Is It Too Late Now To Say Sorry?

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Today in Montessori class we were doing a floor activity and I was rolling out the floor rug. I was doing it totally in the Montessori style and the teacher (who I love) called me a ‘Type A Child’. I thought this meant I had done something wrong and immediately apologised to which she replied “There’s no need to say sorry right now, in this class there’s no need to apologise”. Montessori philosophy states that there is no wrong way to do things, you are taught to treat other people around you with grace and courtesy so conflicts in the classroom (or in life if you’re an adult) are less of a thing, and whilst you are told stop or no once in a while if you’re really bad there’s really no need to say sorry.

Today I have apologised for eating tuna in class, sending a very good friend of mine texts about Montessori activities, not being around to reply to an email because I was in classes even though I replied 10 minutes after it was sent, for rolling a floor mat correctly and for using the sensorial materials creatively even though that was something I was meant to be doing. None of this needed an apology. None of it.

I say sorry a lot, and recently I’ve been way more aware of it. It’s not because I’m being insincere, a lot of the things I apologise for are things that I worry might be wrong or things that I think I have done. I think the apologising is a side effect of my anxiety. Anxiety feeds that voice in my head that makes me think people are upset with me, that I’ve done something wrong, that I’m being awkward and that voice makes me feel like I need to apologise. It’s not an excuse for the over-apologising at all, it’s just I know concretely what causes it. If I can apologise before the thing in my head happens perhaps we can avoid the thing in my head altogether. I’m actually doing really well anxiety wise at the moment, the lingering, tiny, annoying voice of self doubt and paranoia is always there at the back of my head when things get too quiet though, telling me I’ve upset someone close to me, that people are probably talking about me and that voice makes me apologise.

From what I read socially two characteristics should sum up why I apologise a lot firstly I’m English and we are apparently notoriously polite, and secondly I’m a woman, and for some reason women seem to apologise a lot. I read something on Jezebel (I have a love-hate relationship with this site) that said “ I think it’s that women are expected to be exceptionally grateful for the crumbs tossed our way—and so we show our gratitude by cushioning our wants with a series of, “I know this is asking a lot, but…”, “I hate to ask, but could you…” and “I might sound like an idiot for wondering, but…”-isms.” and then thought about how much I apologise or play down when I ask things. I’ll ask my roommate something but start the question with ‘I know this is stupid but….” or I’ll always apologise when asking for help. I don’t know how much my gender plays a role in this, though I know I’ve apologised for being PMS-y before, which is definitely not a thing I have a handle on.

Avoiding confrontation, trying to be not a burden and apologising when there’s not need is also a stereotypically English thing to do. “For many British people, apologizing is a default reaction to life’s little irritants. If someone barges into you, treads on your toes or spills your drink, it is considered quite normal for the victim to mutter ‘sorry’. This is clearly illogical, but for many British people it is an ingrained response.” I didn’t even realise just how much I do this till I moved here. Someone would walk into me and I would apologise, someone would ask me if I have a light and I would apologise for not smoking. I do sometimes shake my head and wonder why on Earth I’m apologising but it’s just a hard habit to shake.

This is all part of rebuilding myself I guess. Self confidence leads to less worrying leads to more control leads to less apologising. I always feel that once I recognise a problem I’m having I then start to work out ways to make myself stop doing it. It’s not always easy and I don’t always have answers but I try and analyse why I’m doing things. I don’t say sorry for the verification from another person that I’m actually okay, I think that might be the default view of why a person over apologises. I’m not looking for that soothing, re-affirmation that I’ve not done something wrong. It’s also not because I don’t mean it, if we take today’s examples in my head the tuna was something that could make other people in the room uncomfortable, texting someone too much can be annoying especially when I’m over excited and I should have replied to that email quicker because there was a mistake that needed fixing. My head rationalises my apology, when really it should just not be seeing these things as events to be sorry for.

The worry is that because I over apologise it makes my properly heartfelt apologies less meaningful. When you throw a word around for every little thing it doesn’t have the same impact, which is something we learn in Montessori. We don’t say stop unless something serious is happening because telling a child to stop again and again causes the word to become nothing. If you only use it when necessary it has power. I want my apologies to have power, I mean I want to never have to make mistakes so bad that I need to say sorry, I’m a person who loves the people around her and wants to help everyone as much as I can and that side of me never wants to make mistakes. I think in the long term apologising too much devalues people’s perception of you.

