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34. & 35. Kena conversation transcribed

PART 1: 1st half of conversation

Leith: [00:00:00] The question I love to start with is, tell me a little bit about the community you grew up in and what that felt like?

 

Kena: [00:00:08] Okay. So I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and when I was 11, we moved to St. John's Newfoundland. So I am an east coast girl. I was, you know, really grew up on the east coast, which surprises a lot of people. And, my parents came from India, so my dad actually came to the US in the sixties. He like got off, I have this picture of him getting off the plane, you know, in a suit a black and white picture, you know, with a blanket over his arm. And he landed in California and probably a decade later he married my mom and they came and moved to Nova Scotia. My dad was an oceanographer, so that's why we sort of ended up on that coast. Although my mom always said she kind of hoped we would've landed on the other coast. Like more south. But no, we grew up like, you know, shoveling snow and going ice skating and doing all those things. It's funny because growing up in Nova Scotia; there was definitely a lot more diversity there. And so, you know, I remember in my second-grade class there were kids from the Philippines or, you know, they may have been born here, but they were the second generation from the Philippines and a friend from Nigeria. Like there were people who came from other cultures. And so I didn't really get this sense, funny enough that I was really that different you know like I have like a few nuggets of memories of things that happened that made me feel like, oh, I guess I am different in that way, but I didn't really grow up thinking about it. And we didn't have this awareness of it. Like I had a great childhood, you know, lots of friends felt very welcomed, you know, it was wonderful. When I was 11, we moved to Newfoundland and you know, that age, especially I think for girls can be quite hard. And things really shifted for me there. You know, I think now as adults, we have this awareness of the things that affect us as children that really can impact us for the rest of our lives. Yeah and I think that was the moment for me is when we made that move you know, I joined a class it was sixth grade at that point and I kind of approached the move the same way, I'd approached everything up until that point. I was like, we're going to a new place. This is all exciting. I'll make new friends, like, you know, completely open, no fear. But then I wasn't welcomed in the same way, you know. Yeah. I think it was like very jarring almost for me because I felt that up until that point, making friends had never been something that I'd been afraid of or hesitant around. But in that year I remember feeling very left out, very kind of marginalized in the way that like you're not cool enough or, you know, and I think I really started to become very, self-conscious. Like self-conscious about how I looked and not just skin color. I just mean everything, you know, like you're also kind of entering that sort of awkward phase of development, you know, so you're just self-conscious anyway. And I remember having stomach aches and not wanting to go to school because, you know, I just didn't want to go. It just wasn't a place that I felt welcome. And then, you know, there's like certain specific memories that I have. One was that I tried out for the basketball team, not that I really wanted to play basketball, but I wanted to fit in. And to me it was like, if I do this, maybe I'll fit in. And I remember at tryouts, it was like the last day of tryouts. And we were sitting at a table in the gym, eating our lunch. And the coach basically said everybody on this side of the table is on the team. And everybody who's sitting on this side of the table didn't make the team. Yeah. And I mean how horrible is this? Right. I think a teacher would be fired for that now. Yeah. I think they would be fired for that now. And I went into the bathroom and I cried and I remember crying and I remember a friend, like one friend saying, "Are you okay?" And kind of, you know, comforting me, but that really impacted the way I approached, you know, the rest of the years growing up. And then even when I was free of it, I think for a long time, it stayed. It probably actually, I know it still is with me even to this day.

 

Leith: [00:05:08] Wow. So how did that go on to impact you, I guess maybe later when you go off to university? Like even when I got to know you, we were, you know, grad school.

 

Kena: [00:05:17] Yeah. I think I definitely found my way back to me, you know like I really did. That's funny the podcast is called 'Finding Me'. That's really funny, but I really did find my way back to me, I did. And actually, I think it was by the time that I started business school with you, that I felt like I'd like recaptured that like the essence of me, you know, where I felt, again, confident, I felt like good about what I had to offer. I felt like, you know, some people will be your friends and some people won't and that's okay. You know I felt like good in my own skin and relaxed about who I was and what I was good at and what I wasn't good at, you know. But the point between, you know, feeling really bad in sixth grade to then it was definitely a journey. Like I kind of went on to like work really hard to try to fit in and then show everybody how good I am. Like, you know, student council president, like, you know, just doing it all to show everybody and myself that like, I belong here, you know. But by the time I went to this school, I think there was less of that pressure behind, you know, behind my actions and behind decisions.

 

Leith: [00:06:38] Is that because you had some awareness that you were operating your life that way or you just think just time was a factor?

 

Kena: [00:06:47] It's a good question. I think it was partly timed. And then I think it was also a few years later when I was 20, my dad passed away. And I was in my first year at McGill when he got sick and I think he was diagnosed in September and by March he passed away. So it was very sudden, I think then you just, when something like that happens, you really just question everything, but you also just start to like, naturally, let go of things that aren't just important, you know, and then for me, it was like also focusing on enjoying life, right? Like I want to enjoy, you know like I switched majors. And then even when I graduated, even though there was pressure to go to graduate school, I was like, no, I feel like I'm more creative. I want to do something in business, even though I don't know what that means, because, you know, my parents were both academics. They had nothing to do with business but somehow, I was drawn to that. And then by the time I entered business school, I think I had started to sense what some of my strikes were and I felt good about those, you know, so yeah. It was definitely a journey.

