinks it’s the worst thing ever, but I’m going to say it anyway. When Bill Cosby was charged with sexual assault and the whole trial, I was really nostalgic for The Cosby Show and it was like the whole 80s good feeling and wholesomeness. So I bought the entire, it went on a ridiculous sale on Amazon, and I bought the entire Cosby Show box set like super cheap. And then I bought Little House on the Prairie. I’m trying to buy Golden Girls, like all this old wholesome, just this family kind of good 80s feel good. Right now, it’s just like with the coronavirus, but even before that, just all the negativity that you’re hearing in the movies and the media, just it’s so depressing. It’s awful.
Damianne [00:29:27] I’m always so conflicted about Cosby, all of that stuff, because I can remember when my little sister, I can remember her discovering The Cosby Show. She’s twenty-four years old. So I can remember her discovering The Cosby Show on YouTube and just watching series after series and being so enthralled by it. Just it being, like you said, such a great feel-good show it to watch. Finding out about Cosby’s crimes, I think that tarnishes the whole image of…
Deirdre [00:30:05] Well, I don’t know. I can, I again, when the whole thing happened, I just ran out and bought the box set that was cheap. I mean, this is the time to buy it now. And just I don’t know if he gets any of the proceeds or whatever, but the actors involved in the show shouldn’t be penalized. I think if there’s going to be syndication or whatever, I think they should… Nothing to do with them, so they should still get the royalties. But I look at The Cosby Show, I guess I can separate the man and his action from the show on a grander scheme because the show was so groundbreaking. It was so important, I think, for black people on TV. So, yeah. Cosby himself was kind of a bad guy, but the show, the Theos and the Vanessas and the Denises and the Claire Huxtables. Like that, seeing that and the creation of that on TV is so important, I think, to the culture. When I watch it, I like, I do make comments. I do kind of, you know, like I know what you’re really doing it. But you have to appreciate all the other actors and the messages of the show and all that.
Deirdre [00:31:13] So it sounds like even though you can separate, it has kind of changed a little bit, the tenor of watching the show for you.
Deirdre [00:31:21] Absolutely. It’s tainted, but I can still appreciate the show for what it is like. There’s going to be that change. But I think in the culture that we’re living in today, we’re gonna find out everything is tainted. Nothing surprises me. If someone like Kobe Bryant just passed away, he was tainted. Like everything has something.
Damianne [00:31:44] You’ve talked about how you try to encourage your little cousins. What advice do you have for somebody who’s listening, who might feel a bit stuck or who is not sure…?
Deirdre [00:31:58] I think at least what works for me is to follow your instincts. Listen to yourself. Because I can say at the end of the day that I lived my life. I didn’t live for someone else. When everything is wrapped up with and said and done, the decisions that I made remain mine alone. The mistakes I made were mine and mine alone. I can’t point to someone and say, because of you…. I can say and take ownership of whatever mistakes, whatever actions, whatever path, whatever success, failure, whatever, it was mine. So follow your gut. Everyone has intuition. Everyone has that little Jiminy Cricket, your conscience, be your guide. Everybody has that. And truly follow that. If you feel uncomfortable with the decision that you’re making, you could feel it in your stomach. Don’t go down that road because you can feel that. But if you’re feeling joy about one other part, even if people are like this is not the path for you, this is not what you should do, but you feel something drawing you that way, follow it. Because you never know where that could lead you and it could lead you to great success or lead you to failure. You learn from it and you move on.
Damianne [00:33:13] Were you always able to hear that? Because I think sometimes there can be so much noise from family expectation, from cultural expectation that it can be difficult to hear that. Did you ever struggle with that?