So how do we fix this? Universally I can’t tell you. Personally? I need to work on my self-confidence and that happens in a number of ways. Going back to school has calmed me down a lot, and a calmer Maryam is a happier Maryam who is a less anxious Maryam. Not everything goes away when I’m calm, but I’m far more rational. Learning to trust people is another thing, I make a very big effort to surround myself with people I know are brutally honest. The reason is that if I do something wrong or they have issues with me I know they will come and tell me about those issues first, instead of going around talking to other people. This makes me feel far more secure, and feeling secure makes me say sorry less. If there was something to say sorry for I would know. Communication is also key, if I can talk to people clearly then issues get resolved before anyone has to apologise.

I feel like my life for the last 6 months has been a journey of self discovery. It’s not always been positive, for the last three months it was pretty dark at points, but it’s getting through that and I think is becoming productive. I’ve stopped wallowing in a lot of negativity that I’d clung on to and doing that has done wonders for me. It’s not easy, but I’m thankful for the people I have in my life and the support that I get from all around. Feel free to call me out if I apologise in the future and it’s not needed (Chel already does this, big up Chel) because it’s a really good way to help me stop.

Six Months.

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Touching down in O’Hare seems like a very long time ago now. I have vague memories of those last few days in London, being anxious and excited but most of all feeling this overwhelming sense of relief. I’d actually managed to accomplish something I had been working towards for years and years. I’m always telling people to go after their dreams now, just don’t take no for an answer. It sounds stupid but it worked out pretty well for me. So here we are, half a year on and it’s been noting like I expected it to be, but that’s not a bad thing.

I still walk down streets and am unable to take it all in. It’s when I’m doing normal, everyday chores like getting groceries or walking to get the train or the bus when I’ll have this wave of “Oh hey, this is where I live”. I still get a little chill every time I have to go to Union and get to see the skyline of this city downtown. I don’t know when it will settle in that this is where I am now, but I’m okay with that. There’s always something new to explore or something I’d forgotten that we get to revisit. There is always a point when you move somewhere new where you worry if you’re making the most of it all, and I think I am making the most of it all, I’m just doing that in my own way and at my own pace.

My mental health plummeted a few times since I’ve been here. There were points towards the end of the year and then again in February and March where I was so stuck in my own head, and in a cycle of negativity that I didn’t know what to do. I can’t explain why that is, my reasoning right now is that I was dealing with a lot of stuff that I had repressed for a very long time and feeling all the emotions I’d blocked off over the last 15 years was overwhelming. Was this the right way to handle it? I have no idea, but it was all I could do. I’m not a negative person though and it took a bit of a kick up the ass to get me to get out of that haze. Clarity is a wonderful thing, but feeling like you have a grip on yourself again, feeling in control, is fantastic. Being a little more in control has made me more accepting of things about me, like being a little socially awkward at shows. I just accept that now, and it’s okay. I’m overthinking less and worrying less, and just feel more like me.

I wouldn’t have got myself back in control if I didn’t have some absolutely amazing people in my life here that are incredibly supportive. I learnt in London that I can’t have passive aggressive people around me, I need people who are very open and honest, it just helps me worry less. When you move somewhere new the idea of having to find new friends is always scary, especially when you’re no longer in your early twenties. I have the massive good fortune of already having friends and family here, and I know I have a group of people who are always there for me, who totally accept me for the ridiculous person that I am and who are brilliant, like just so creative and interesting and fun to be around. They are the kind of people who are so great at what they do that they inspire you to do more, they push you to be a better person. These people know who they are, they don’t need to be named by me at all. As long as you have people you can always be yourself around life is never too hard, no matter how small a group of people that is, and I’m lucky I have that here and in the UK.

Having a great set of friends lead to the setting up of Avondale Promotions. A group of us got together and decided we wanted to do more to help bands in the local Chicago DIY scene, so we did. We assembled a team of copy writers, designers, illustrators, social media wizards and people who just know everyone and got work with a small handful of bands to see what we can accomplish. I’ve never done PR before, but I’ve been working in this industry long enough dealing with PR’s and bands that I feel like I have a good handle on what needs to be done, that’s my strength so combining that with people who can actually write copy, who can actually design things, who have creative content ideas and people to bounce ideas off of makes for a productive PR outlet. I love doing this, it’s so brilliant to be able to see music that I believe in, and that people around me believe in, getting heard by so many new people.