 

Leith: [00:08:05] Yeah, for sure. Well, even going back to, you mentioned your dad passing away in your early twenties, what made you think okay. What is living to me?

 

Kena: [00:08:15] Yes. Yeah, for sure. So I think you know when you lose somebody who matters so much to you and my dad and I was close, like my sister. I have one sister and she and I were really close to our dad. We like very much loved him and sort of thought of him as Superman in a way, you know. And I think it just does make you sort of think what's important to me, you know, is like doing what other people are expecting of me is that what's important to me? And also what makes me feel good, right? Like, I feel like we don't even ask ourselves that much. Like what makes me feel good?

 

Leith: [00:09:00] Do you have that awareness in your twenties or have you just developed that?

 

Kena: [00:09:02] I did. You know what and I could tell you like the most obvious example was like I'd started chemistry degree. And honestly, the reason why I started a chemistry degree was that in my first year of university, I did very well in organic chemistry. That was the reason, like, not that I didn't like to have a keen interest in chemistry in any shape or form. Okay. And like, and I could even tell you the process of elimination. I was like arts, arts is a waste. Like, what am I going to do with an arts degree, right? Business, I can do a business degree, but like, isn't it better to learn on the job? Like, I don't need a business degree. And then I was like, landed in chemistry which I don't even know what I thought I was going to do with that. But I hated chemistry. Right? Like, it was horrible. Like, as you know, it's one thing to take one chemistry class, but when are taking organic chemistry inorganic chemistry, like whatever, all these things I was like, this is so not me. And I'm resisting it with every fiber of my being. And then when my dad passed away, I was like, why am I doing this? Like, why am I doing chemistry? Who am I trying to impress? What am I trying to prove? And then I made the decision to switch majors and I switched majors. And I ended up doing environmental science and geography and, in a way, I think that might have made me feel closer to my dad because he was an oceanographer. Right? So, it kind of felt like I was doing something that he might be proud of, but it was also something that I just and, you know, was like interesting to me. So I don't think that it was like necessarily conscious, you know, a lot of the decisions I made at that point, but I do remember like starting to go for long walks around then, which I don't think was a thing for me before that, and honestly all through my life, up until now, whenever I'm going through a hard time, I just need to go walk, like let me out and I'll go by myself for a really long. It doesn't have to be in nature, it could be in the neighborhood, whatever. But that I was in Montreal at McGill, and I remember just walking for blocks and blocks and blocks.

Leith: [00:11:15] Wow. And were you conscious thinking, or you just were trying not to think, like, just walking?

 

Kena: [00:11:21] I think I felt like it gave me space so that if I wanted to think I could, and if I didn't want to, I didn't have to, but it's just like this feeling of space, right? I think I still very much always create that feeling of space.

 

Leith: [00:11:38] Yeah, I can relate to that. I'm feeling that I think partly because of COVID I'm feeling that heightened feeling of needing my own space and that yeah, I found that hard to find.

 

Kena: 00:11:48] And when you have children, that's like a whole thing.

 

Leith: [00:11:51] Yeah. I think that's why I crave it because I don't have it, yeah. Oh my gosh. So I'm interested because when we met doing our MBAs, you at that point were married so I know since then, I mean talk about having an experience of feeling stuck, you lost your first husband. Can you speak a little bit to that, like or how did you even get married? Like when did you meet Amek and how did that unfold?

 

Kena: [00:12:20] So I met Amek soon after we moved to Newfoundland. So we knew each other as kids, our families were friends. We didn't like, you know, when we were kids, there was no whatever, like icky boy kind of, you know, that kind of thing and same vice versa. And so it wasn't until high school that we sort of, you know, sparked a relationship. And then we went to McGill together and then I think he was doing physiology and then he moved to Guelph to do a degree in biomedical engineering and I moved to Toronto and was working here. So we kind of like just, you know, we grew up together in a lot of ways, but then we just sort of, kind of followed each other. And I think when we got married at that point, he had moved to Mountain View. He moved to Mountain View yeah, exactly. To start working at a medical device startup was super exciting. Like we both like loved the idea of moving to California and so he went off there and then I wanted to, so it was a bit complicated, but essentially getting a visa for me was a little bit trickier and I'd gotten a job offer from the GAP in their marketing department, but they couldn't work out the visa situation. Like just the way the rules were, they couldn't get me a visa. And so at that point, I had started researching MBAs and was studying for the GMA and all of that. And I asked them if I had my MBA, would it be easier to figure out a visa? And they said that it would be so that just sort of forced me because we really did want to live and work in California. And because he was on a visa, I couldn't work even if we were married, I couldn't work. You know, just because he had a working visa at that point. So that's when I came back to Toronto and finished my MBA and ended up doing an internship at GAP in between the first and second year. And then we moved to California after that.

 

Leith: [00:14:53] Yeah. And you lived in San Francisco

 

Kena: [00:14:55] That's right.

 

Leith: [00:14:57] And after, your MBA, you lived there for a while before coming back to Canada.

 

Kena: [00:15:03] Yeah. So we lived there and that's when he got really sick and that's when things sort of, I don't know but we would've come back if it weren't for that. Yeah. We wouldn't have, we probably would've stayed. Who knows, who knows how long we would've stayed.

