What I have discovered in my 35 years of life is that you don’t have to be born an introvert. Yes, I was always a little on the shy side, but I longed to come out of my shell and have a personality that filled the room. I wanted attention and positive feedback as a child. I was always looking for praise, and a feeling of validation. Growing up in a traditional Pakistani home that had the latest Bollywood hits playing in the background, I would practice dancing and facial expressions and the most attractive personality traits. That included having a big laugh where I would toss my head back, my hair flowing back behind me like a hair commercial. Unfortunately, that would only end up in me looking like a horse neighing. So you see, I wanted to be noticed. And I didn’t mind going to large events either. The summer of my late teenage years were always filled with weddings, with festivities lasting a week to ten days, per wedding. Yes, it was exhausting, but back then, it was also exhilarating. As a 17-dancing-queen-year-old, I now feel that I was in my prime as an extrovert.
It was a very slow process becoming the introvert I am today. This does not mean that I do not like to be included in things. I still like to socialize, but I have limits. I have endless passion for the major things that are happening in our world right now, such as the COVID-19 pandemic taking over our planet, and the civil rights movement of our generation. But I need breaks. Mental breaks. I like to sit alone in a room and attempt to turn my mind off, which is difficult, as I keep thinking of the to do list that constantly runs in the background of my brain. Pair that with anxiety and rage, leftovers from post-partum depression after my second child was born, and basically you have yourselves a run of the mill stay at home mom and wife, writer, and a self-proclaimed activist. And I feel that I do not have right to say this, but — I am exhausted.
It was a very slow process becoming the introvert I am today. This does not mean that I do not like to be included in things. I still like to socialize, but I have limits.
I feel like I don’t have the right to feel this way mainly because I have only two children. Not three, or four, or five. And my kids are relatively easy. Easy meaning they are about 85% well behaved most days. They are happy and healthy little kids, who thankfully do not have any social or sensory issues. Not as far as I can tell, anyway. And if genetics say anything, we won’t know until they are older. I have an online clothing boutique that I run with a partner and friend, and though it is time consuming, it’s somewhat easy work. I write for a social media platform which is my passion, and my main job is literally being a mother. So why the exhaustion? It is mainly all MENTAL.
As a child, I thought adults whined too much. I would think “Get your life together, and start making a grocery list, for God’s sake!” It just didn’t seem so difficult. And now if I could, I would slap my younger self. Physically, I can do all the things that are required to run a home. Clean, keep the tiny humans alive, fed and happy. Limit the screen time, and engage with them in a manner that is fun, yet educational. Provide husband and children with well-balanced and hot meals multiple times a day. Run all the errands, do all the laundry, etc. Yet when you think about it, and I mean really put your mind to it, it’s all the work of a robot. Mindless work. Which is supposed to make all the household chores just an absolute breeze to get through.
That’s when my mind gets in the way. As I stated before, I am a person of passion. And I have always been a person that gets enraged over the injustices committed in this world. As a Pakistani-American Muslim, I have seen my fair share of injustices. And when I see another major minority, African Americans, in this country being treated like they are less then human, that just lights a fire under me as well.
The last several weeks, my mind has become a war zone. I find that I am surrounded by people who don’t care about the issues as much as I do. That they don’t want to rock the boat or go to protests or express any sort of outrage at the racial discrimination that this country has been doing for decades. And that just blows my mind. I find myself ignoring the things I should be doing at home, and having this battle in my mind. I use all my social media platforms to spread awareness, to show statistics, and share stories of blatant racism, and do my best to educate others and myself. I am an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement, and I am proud of my stance with that. I make my position very well known to those who call themselves my friends. And yet, so few understand where I am coming from.
Because of the constant frustration I have come to know the last few weeks, I have become even more exhausted. Physically and mentally. I have to constantly remind myself that we are not living in the 50s, in which I must have a hot meal ready and waiting for my husband. He supports me in my stance, and has never pressured me to “keep up” with my “duties” at home. He comes home from work, and pitches in to help with whatever needs to be done. More so these days. And that’s okay.
The last year in my life has been a whirlwind. From moving to a new home, to starting school for my eldest child, and also to starting a business. Because of the fact that I have been constantly surrounded by people this past year, I feel this has catapulted me into an introverted state. I can absolutely be social, but I will need the mental break to recover. And it would be a nice long break. Like a week…or two. I will try my best to avoid people physically during this break, and not have a conversation if I don’t have to. During actual socialization, I find that I can get a major sensory overload, and it won’t hit me until it’s too late. Too late, as in I will immediately want to leave the room and I will be angry until I can get some silent time…or pop a Xanax. Whichever kicks in first.
My conversion to being an introvert is what I feel is truly my rite of passage into adulthood. I am no longer the Bollywood dancing queen of my teens, who wanted attention. I am no longer a young person who wants to be the life of the party. I want to live an existence where I can control the volume. If I go to a protest, I will join in and raise my voice so that I can be heard along with my fellow allies. And when I am home, I will lower the volume and live in a quiet place with my family. When I speak of topics that I am passionate about, I will get loud and proud. And there will be times in which silence is my only wanted ally. I have become an introvert slowly over time because it has helped my mental health. I wear this title along with Pakistani, Muslim, American, writer, activist, and ally. And I wear them all with pride.
Mariam is a stay at home mom, boutique owner, and writer.