That’s the thing, I think as I get older I’m meant to get more jaded with punk music and that scene, but if anything I start to value it more. I know that the punk scene isn’t everything in life, but it is the place where I figured myself out and where I have made friends all over the world that I love. We all share this one massive passion but it goes beyond music. Chicago’s punk scene is exactly what I needed really, and to be able to do stuff and get involved is something I’m really grateful for. I’m writing this listening to a playlist of UK bands I love, because that scene made me who I am. This scene is where I get to give back more, or at least try to do so. Punk is still this thing that leaves me smiling from ear to ear. We went to this show on 420 and it was everything I love in music. I got to watch brilliant bands play with people who love everything as much as I do. I got to dance and sing and forget myself for a while and I got to do it with my friends. It’s exciting and nothing else can match it. I hope this comes across as sincere, because my total awe for everything here is sincere. It’s driven me to be productive and try and do so much more and give back much more.

The Smith Street Band sing a lyric that goes “And I’m not from around here so I talk like I’ve been saved” in ‘Surrender’ which has always stuck with me. When I was in London I talked about Chicago like it was the ideal, it was the thing that was going to make me the person I wanted to be and I think a lot of people thought I was being naive because of that love and that dream. Moving was harsh, the reality was harsh but you never find out who you’re going to be without having to struggle along the way. I was fully expecting things to go badly, and they did go pretty badly for me for a while. That’s the thing about truly finding yourself again, you have to break apart your personality and built it back up again to see what was really you all along.

Chicago isn’t perfect, but nothing is perfect. What it is is a solid place to work on things, a place where I feel like I can move forward and do more. That’s the important thing, finding a place that drives you to be the best version of you. Right now Chicago is that place, it’s pushing me to my limits and providing me with opportunities across the board, some old and some new. I’m learning and growing, that’s the important thing. There’s this stupid cultural ideal we have that by the time you get to 30 you should have life figured out, and I think that’s why so many people freak out when they hit this age. You don’t need to have anything figured out, 30 isn’t a milestone in age. There is no set limit for when and where you should have your act together and also no code of rules that define what getting your act together is.

I’m 31 years old, I am just getting my life on a track where I think I’ll be happy and calm. I don’t care that it took me this long to get there, all I care about is staying happy and calm, but also doing as much as I can for the people I love around me and giving back to the things that make me happy. Don’t lose yourself in other peoples expectations, find what you want in life and then go after it till it happens.

I watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special for the first time at the weekend. In America I feel like the most sheltered person ever but for some reason I just bypassed a lot of American pop culture. Like, I know what Snoopy is and I’ve seen the Charlie Brown cartoon but never the Christmas show. I’ve also not seen the show since I was a kid. 

I’m Pakistani. Lots of shit passes me by okay? 

It was interesting. Charlie Brown is depressed about Christmas, his friends aren’t very helpful, they are down on him about his choice of tree and there is that weird religious sort of speech on the stage by that one kid. It was weird but maybe it’s because I was watching it as an adult. These kids had a lot of stress, whether it was trying to make everyone happy, trying to make life perfect or … well that one dirty kid was super happy. I don’t think he had any stress. I liked him. 

Kids cartoons dealing with mental health issues though, that’s something new or at least something you don’t see often and surprising for one that came out in the 1960′s. Maybe I was over-thinking things, or maybe we were all just a little wasted and everything seemed to have more meaning than it actually did. 

Small Talk and Escaping Acts

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If you ask anyone in my life who knows me well to tell you the first thing they think of when it comes to me I’m probably sure they’d say that I never shut up. I’m a talker. I’ve never been bad at that aspect in social situations but I think that’s because I’ve not been in a social situation in AGES where I don’t know most of the people in the room. 

Lately in the self-discovery of Maryam I’ve realised I’m really bad at making small talk, only when I’m sober really. Sometimes that makes me feel pretty awkward, and when that happens you see me immediately reach for my phone and pretend to do things on it. But there have been occasions recently where I’m just okay with it, I say what I need to say and don’t feel like I’m boring and stupid and awkward. 