 

Leith: [00:15:21] But so you came back for healthcare or you came back for family and friends or both?

 

Kena: [00:15:25] Both because when he got sick, he got so severely ill that even after he came out of the hospital after like a five-month stint in and out of the ICU when he did come out of the hospital, he had a lot of medical issues that weren't easily manageable. Like they were very complex and I knew that we couldn't handle it on our own nor like it was just such a traumatic period of time that the idea of going to California where we literally know nobody, other than a few friends, you know, like that we just met, it was impossible. Like we needed the support of our family and friends, we needed just a home base. And honestly, between that time, he obviously left his job and I had to let go of mine too because I was dealing with this issue. And so, we came back to Toronto after that so that was in 2008.

 

Leith: [00:16:25] Wow. So how did he get sick or how did that all come to be?

 

Kena: [00:16:31] Yeah. You know what he was on a business trip in Arizona and he got a very bad cough and it turned out to be pneumonia. And within a couple of days, he was in the ICU.

 

Leith: [00:16:45] What? That happens to a 20 something.

 

Kena: [00:16:50] I know. Yeah. At this point we were 29, I think, or maybe 30. We were 30 at this point. Yeah. And he was like, you know, perfectly healthy, you know, on all accounts otherwise.

 

Leith: [00:17:03] And he never recovered.

 

Kena: [00:17:04] No, he did not. It took, you know as he did eventually recover from pneumonia, but it like took such a toll on his body, you know, like the antibiotics and all these things that he had other issues that kind of crept up. And those are the ones that we ended up living with for a long time.

 

Leith: [00:17:24] So how was that experience for you? Like how did you manage obviously being a caregiver and, but still your own person and with dreams? I'm sure like?

 

Kena: [00:17:36] Yeah. I mean, I think now at this stage, I really reflect on that period of time as being the defining time of my life. Like that time, you know, as much as losing my dad was difficult, you know, it was still something that I could wrap my head around and I could grieve and move on. It felt like there was sort of like a, you know, the impact was there, but somehow it wasn't traumatic, you know? But what happened after Amek got sick was like an eight-year-long journey because from the time he got sick to the time that he then passed away, eight years later, we were living with his medical condition all those years. And that was during our thirties, right? And you know, like I can honestly say that before he got sick. When we were in California, I really felt on top of the world, I was like living in this amazing city. I was young and vibrant. I was making all these friends; I was working for this amazing brand. I loved where working at GAP, flying to New York, to work with their designers, and to LA to like, you know, go inspiration, shopping. It was just like a dream life, you know? And all I saw for my future was just more and more of that. Like I just saw, you know, excelling in my career, which I had finally found something that felt like me. Like I was good at this, you know, like naturally good at it. And so yeah, like those years of my thirties while I did keep going like I kept working, you know, I started a business. I started having a blog like I kept going, but there was like this big shadow over that whole time period, because what I expected out of that time period, you know, buying a home and having children and, you know, just traveling the world. Those things were just not for us. And that was yeah really, really tough.

Leith: [00:19:58] So do you have that realization that all these plans, I don't know if they were specific plans or maybe just general isn't going to happen? And how do you move forward from that? Like, it's been my experience. And when I talk to a lot of women, they have this plan, like you're talking about, you get educated, you get married, and you have kids like all these steps on this path. And then when that doesn't go to plan, I don't know, you just have to sort of fall apart before you can rebuild with and imagine there are a million other possibilities than other than that one path.

 

Kena: [00:20:39] Yeah, a hundred percent. And I think as I remember, you know, there are a few kinds of moments that I can remember very specifically, like where I was and what I was doing. But I remember a time when I fully accepted that my path was not going to be what I'd planned for it to be. Like, I just like surrendered to it, you know, like, this is, it's not going to be that, so what am I going to do about it? And it's like, you know, one of the things I was just talking to a friend about this, like this feeling of radical self-responsibility, and I like found so much power in that kind of thinking because it was the only way to take control of my own situation. The right was to say, this is what it is, what are your choices? What are you going to do? How are you going to look at this? Like, how are you going to carve out space for yourself, you know? Like what decisions are you comfortable making versus not comfortable making? What support do you need? Like all of these things, it just forces you because at that point on it's like your options are fall apart or figures it out. Like there's no other thing. Like if I didn't figure it out, I would've fallen apart, right? Like even all the life that I did live in those years, I wouldn't have even been able to do that, right? So I think it really does wake you up, you know?

 

Leith: [00:22:13] So what brought you to that point? Like, were there certain steps that you sort of started expanding your thinking? Or how do you get to that almost breaking point to be able to move forward?

