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By Katie Marshall
Ijeoma Umebinyuo is the author of Questions for Ada, a debut collection of poems and prose poems.
What is the most liberating thought you’ve ever had?
I can start all over again and again; I can learn, I can unlearn and I am my own meter of success.
What did it liberate you from?
It liberated me from the pressures of the world, from the noise that surrounds us. It liberated me from being too hard on myself.
What does it mean to live a good life?
A good life is relative. I have a good friend I have known since I was sixteen and no matter what he is going through, he always tells me, “life is still beautiful.” and I mean it is so embedded in him, it shines through.
I have another friend who loves to travel, whose idea of bliss includes riding down the streets of Abuja in her motorbike. These people are living their lives in different ways but they are full of life. Their energy is contagious; their soul is beautiful and their life in turn is good. A good life is freedom. A good life is not always simple, it can be tough, it can be difficult but at the end of the day, it is yours and as long as the path leads to one that benefits your soul and the souls of others, it is a good life. It is enough.
What illusion have you suffered from the most?
When I was much younger, I tried to fit in and I couldn’t. I learnt at an early age that I was perfectly fine not fitting into a crowd. I don’t need a crowd.
If you could go back and whisper in the ear of your 16-year-old self, what is the one thing you would tell them?
Thank you for only kissing him.
What does love feel like? (Real love, not hormonal love or I-like-the-idea-of-you-so-I’m-on-a-high love).
It feels like freedom. It feels like Nina Simone playing early in the morning. It feels like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding playing on a Saturday evening. It feels like singing along to Fela with family as you drive down the freeway. It feels like the first time my friend’s two year old told me she loved me. It feels like her hug whenever I visit. It feels like a good poem that dances, like good music. It feels like when I slept on my grandmother’s bed as a teenager. It felt like when coming home, it feels warm and pure.
What does your daily routine look like?
For now, I do not have a daily routine.
For now, on Thursdays, I try to sit with a cup of coffee,
Eat silence and read a physical copy of The New Yorker and a newspaper.
What’s your favorite thing to look at?
My favorite thing to look at has to be a good book. A good book always makes me smile, to know I am about to read a good book too? Amazing!
I love looking through catalogs and getting inspiration for decorating.
Describe your perfect weekend.
Anytime I am with loved ones. That is enough for me. That is more than enough. That makes a perfect weekend. Most times, a perfect weekend is a quiet time with my thoughts, my books, a few journals, a pen and myself.
What do you worry about the most?
I worry about the state of human affairs.
I think lack of opportunities kills the human soul. I feel a lot of geniuses are not given their opportunity to shine, to develop their ideas and to share their passion. I loved writing so much as a kid because I was introduced to writing; I was introduced to this world of imagination. Do you know how beautiful it is to read a book and travel anywhere in the world? I was given that chance. There is so much more to it than just writing, someone introduced it to me at an early age and that was an opportunity.
Another thing I think about is how some people are scared to look within, to discover themselves for themselves, so it is easier to mimic others than to actually be their true selves. I believe the path to self-discovery should never be taken for granted: It is a personal journal for yourself by yourself.
What makes you dance for joy?
A lot of things that have to do with love and seeing people around me do well.
What is one of your favorite things that you’ve written so far?
I have a lot. One of my favorites:
“I am too full of life
to be half-loved.”
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I check my time. I always check my time.
What do you find to be the most genuinely beautiful thing in the world?
If you had the chance to tell every single person in the world just one thing, what would it be?
Keep going. Deal?