I’m leaving behind a lot of stuff in London, things I should have got myself away from years and years ago. Mostly a shit ton of emotional abuse from two bad relationships and an incredibly bad relationship with my mother from 16-28. I always thought I came out of those situations fighting, but when you get away you realise just how much the negative environment you’ve been in for so long has eaten away at you. I’ve absorbed a lot of the negi stuff thrown at me over the years and now I’ve gotta work through that and figure myself out. That’s something I was expecting to do when I was 18, not when I was 30.

I always knew  that one of my reasons for moving was to put distance between myself and my mum, not because I don’t love her or anything, but because our relationship would never improve until I wasn’t in the same city as her and as much as I try and be the bigger person in the dysfunctional balance of it all it’s too hard to be around a person that emotionally stunted and emotionally draining. I think a lot of the fact I feel calmer and at ease has to do with the fact I’m not weighed down by that, and I’ve been weighed down by that for almost 15 years. 

I don’t talk about my family issues much, mainly because I don’t know how much people understand what has happened over the years, also because I feel like I’m working through it. The culture clash in my family was always going to happen and although I was thrown out, ignored, emotionally abused, insulted and mentally just beaten down for so many years of my life I’ve got to a stage where everyone is okay, we’ve moved on and we’re all trying to do better. My family is closer than ever and I do love them. 

The awkwardness and dislike of small talk will fade away as I deal with the issues going on in my head. I know this. But sometimes it helps to just write it all down. My name is Maryam Hassan. My anxiety is a part of me but I’m not going to let it define me. 

Calm Down, You’re Not The Anxious Type

I was talking to my buddy Jon on Saturday at the Menzingers show. I’ve not seen him since Fest and on Saturday it had been almost a week since I’d moved properly down to the city of Chicago. I kept trying to explain to him how this is the most at ease I’ve felt in a long time, and that worries me a little. I’ve had such a wonderful week, but I was so scared to move up properly. The suburbs was my little bubble and the city was where I had to actually, properly start to figure out life. But it was smooth, my flat is great, there is a cat, I’ve seen a lot of people I love, I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve seen many many bands and mostly I’ve just enjoyed my own company. 

In London I’m always looking for someone at a show that I know, I need to talk to people, I need distractions. That’s not unusual at all, but I always found it very hard to be on my own. This used to be be due to my own insecurities but more recently it’s been down to feeling awkward when I just stand on my own at a show and watch bands instead of talking to people. This week I’ve mostly just stood on my own and watched bands. It’s great. I’m starting to lose the feeling that I’m being awkward or difficult or weird and it’s nice. Being at ease is nice. 

I say this because I’m so manic. Emotionally I am extremes at all  times, you’ll know this if you know me well. I’m hyper, I’m happy as hell, I’m so sad I won’t leave my room. I don’t do things like calm, I don’t chill. So being at ease is sort of weird to me, it’s new and I’m learning to deal with it because well.. that’s what people who are chilled out do. They don’t worry. I hope this new thing sticks around.

One of the really great things about Chicago is the music. I love punk music, it’s not the be all and end all of my life, but it is something that makes me who I am and something that helps me with so much. Punk rock totally made me figure out all the pieces of who I am and stopped me feeling like a cultural mish-mash. I am floored by bands in Chicago, I can stand around grinning daftly at a stage of people playing for hours, it’s absolutely brilliant. 

Moving is not easy on the anxiety. I am scared of people hating me, of not being able to make friends or keep friends, of being terrible at school, of so many things. I miss home, I miss my family, I miss my friends but even with this strain on my mental health and at times my complete well being this is the most personally satisfying thing I’ve ever done. As things get stable and I settle in I know it was the most right decision. You have to challenge your issues at times, push them to a new level, to try and grow a bit more. I don’t know if that works for everyone but it really did work for me. Nothing will ever cure my anxiety but pushing it to it’s limits sometimes helps to keep me spurred on to do more with myself. It gives me the energy to go out and just make a difference, to fight a bit harder for stuff I want. 

This is the nicest thing I’ve heard in a while. The only reason I’m posting it is because I know it’ll get lost in my what’s app and I want to be able to read over it when life gets insane and hard. I love what I do but I never take time to look back on any of it, so when people say things like this to me I’m genuinely surprised and grateful.