 

Kena: [00:22:24] Yeah, I think I remember one of the things that I did, because funny enough, when you're going through something so strange, so like unimaginable, you can't turn to people for the answers. Like you can't ask your mom, you can't ask your mother-in-law or father-in-law you can't ask your aunts and uncles, you can't. There's nobody who, who can look at you and say, like oh when this happened to me, this is what I did, you know? And so I've remembered just doing a lot of self-reflection, right, like journaling a ton, going on those walks like trying to see past my situation, I was always in it, right? So trying to look at it from a bigger lens and then doing a ton of reading, honestly, I just like read so many books. And like biographies, like trying to like learn from other people who had gone through a lot, how they came out the other side or how they even thrived, you know, as best as they could. Yeah. I spent a lot of time and I think that is when I really did turn to a lot of, sort of self-help, you know, as you would call it or personal growth because a lot of that teaching is about radical self-responsibility. Right. It's like, okay, this is your situation, you know, like what can you change? There are always things you can't change, but what can you change? You have agency over something, you know? And that is where a lot of my spark came from, like, okay. Like I have something here to work with, you know?

 

Leith: [00:24:19] So, and that just came to you one day. You're like, my something is my own choice, like my own agency. Is that really it?

 

Kena: [00:24:27] Yeah. I mean, I think that's a huge part of it is like, knowing that you have the power to look at things differently, you have the power to like, be grateful for what you do have, you have the power to like, see all the good that surrounds you, you know. You have the power to still dream, to like, dream about what you want and what you want to create. And that I still had all of that, you know, and once you feel empowered, you're just in a position to take anything on, you know, from a place of strength. So for me, I think feeling empowered is part of my getting unstuck in any situation.

 

Leith: [00:25:11] So what was the first thing you sort of had that realization then what was your next step that you took?

 

Kena: [00:25:19] I think I was probably taking a lot of little steps, you know? I remember when I started my blog, for example, that was like soon after we came back from California and I was working at Joe Fresh and I was managing the women's business there and it was like very early on in the life of Joe Fresh. I think it had just launched a few years before. So Joe Mimran was there, his office was just, you know a row of desks away from mine. I'd see him every day. But actually, I did love that job, to be honest, it wasn't very creative. It was very much like a, you know, more of a planning role. And so I found myself just feeling I needed a creative outlet and at that point, blogs were just kind of getting started and somebody suggested it to me. And funny enough, I used to write a lot as a child, I loved writing. Like if you think of the five things you spent time on as a kid, for me writing was one of them, but like, I didn't write, you know, past high school into university. I didn't write at all, except for essays for school. And so just sitting at a computer and starting to write again and find my voice. It was so again, empowering because it was just kind of like it would funnel through me. I would be on the subway on the way home from work and a blog post would just come into my head, I'd go home and I'd write it. And the blog was called 'In Life and In Fashion'. So I wrote about fashion because I worked in fashion, but I also wrote about life. So it was a chance to kind of share some of the reflections I had without really, you know, I didn't like sharing a lot of details about my life, but it was a way for me to share some of the things that I was learning. So I feel like through, and then beyond that, I started a business and then another one, but I think you know, taking on things that were just for me. It was a way for me to kind of see movement in my life.

 

Leith: [00:27:31] Was it though, I mean, you then sort of say then you started all these other businesses, but it started with those blogs. Wasn't that how then you met your business partner or something? There's a story there, isn't there?

 

Kena: [00:27:43] Yes. I mean, I think that's why it's so great. Like hindsight, we do need to do it because you connect these dots that like, it's not like it was a straight path it's like, that wouldn't have happened if that hadn't happened. Like, it really does. It's a domino effect and there's no way on earth you could have planned that in advance. Like if you start a blog, you're not thinking, well, and then this might happen. That might happen. That might happen. You know, you just don't know, but yes. So, you know, I was writing this blog fairly regularly and had like a small following, I would say and then one day I get an email out of the blue from a woman who's like, I love your blog. I read it all the time. Could we meet up for a coffee? And she always says she was stalking me, which I'm like, I had a blog, you weren't stalking me, but that's okay. And we met for a coffee; we just kind of instantly hit it off. Like, you know, one of those times where you meet someone and you're just like, yep we're friends. Like, that's it. And yeah, that friendship led to a business partnership and we launched a business that we, you know, worked on together for six years and I ended up leaving and she continued and I still like support with things here and there we're still friends. I just got an email from her this morning. But yeah, it's like, it's true. That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't started the blog.

 

Leith: [00:29:03] Right. And then the business did that lead to the next business, like all these stepping stones in retrospect?

 

Kena: [00:29:10] Yes. I mean, I don't think that the next business led to the next business right away, but it's more the story around the next business. 'All You Are', which is the one that I do know is I had, you know, can continuing on after my husband passed away a little while later, I think one of the big things is that after he passed away, you know, it had been eight years of my thirties that I was basically looking after him. And I did feel the loss of that, right? Like I definitely, I was grieving and I was grieving through the whole period, you know, of like the loss of like what my life might've been, what his life would've been, you know, what our life together would've been. And so when he passed away, it wasn't the beginning of grieving because I'd already been grieving, right? But it was like moving on to this new point where I had to look at myself as 38 years old, I'm now a widow. And you know, asking myself what comes next for me now. And again, one of those moments where I feel like I have to decide like, am I going to be the widow, or am I going to be like a vibrant 38-year-old woman who has still many years of life ahead of her to live, you know? And so soon after I met someone and we ended up getting married and having a baby. Yes my beautiful daughter Nova, who's now five. But it's when she was just a newborn that I was sitting on the couch and like in a robe because, you know, newborn we know what that's like. And then I thought to myself, oh, like I love robes and I can never find the right one. And then it's just like, again, one of those things, that's like, you know, you call it inspired action, where we get ideas all the time, half the time we get ideas and like, we just let them go, right? They go back out into the ether and maybe they land with someone else and they do something with it, you know? But for some reason that day said, there's something here I'm going to. And, you know, I just opened my laptop and started researching robes started jotting down like what would make the ideal robe? Like, I remember, I think I might even still have the piece of paper where I wrote it down. And that like was just sort of like a, take another step, take another step. And next thing you know, I had to decide whether I was going to order 500 robes or not, and I decided to do it and that's the businesses.A