Deirdre [00:33:24] Oh yeah, absolutely. One hundred percent, yes. And the times that I have second-guessed, not so much now that I’m kind of living on my own, an older adult, but when I was younger in my 20s, even making that decision to come back from Korea to Canada or even go to Korea in the first place, or even the university that I chose, there was lots of outside chatter and self-doubt. And then the times that I listened to the outside chatter, let me tell you, I’ve not been pleased with those kinds of decisions because I always knew. But I listened to someone else. Even my wedding dress, something as simple as that. I wanted to get a red wedding dress and the amount of what are you talking about? I can’t believe… Red, who wears… All of it. So what did I do? I went and bought a white wedding dress. What did I wear to my wedding, my red wedding dress.
Damianne [00:34:21] Oh, really?
Deirdre [00:34:24] I didn’t feel it. It just wasn’t. I didn’t want to wear my dress. It wasn’t me. Even my husband was like, what are you doing? You’re a person who wears colour. Yeah, but this is what you do for weddings. And like, this is the wedding dress and it’s gonna be white. And he’s like, you don’t wear white. I’m like, yeah, but…. And sure enough, like maybe a week before I went and ordered one online from J.Crew, one that I liked. And that’s what I wore. And some people were not pleased because they expected the white one that I showed them, that they saw, not the red one and that I suddenly walked out in. There is noise. There is a lot of noise. And I learned from my mistakes of following that noise, following those other people. Then I made a decision that I couldn’t live with. It wasn’t a bad decision, but it just rested on my heart.
Damianne [00:35:10] Do you have any book recommendations in terms of change or like following your life path?
Deirdre [00:35:16] Not really. That’s not really the kind of book that I read. I’ve read on several occasions The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. So I have read that. That could be a recommendation. I like the Count of Monte Cristo. It’s about change but in a different kind of way. I’m actually reading that again right now. The actual proper full-sized book with 500+ pages. But yeah, most of the books that I read are like female reproduction and dermatology books, so I can recommend those.
Damianne [00:35:50] You mentioned you like cooking books. So I’m going to actually recommend a book. And it’s not actually a cooking book, but it’s a book about a chef. And it’s called Notes from a Young Black Chef. It’s a memoir. And there are some recipes in there. But he also talks about his journey as a young black man growing up and catering and then working as a chef in New York and in the ocean, like in the middle of the ocean.
Deirdre [00:36:20] Who’s the chef, do you remember?
Damianne [00:36:22] His name is Kwami Onwuachi.
Deirdre [00:36:26] Do you ever listen to the podcast The Sporkful?
Damianne [00:36:28] No, I’m not familiar with it.
Deirdre [00:36:31] It’s a podcast about food. And I’m sure he was on it like in the last few months. Have you tried any of the recipes?
Damianne [00:36:40] A lot of it is meaty and there’s something that involves some okra or something, another thing I do not eat. So not really my style of cuisine. I think I have two recipes that I screenshot from the book. There’s a seafood dish that I want to make and something else I don’t remember. Probably something that involves some flour because it’s like my favourite food. Are you active on social media? Is there any way people can connect with you?
Deirdre [00:37:08] I’m not really active that much. I try not to be. I have Instagram, but I don’t use it to be followed. I use it to follow other people, so I have Facebook. I rather not trying to get back into the old ways of, you know, actually communicating with people. So the answer is no. Definitely no Twitter or Tik Tok, Snapchat, none of that stuff.
Damianne [00:37:28] OK. So if somebody wants to leave a message for
Deirdre or get in touch, then they have to leave a note on the show notes page. And I will pass your message to her.
Deirdre [00:37:40] Pretty much.
Damianne [00:37:40] As we finish up, is there anything that I’ve missed or anything that’s on your heart that you would like to share?
Deirdre [00:37:47] I just really want to say that I think it’s fantastic that you’re doing this podcast. I think it’s great. And thank you for reaching out. I really believe that people should just follow their instincts. Truly follow what’s in your heart. Do what’s in your heart to try not to get negative in your brain and dissuade you. That’s right.
Damianne [00:38:05] Okay, great. Thank you.
Damianne [00:38:08] Thank you.