Maryam vs Bun Kebab vs Cultural Identity

I remember being about 6 or 7 years old and it was lunchtime at school. I always got packed lunch, I had a kick ass purple My Little Pony lunchbox, and some awesome days when I was extra lucky my mum would make me a bun kebab. Bun kebab is just a kebab in a bread roll with some ketchup on it. It doesn’t sound fancy but believe me it is really delicious, I still believe in the power of bun kebab to this day. So here I was in the lunch hall with some girls in my class sat around a table about to eat. I open my lunchbox to discover bun kebab was on the menu for me today and I am delighted until I hear…

“Ugh we can’t ever sit near Maryam, her lunch is always smelly”

What I never realised was that kebabs smell because of the spices in them and even cold it was pretty strong. I’d never thought it was bad, they just smell like kebab but for the girls in my class it was weird. Even the asian girls at my table made fun of me for it, their mothers had packed them regular sandwiches after all. I was the weirdo with a kebab. There’s always this voice in the back of your head telling you you’re not like everyone else, that makes you feel ashamed and embarrassed of things culturally significant to your family and when you’re young it feels like everyone is laughing at you. When I got home that day I told my mum that I was never to have bun kebab again, I was ashamed of my culture for making me different.

Growing up I denounced my Pakistani heritage. I was English, when people asked me I always claimed loudly that I was not Pakistani at all, my PARENTS were Pakistani but I was born here and had no tie to any of that. I did everything I could to not have any part of that culture, I  refused to wear any salwar kameez, I didn’t eat Pakistani food and the one thing I didn’t have control of but was significant in the distance I felt from Pakistani culture was I didn’t speak the language. No matter what I did to distance myself from my background it would always be there staring me in the face though. Literally speaking when I looked in the mirror but as I grew up it was not being able to go to gigs, not being able to stay out late, not being able to date and I was constantly feeling like I was the little weirdo. But my high school was mostly South Asian, and there was the other side of the coin when it came to not fitting in with the South Asian kid ideals. I didn’t like the right music, I didn’t dress the same way and there was always an issue with my hair. Maryam Hassan and her massive mane of curly hair that caused her so much embarrassment vs every South Asian girl with sleek, straight, perfect hair. Those are pretty standard teenage issues though, trying to make a space where you work with your peers. The part of me that was rejecting my Pakistani heritage ran a little more deep because I wasn’t properly English and I wasn’t properly Pakistani. I didn’t fit in anywhere, so what was I?

I’ve been to Pakistan twice in my life. Once when I was three and was the baby of the family still so was spoilt wherever we went. I’ve never had so many presents, cake and sweets given to me in my life and I absolutely adored it. We went again when I was 16, after going to Saudi Arabia to take part in Umrah. This was a trip where my parents and I had started to clash about things like dating and they began to realise I wasn’t going to grow up to be a normal sort of muslim daughter. It wasn’t a conscious thing on my part, I just never had that tie to Islam that my brothers had growing up. I feel like we are just forced into religion at a young age, and when that happens very little sticks with you. I wanted to be more than what my parents wanted for me at that time, and I think that shocked them. The trip when I was 16 cemented in my head that I had no connection to my cultural heritage. Although I appreciated the historic aspects of being in Saudi and the food in Pakistan I was so detached from everything else because I couldn’t speak any Urdu or Arabic. When you can’t talk to people in your family, hear the stories of your ancestors, hear the stories of your parents growing up and learn about your culture from that level it creates a barrier and there’s very little that can break through that. You’ll always be on the outside.

The other thing that paid a massive part in this all was not being able to speak Urdu. Have you ever been in a room of people who are all talking in a different language and they are laughing and telling stories and having a great time and you don’t know what is going on? That happens to me on a regular basis. I know some basics, the how are you and the dinner is ready but I can’t have a conversation with anyone in Urdu and I don’t understand anything being said to me. I’m always asked why I don’t know anything, because I guess it’s strange for someone to be so bad at it but my parents never spoke it at home and so I never heard it growing up. I still am quite ashamed at myself for never learning it and I’m still put down for it to this day. The coconut daughter who can’t do anything Pakistani right, she can’t even speak the language so how was she ever going to be good at anything? When I was younger this made me retreat into myself, now I’m older I don’t worry about it so much. I can learn Urdu, and I will at some point because as a teacher it will come in handy. But not knowing your mother tongue creates such a barrier between you and your culture, and it’s really hard to overcome that.