 

Kena: [00:29:10] I don't think that the next business led to the next business right away, but it's more the story around the next business. 'All You Are', which is the one that I do know is I had, you know, can continuing on after my husband passed away a little while later, I think one of the big things is that after he passed away, you know, it had been eight years of my thirties that I was basically looking after him. And I did feel the loss of that, right? Like I definitely, I was grieving and I was grieving through the whole period, you know, of like the loss of like what my life might've been, what his life would've been, you know, what our life together would've been. And so when he passed away, it wasn't the beginning of grieving because I'd already been grieving, right? But it was like moving on to this new point where I had to look at myself as 38 years old, I'm now a widow. And you know, asking myself what comes next for me now. And again, one of those moments where I feel like I have to decide like, am I going to be the widow, or am I going to be like a vibrant 38-year-old woman who has still many years of life ahead of her to live, you know? And so soon after I met someone and we ended up getting married and having a baby. Yes my beautiful daughter Nova, who's now five. But it's when she was just a newborn that I was sitting on the couch and like in a robe because, you know, newborn we know what that's like. And then I thought to myself, oh, like I love robes and I can never find the right one. And then it's just like, again, one of those things, that's like, you know, you call it inspired action, where we get ideas all the time, half the time we get ideas and like, we just let them go, right? They go back out into the ether and maybe they land with someone else and they do something with it, you know? But for some reason that day said, there's something here I'm going to. And, you know, I just opened my laptop and started researching robes started jotting down like what would make the ideal robe? Like, I remember, I think I might even still have the piece of paper where I wrote it down. And that like was just sort of like a, take another step, take another step. And next thing you know, I had to decide whether I was going to order 500 robes or not, and I decided to do it and that's the businesses.

Leith: [00:32:02] Wow. So, what made you decide to do it, like dive in? I mean, there's a probably huge amount of risk, financial risk.

 

Kena: [00:32:10] Yes.

 

Leith: [00:32:11] Being the key one, but yeah.

 

Kena: [00:32:13] Yeah. I mean, I think again, after the things that I've gone through and like really firsthand seeing how quickly your life can just completely change, right? And even like, just thinking about Amek and the fact that he lost his life so early, you know I think that I felt this desire, but also, to be honest, a pressure to just go for it to live, right? Like even the way I approach getting married for the second time, I just like went for it.

 

Leith: 00:32:56] Hey, I mean, you must have reservations having lost someone so close like to go into that, even into that trust that, you know, new relationship.

 

Kena: [00:33:07] I know, yeah. I just went for it and the same thing with starting the business, I was just like, you know what, something brought me to this point, you know, who am I to say no to this? That's honestly how I felt like, who am I to say no to this opportunity? Its right here in front of me, just do it.

Leith: [00:33:29] Because of all your experiences, have you had this sense that like everything's happening for a reason or, you know, lots of people sort of going about their lives like that? I'm just curious about that.

Kena: [00:33:39] Yeah, no, I do. You know, it's so funny because I think I've probably used that phrase before. Like everything happens for a reason, but I don't know that I completely believe that, you know, I do believe, and I have like a dear friend who, when I was going through a really hard time once put it to me this way, and it hit home for me is that we are here to grow through these challenges, you know, that's why we're here. That's like our journey. We were dropped here and not to just like, da, blah, go through life. Everything goes, you know what I mean? It's like, we're here to grow. We're here to learn. We're here to like impact other people. We're here to lead. And that is how I think I look at things now is less that it happens for a reason. And more that, like, this is the journey that, you know, that I'm on.

 

Leith: [00:34:40] And how can you learn from this experience or this hard time sort of thing?

 

Kena: ([00:34:46] Yeah, exactly. What can I learn from it? Who am I going to become through it? Like, I think that is it, like, we're all like, you know, on a journey. Like it's so funny because when you think about when you're born and you're so pure and like it's magical, and then as you grow up, we don't go look at each other as magical anymore, right? Like if anything we're like most of you is annoying. Like that's how we look at each other. I don't.

 

Leith: [00:35:11] But COVID has been an experience in that room. Yes.

 

Kena: [00:35:14] Totally. And like think about how we treat each other. Like, it just seems like, you know, you kind of lose that feeling of like we are all miracles, we're all amazing and magical and have so much goodness in us. And a lot of times, most of the time, if we don't it's because for some reason it's gotten beat out of us or, you know, like those challenging times were harder for some people to work through or, you know, just felt insurmountable, but doesn't mean that their journey's not over like their journey continues, right? And there's always that opportunity. I lost my train of thought of what we were talking about there.

 

Leith: [00:35:55] Well I just think we just start along, the idea of you know, is everything meant to happen for a reason? And then we went down that.

