Every once in a blue moon I will encounter people who simply radiate love and confidence, in themselves and others. I have recently had the pleasure of meeting one of those beacons of hope, MoHagani Magnetik. MoHagani is a writer, archaeologist, public speaker, cook and practitioner of kung fu. She has published anthropological articles, archaeological studies, short stories and two books of poetry, and is soon to publish her first full-length novel. Constantly striving for greatness in her disciplines, she told me, “My little brother has been running for the past 124 days, he runs about a mile each day. He has this saying that I’ve picked up and shared with some of my friends, ‘Commitment over motivation.’ Sometimes you’ve gotta go work out, you’ve gotta do something, you’ve gotta go out there and be yourself, but you’re not motivated to do it. But if you’re committed to doing it, well the commitment will eventually get you through until you feel motivated again. If you’re committed to being yourself, even if you’re not quite feeling yourself, in time motivation will catch up.”
MoHagani has studied gender and sexuality during her schooling and shared many progressive and enlightened thoughts and feelings with me regarding those subjects. “I’ve met transgender people who do not identify as trans. Especially after they’ve completed their transition. It’s like, ‘I’m a woman, period,’ or, ‘I’m a man, period.’ And I understand that. They did the work that they set out to do, whatever about the past. I’m here in the now,” she said. And living in the present moment is all that we can do to lead happy and healthy lives.
As full of love and acceptance for herself and others as she is now, the journey to reaching that point has been a long and difficult one for MoHagani. Speaking of her youth, she recollected, “I immediately learned that it was socially unacceptable for me to play with dolls or wear girl clothes. It became a very deep dark secret. They’ve used the analogy of a closet; this was the back of the closet, a walk-in closet, underneath all of the shoeboxes and old newspapers that have already turned yellow. It was that deep of a secret for me.”
Fortunately, MoHagani found resources later in life that helped send her on a path of self-discovery and self-acceptance. She told me, “It wasn’t until early 2012, like January, I was taking a class in gender. As time went on, I had my first suicide attempt in 2012. When I woke up in the hospital three days later, I said, ‘You know what, whatever happens, I’m going to be me, 24/7, 365, whatever that means.’” And that is exactly what she is doing to this day. MoHagani embraces herself in every way, celebrating her strengths and successes, and forgiving her weaknesses and downfalls. “I identify wholeheartedly as myself. I accept myself one hundred percent. In that acceptance, I don’t need acceptance from anyone else. When you learn to love yourself unconditionally, that will make room for you to be able to love others unconditionally. We need to accept ourselves and know that we are always growing,” she said.
MoHagani has been deeply involved in social justice and activism for quite some time and is very aware of the struggles that our country has been experiencing as of late. While we were discussing the murder of George Floyd, she related the incident back to identity and the pursuit of happiness. “If you ask to breathe, you never will. That’s a basic human function,” she said. “If you have to ask anyone to breathe, you will never breathe, meaning you will never live. You will never have a day in life if you continue asking anyone if you can exist. It doesn’t work like that. We just exist. We are who we are, we’re becoming who we’re becoming. As long as you’re not causing harm to anyone else or causing harm to yourself, do whatever you want to do.”
Being the activist that she is, MoHagani has put a lot of time and effort into supporting others but taking care of herself is a priority. With all that has been going on in our country this last year, she has had to take a step back to regain her strength and refocus. She told me, “I’m only taking a break from the social justice work so I can enjoy my summer and live my life, but I know it’s something that I will always come back to. In thirty years, never once did I feel like I needed a break or like I needed to walk away. There’s been so much stuff going on the last few months. The community here in Anchorage and in the state required the best of me, and I gave the best of me. I continue to do that, but in order to do that I also need to step back so I can recharge and get ready to do the work that needs to be done, to fight the good fight.”
MoHagani is looking forward to further community involvement in the future and is very grateful for the friends and colleagues that she has found herself surrounded by. “I appreciate all of the people in my life that are here for me. My mentors in the creative writing program, the archaeology program, so many different communities and facets, the museum and arts community that I’m a part of; those people have been very wonderful to me and for me. And then the people who know just to get out of my way. When it’s going down, just step out of the way, and I appreciate that. I’ve got work to do,” she said.
Despite the struggles and roadblocks that she has faced in the past, MoHagani Magnetik has blossomed. She is one of the most confident and positive people that I have encountered in the community and wants to help others find their way and become their best selves. “I think it’s important that people accept themselves, embrace themselves, and then nourish, cultivate, grow themselves. What we are right now is not what we are going to be tomorrow or twenty years from now. Last week we were different people than we are now. We’re all different in so many ways. We’re always growing, we’re always learning. This path to discovery of self is an ongoing journey,” she said. And she is completely right. None of us are perfect, and all that we can do is forgive ourselves for our failures and work to move forward. There is beauty in all of us, just waiting to be found and exposed to the world.