On knowing “what ignites your magic,” in Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s words

You’ve got to know yourself. You’ve got to know what ignites your magic, what fires your soul into performing majestic acts of love. You’ve got to know yourself so much that not even a hundred voices will drown yours. You’ve got to own yourself, this journey is all yours. All yours. No one can do it and you decide whenever you are ready to embark on it. Unlearn, learn, master yourself and love yourself or else they will define you and that’s a poisonous kind of life. That’s death.

Ijeoma Umebinyuo

(via because i am a woman)

I’ve been having conversations with two of the people nearest and dearest to my heart of late, CC and [Booskie] — who, sidenote, I suppose I can just start calling JJ now — that touched on these topics, figuring yourself out and moving towards what ignites you. It seems to me that some of my friends and loved ones clearly know what they’re about, have specific goals of things they’d like to do and be and accomplish in the next 5 year or 10 years or at some point in this lifetime.  And then there are people who are sort of just floating, doing things and maybe enjoying them and maybe not enjoying them, but whose 5 and 10 year plans are full of smudged eraser trails and question marks. I think I’m in the latter category.

CC calls it “apathetic.” She’s sick of feeling apathetic about everything. She said that to me on Monday night and it has stuck with me all week, because maybe I identify with that more than I’ve ever articulated or even realized before. I’m so impressed by people who know what they want, even if they don’t know how to get there. I feel like I used to be that person. At the very least, I used to say I wanted things: to be a writer, to be an editor, to go to graduate school, to be a professor, to publish books. I used to say these things, like I used to be creative: at different points in my life, I have regularly drawn, written stories, played instruments, sang, written poems, worked on a novel, sculpted, and acted. I used to be this person who created things.

I don’t want or do any of those things anymore. Grad schools feels so much more like an “I know I should” than an “I want.”  Academic books went the way of academia in the things-I’m-no-longer-about category. I haven’t felt like I have fiction inside of me in years. I dabbled in all these different forms of creativity and never felt good at any of them. JJ is so encouraging. He says now is the time to hone my skills. But I don’t feel drawn to any of them in particular. If I had to choose, I’d say writing — it’s the one that’s been with me the longest, and if this space counts, the only one I’m still doing, but even this space is a thing I have mixed feelings about these days. I’ve been running this blog for almost 5 years now, and it feels like it lost its direction.

I feel like I lost my direction.

We had a party for one of my roommates’ birthdays in May, and someone at the party asked me “What are you about?” instead of making normal small talk. I struggled so hard to answer that question, or any of his follow-up questions that called me on my bullshitting. He didn’t want to hear about my job or my relationship, which are the two subjects I usually bring up when people ask me how I’ve been. He wanted to know about ME, and I didn’t know what to tell him. You never realize how boring your life is until someone asks you what you do for fun, right?

I told JJ, MJ, and NH about this guy and his question when we were at a networking event on campus a few weekends ago at the Black Alumni Conference that Princeton held, and each of them was able to answer it. I stood back and appreciated their answers while simultaneously being terrified that one of them was going to turn it back on me, because I still don’t have an answer. I care about a lot of stuff, but I feel like I’m not passionate about anything. If I won the lottery and suddenly didn’t have to go to my job tomorrow or for the rest of ever, I don’t know what I’d do instead. I don’t feel like there’s this thing I would love to prioritize but life or circumstances or fear or whatever is getting in my way. And that makes me feel sad and small and ambition-less. I can’t tell if the dreams died because I got comfortable doing other things or if they were never my dreams at all, but just things I thought I was supposed to want.

How do I find out what ignites my magic? I’ma be 25 in 3 months — is it too late for me to figure it out? I thought I had a pretty good handle on who I am. Over the course of the time that I’ve been running this blog, I’ve come to accept my queerness and my Blackness and my feminism. I’ve come to understand my sexuality beyond orientation, feel comfortable with myself as a sexual being, and every day I’m learning more about my relationship style. I’ve learned how relationships with family and friends grow and change with time, age, distance, and health. I’m never going to be done figuring myself out — I hope none of us ever feel like we’ve gotten to the day we can say we’ve understood all there is to understand about ourselves — but I have answers where I used to have a lot of questions and uncertainty. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with them.

I’m not unhappy. I’m just scared of feeling complacent. I want to have goals and dreams beyond going to Reunions every year and being able to take nice trips sometimes and something like stability.  I want to want things. I want to not be bored by who I am outside of my job and my relationships. I want things I do by myself for fulfillment outside of baking and books and bubble baths. I want to be passionate about things and devote portions of my time to those things. (To be fair there are areas of my life in which I am super passionate, but they tend to revolve around people, not things.) How do I figure out if it’s learning or unlearning I need to do to get there?


About alaiyo0685

I'm a kind of quirky, pretty stubborn, way too opinionated, twenty-something, intellectual, introspective, queer, Black, female, in a polyamorous relationship, and this is where I try to figure out my life.

3 thoughts on “On knowing “what ignites your magic,” in Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s words

  1. This is by far the most vulnerable post I’ve read in a long time! I love it—I feel every word of this post…it feels heavy. I’m terrified of my own vulnerability at this very moment.

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