 

Kena: [00:36:06] Yes. So yeah, I think it is more that we're here. We are here. Oh, we were talking about becoming right? Like that, that we are here. Yes. That when we are born, we're like perfect, right? We're pure and magical, but the truth is that is what we are, right? And so as we grow and we go through all these tough experiences, it is our challenge on this planet to always come back to that. I really believe that is like to always come back to that, to like our good heart and you know to like giving to the world by making the most of ourselves, right? That's what I think that really drives me through anything tough.

 

Leith: [00:36:59] Oh, I love that idea of like your way of giving to the world is to believe in yourself and to grow yourself. I think that's so amazing. And back to your sort of not analogy I was going to say, but of a baby being born and how they are totally beautiful. And although we grow physically, that beauty never changes. Somehow, we unlearn that along the way or you're right like it gets beaten out of us and that's the sad part. So, to your point of remembering that and coming back to that all the time and growing that awareness, I think for me, it's been about just having an awareness of that beauty that it exists, and then how do I unlock it? Like, unlearn things to be able to unlock that or something along those lines. Like I've been learning a lot about that.

 

Kena: [00:37:56] Yeah. And I think that's where a lot of like the inner child work that you hear you know, a lot of therapists talk about because there is a moment in time, like as you're growing where something shifts, right? And it's like being able to, as an adult go back and look at that child, you know, and be able to like to scoop them up and say, I've got you, you know like I'm here now. I'm the grownup and I'm going to be good to you, you know? And I'm going to like take care of you. And I personally think that if everyone did that work, it would probably make the world a better place.

 

Leith: [00:38:40] Oh yeah, I agree. So how do you do that? I'm curious to know, like as a parent how do you instill that in your daughter?

 

Kena: [00:38:50] Oh, that's such a good question. It's funny because you know, Novas five. And so I feel like she's coming close to the age where things do start to impact you, you know like she's up until now. Like all, I've seen in her other than like, of course, normal developmental tantrums and stuff like that. I'm not going to pretend she's like, but she is just so full of magic. She's so creatively expressive. She's like, has this desire to grow? She loves people like loves connective. She wants to like, if somebody is here to like fix a leaky faucet, she wants to interact with them. Like it is insane, you know? And so if anything, I look at her and say, I can't protect her from what the world's going to bring on, right? Like I can't, because your first instinct is I want to protect this. She needs to say exactly like this. She needs, you know, and I do want to protect her. I want her to protect that, but I can't protect her, you know? And so I'm just very cognizant and also, you know, taking into account that she's five and can't probably understand a lot of the maybe more complex things that I want to explain to her. But I do take every opportunity when, you know, she is like experiencing a challenge or frustration or even feel sad about anything to like empower her, you know, I'm like very aware of that.

MUSIC

 

Leith: [00:40:31] Oh, I love that. It is hard being a parent because do you ever talk to her about your experiences, having lost Amek and your dad and those sort of things. She's five I recognize, yeah.

 

Kena: [00: 41:06] Yeah. Yeah. So not so much Amek because, and actually I sometimes think that as she gets older, that's going to be like, not a strange thing because I think she'll just sort of like accept it as a part of like my past. But it's like a part of me she knows nothing about right. Like because we talk often about when mama was little and like, you know, even my dad, that's her grandfather, right? So I think as we talk about him a lot and she's known from a young age that he's not here and like there were times where she would say, I wish I could see him, I wish I could talk to him, you know? And like when she was three or four, she would say that. And so I do take those times to like explain to her that this can't happen. You know, that we don't always know when it's going to happen. You know those sorts of things. It's funny because like, I definitely don't think I would be speaking to her that way about death if I hadn't experienced it so young, because I would want to protect her from it. Be like no, you know, everybody lives forever. I think I would, but now I feel this responsibility that no, she needs to know, you know? She needs to understand even now, like even at this age, and not to scare her, give her bad dreams or something or anything like that, but she does need to understand that it is a part of life, you know?

 

Leith: [00:42:39] And that idea too, like, can you really live without even acknowledging death? And you know, the finite time of our life.

Kena: [00:42:48] That's right. That's right.

 

Leith: [00:42:52] And I mean, I think death is an interesting one. I don't know, like have you, this is totally going off-topic, but have you ever thought about where somebody goes at death, or are they reborn? Or do you ever think about those things like Amek's come back or your dad's come back in a different way? I don't know. I know maybe because of COVID there's a lot of talk around that or I'm hearing a lot of that and I'm curious. Yeah.

 

Kena: [00:43:18] Yeah. It's funny you know like I know that in Hinduism, which likes, you know, we grew up like technically Hindu and you know, we do some of the like rituals and stuff like that. And my mom for sure tells us when something like I can do like a holiday, exactly. But I wouldn't say we were religious-like, you know, on a day-to-day basis, but in Hinduism, they do believe in reincarnation. I don't know if I believe in that actually I would say I probably don't, but I do believe that our spirit is powerful and that it's an ever-lasting like I really do. And I try to like, where is it, you know? I don't think we humans can understand that part of it, but I do. I think having been in the room when two people have passed away, I do, I feel that I've experienced the moment the spirit is gone from somebody's body and it is like palpable. It's like, he's gone, you know, like you just really feel it and know it. And that makes me really believe in a spirit. Yes.

 

Leith: [00:44:42] Wow. Can I ask is it different, like from their last breath it's like separate like they lose their spirit a time that's separate from their last breath?

Kena: [00:44:55] That's a good question. I think so. I think it is. I mean the last breath kind of marks it, I guess, but it's just like this feeling that you get that they're no longer here.

 

Leith: [00:45:15] Wow. I just find that part sort of fascinating and yeah and also because of what it means for life and for living, and I think we've been through this very intense two year period and there's a lot of questions around what is living to me, which is partly why I do this podcast. And going back to this idea of the magic in children and trying to protect that magic without, you can't protect them, but you try and protect that magic. And partly why I do this podcast is for my kids. So if for some reason tomorrow I wasn't here, then they would be able to listen to this.

 

Kena: [00:45:56] Oh, I love that lead.

 

Leith: [00:45:58] Yeah. And gain this wisdom, you know for decades to come. 

 

Kena: [00:46:04] Oh, I love that. And hearing your voice too, I love that because I started, well, I wrote on Nova's second birthday, I wrote her a letter and then I sort of said that I would do it every year, but I skipped a couple of years and did it again, I think on her fifth birthday, but I'm going to try to keep it up from here on out. But like that letter was like, people shared that like crazy. It really hit home for people because it was written to her. Like I published it, but it was written to her. And when I wrote it, I was thinking about her, you know, as a teenager or whatever, reading this letter that my mom wrote to me when I was two, you know? So as similarly, I think, you know, we're thinking the same thing.

 

Leith: [00:46:51] Yeah. It's funny you say that because I saw that post. I remember and thought that is such a great idea. I should do that and I've never gotten around to doing it. But maybe this is just my way of doing it. It's interesting. I never really made that connection until now.

 

Kena: [00:47:06] Yeah. It's totally your way.

 

Leith: [00:47:08] Yeah. I love that. Well, I'm going to wrap things up here, but tell me about this coming year and what are you looking forward to?

 

Kena: [00:47:18] Oh my goodness. So speaking of getting stuck, for the last few years I've been the VP of brand merchandising for Houseplant, this is Seth Rogen’s cannabis company. I work on the product side, so not the cannabis side, but like, you know, cool ashtrays and table lighters and things like that, rolling trays. And you know I love beautiful products. It's like a very design-led brand. So it's been so amazing, like working with an amazing team of people and, and like getting this business off the ground. But what's funny is that once we launch, I had this sense of a little bit of depression and this was like a very successful launch. Everything sold out, we like were featured on in the fast company and New York times and you know, Seth was on all the night shows and night talk shows and it was like one of those moments where I felt like I should have been on a high, like, wow, I was a part of this thing, right? But I felt a bit depressed like I felt sad. And I was like asking myself, why are you feeling like this? Like what's going on? And then I realized that as much as I love the process of working on this business, like working on these creative products I knew it just wasn't mine. Like it wasn't me and it wasn't aligned with me, you know? And that there was this feeling of, I have all these dreams inside of me. I have all these things I want to do. And as much as this job has been a blessing I'm putting energy into the job when I feel this sense that, what if I were to put that energy into what I want to create, you know? And so again, you know, a moment of being stuck and like you start to like ask questions, you start to like, think about what can I do? Like, am I prepared? Am I going to quit my job? No, I'm not ready to do that, you know? 

MUSIC

 

Kena: But I did find kind of a solution and that was to go part-time. So in the fall, I went part-time. And so now I'm focused on my business part-time and I'm still with Houseplant part-time and I am really excited about what this year is going to bring, you know like our business is growing. I am really focused on wanting to create a community for women who are, you know, kind of in our age range and who have like, you know, lived life up until now have probably seen success in their careers, have checked a lot of boxes, but they feel the sense that something is missing. Like, you know, there's more inside of me. There's so much more I want to express. Like, I don't even feel like I'm really being who I am, you know? I'm being a good mom and I'm being a good employee or whatever it is, but like, who am I? And now is the time, you know, to like get clear on what our dreams are and to make them happen. And it's different from the dreams of your twenties and thirties, because a lot of times those dreams, unless you're very lucky to have come from, like who you think you should be or what people expect of you, right? Yeah. And so I feel like, you know, your forties is a time for you to discover your freedom and to go for it. And so I'm working on like I've been doing this workshop rediscover your inner spark, which has been amazing, but I want to turn that into something that's bigger and that allows women to connect and connect on a more regular basis. And, you know, work on this together.

 

Leith: [00:51:19] So work on your brand together or work on something even bigger?

 

Kena: [00:51:23] No. So not work on my brand. It’s sort of like my brand would be the platform for it. But it would be, you know, getting together, getting clear on the things that we truly desire, getting clear on maybe parts of us that we've kind of brushed under the rug or hidden away and then slowly giving ourselves permission to start to go after those things; like start to make those changes. Like, do you want to have a career change? Do you want to work less? Do you want to start a different business? Like what do you really want to do? And I find that half the time women just like are so scared to give themselves permission to actually do it.

 

Leith: [00:52:05] Oh my God, that's so true. Well, we have this idea that you have to follow this path like you and I were talking about, you know, you get educated, you get married, do all these things. We don't give ourselves permission to look outside that one track. There are a million possibilities that we can do.

 

Kena: [00:52:22] That's exactly it and I honestly feel that, like, you know what we talked about earlier that the more you make of yourself, the more you have to give like I really do believe that. So I think about all those women who are like, really have a passion here, or they feel really strongly there, or they've like had this desire to do this thing that they've just like, write a book. Like in one of our workshops, there was a woman who likes working in corporate finance and she secretly whispered in this workshop. I really have always wanted to write a book and I'm like, say it louder, you know? I'm like write a book, you can totally write a book. What are we going to do? Let's get this going like you know, do you need a writing coach? You need to join a writing group. Like, what is it? Let's get it to go, you know? So that's sort of like, I want to create this like container for women to get together, whether it's once a week or whatever. And we start to work on these things together.

 

Leith: [00:53:22] And what do you think is holding back most women from doing these things?

 

Kena: [00:53:29] I think it's like a lot of worrying what other people will think for sure, I think that's it. I think another thing is of looking anything less than perfect, like looking like, well, I'm an expert at this, but I'm not an expert at that, you know? Like what if I do that? I'm not any good, you know, that kind of feeling of starting again? Like even this woman who wants to write a book, she's like, but I've never really written before, you know? I think that's a big piece of it. And then I think a lot of like, not understanding that if there's something that you desire that it's meant for you, you know, like, I think we don't desire something unless it's like, truly like, oh, I desire this fancy car. Okay. There might be some ego involved or something there. But if there's something that you like crave to do or to be that's coming from a true place. That's coming from like three-year-old you, you know what I mean? Like this natural feeling or natural source, right? It's like this natural source. And so if you want something, if you desire something, it is meant for you. And that's enough of a reason to go after it. But I think people are like you know, they just question it, and they don't just go with it.

Leith: [00:54:51] Yeah. I think that's something we've been trained to do or just yeah. Feel the power is outside of us, you know, the whole idea. There's another expert or another person that knows more about this than you do. So therefore you can't do it. I feel like that's just such a disservice to ourselves that way.

 

Kena: [00:55:11] Oh my goodness. It's so true. It's really conditioning, right? We've been conditioned, but it's hard to sometimes admit that we've been conditioned, right?

 

Leith: [00:55:23] Or realize it. Yeah.

 

Kena: [00:55:24] But I do think sometimes if we start to really get quiet and listen to ourselves, like listen to like, you know, what our soul is saying to us, I think there's a point where if you don't keep listening. If you keep shutting you know, that your soul or your spirit from speaking up, you're turning your back on yourself, right? And no matter what that path, it does not lead to growth. It does not lead to like more beauty in your life. It does not lead to more fulfillments. So you also have to remember that if you say no to that, you know, you're saying no to a lot of other great things.

Leith: [00:56:05] I think that's such a great point of like, considering if you don't follow that message or that's soul feeling, you know, what does that mean? You know, that's just leading that life of energy-sucking this

 

Kena: [00:56:22] That's right.

 

Leith: [00:56:23] Yeah. And there's a better, I don't know if a better way or there are better ways, like you know, there are other possibilities and exploring those. I mean, as you've learned is so amazing. And so energy driving and keeps going and excited.

 

Kena: [00:56:42] Yes. And I mean that's what makes all parts of your life better, because you feel good, right? Like in the end, all we all want to feel is good. And like bringing that playfulness back into our lives where we just like see something we want to do, and we find a way to go do it and don't over think it, you know, and just dive in at any age, that's how we make life more fun. And I do think that through COVID people have been jarred out of their routines, you know like we were so busy before. I mean, we're busy now too in a different way, but we were so busy before, like literally on the treadmill, you know? And so I think now people are really questioning like that job that I spend all day doing is that really where I want to be and like, even who I am in that job is that really who I am, you know?

 

Leith: [00:57:41] I know it's so true. And that's been an upside, I think, of this experience. Despite all the challenges, I'm going to have to let you go here, but I have absolutely loved this Ken, it's been so wonderful to connect and I love what you're building. And I mean, I can relate a lot to this idea of wanting to help others sort of, you know, find their spark and live with that, live much more in a fulfilled life. So I am supporting you all the way.

 

Kena: [00:58:13] Oh, thank you, Lee. Me too, I'm supporting you too. I'm excited for you for this to hear more about your plans for the podcast, too.

 

Leith: [00:58:20] Thanks. So just quickly, where can everyone find you on social media and everything?

 

Kena: [00:58:26] Yes. So you can follow or connect with me '@kena_allyouare'. So Kena's 'KENA', and then it's all you are, and you can follow the brand

at 'Where All You Are'. And then our website is https://allyouare.ca/

 

Leith: [00:58:43] Great and you're on Instagram, Facebook?

Kena: [0:58:46] Yep. Instagram, Facebook, and the website. And that's it. Yeah.

 

Leith: [00:58:50] Perfect, all right, great. Well stay in touch and then I'll connect with you after this.

 

Kena: [00:58:55] Okay, sounds good.

 

Leith: [00:58:55] Alright, bye Kena.

 

Kena: [00:18:55] Thanks, Leith, bye.

PART 2: 2nd half of conversation