My rejection of my cultural heritage caused a lot of problems for a lot of years within my family. Until I was in my mid-twenties I was frustrated at them for not understanding the person I wanted to be, my mother was terrified of the person her daughter had become and was heartbroken a lot of the time at my anger. We couldn’t understand each other because we were coming at life from two different angles and were both too stubborn to try and see the other point of view. No-one was happy in this situation and I would escape to Chicago once a year to go talk to my aunt. Sometimes you need someone to make you see that although you are not entirely in the wrong about something you have to do something to fix a situation. Making me look back on my cultural heritage and embrace it rather than reject it went a long way to fixing the relationship my mother and I had. I could then look at her side of this story, I could look at what she went through growing up and her life story made me see her differently. The clash, especially in daughters, is something that’s inevitable when growing up in a family like mine. It can get to a level where the relationship is never repaired and you lose contact with your parent, and that has happened in my family too. I’m glad we didn’t get to that point and am eternally grateful to my aunt for helping in this.

Two things got me interested in Pakistan again. One of them was my dad. My dad changed once he retired from his 9-5 bank job. I have always been his favourite, it’s a well known fact in our family that I am, but once he’d retired I began to see what an awesome person he is and I think he began to see me as more than just his only daughter. My dad was totally supportive of me wanting to work in the music scene and take photos, he helped me buy a better camera and took a real interest in what I was doing. But as we hung out more (I had periods of unemployment over those years) he would talk about his family moving from India, his granddad moving from Afghanistan, his family in Pakistan, the village where he built a school and so many stories about growing up in Pakistan and his mother. My grandmother passed away when my dad was 19, he was in England when it happened and I feel like he’s never forgiven this country for the fact he was stranded here when it happened. Pakistan is my dad’s freedom, it’s the place he loves more than anywhere in the world but he’s got his roots in London now so that place will never be where he lives again. He’s goes back a lot, and none of us stand in his way on that no matter how long he goes because it’s so important to him. As Pakistan becomes dangerous and unstable my dad wants to make it better, he talks all the time about how it could be better and he goes over and helps people in small ways. He is my role model, and as I was becoming less self absorbed he was the one who got me to see that this side of me is important in knowing myself. I just had to find a way of jelling everything together.

I got into punk really late (at 24, everyone else seems to get into it at 12) and although I know there are a lot of desi kids into punk in the London punk scene I was one of a few. I’m not entirely alien to the concept of being the only Pakistani person in a room but at shows I didn’t feel entirely out of place. There is always this immediate connection you feel when you look around and see another brown face, I always go and hi-5 them and scare them but punk sort welding my two sides together. I went from being a clash of culture to a perfect blend of them. Embracing my Pakistani side is probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my self, it’s made me calmer and more self assured. I am happy and proud to be Pakistani, I have this amazing, rich cultural background from both of my parents and it’s fascinating to hear stories from both of them about their lives growing up in Pakistani, our ancestors lives, where I come from. I am now, at the age of 30, majorly grateful to the family I come from.

Growing up as first generation in the UK, and one without the internet for most of her teenage years meant that I always felt alone. I didn’t think there were any other Pakistani kids that were like me and if there was then I didn’t know where to find them. In an age where we can connect with so many people from the comfort of our own living rooms I think it’s important to talk about how we ended up going against the norms of our culture and how we managed to grow up to be a balance of so many things. As I get older I read more and more about not just Pakistani people who are like me, but Muslims from so many backgrounds. I listen to Podcasts like ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim’ that explore how you are a bad Muslim at home because you date, drink and eat non halal food but outside of your home people see you as the good Muslim BECAUSE you do all of that. There is an actual online community of Desi Punks (it’s actually called that too) which I don’t actively post in but I read obsessively because everyone in there makes me feel like I make so much more sense. It’s about connections and loving that there are people everywhere doing amazing things from art to music to film. Finding my background and finding people to connect with who went through the same things as me made me feel like I belonged. If I can talk about this and make people younger than me feel like they belong too, or at least make things easier then that’s great.

It took me 24 years to figure out that being Pakistani isn’t a bad thing. It took me another 5 years on top of that to fix the damage I’d caused whilst I was denouncing it all and to get to a good level again with my family around me. Being Pakistani is not what makes all of me, and I think when I was younger I thought that accepting it would just throw me into a circle of arranged marriage and kids and nothing in life. I was wrong (and a little stupid). Being Pakistani is an essential block in the things that make me what I am, it joins a whole bunch of other blocks in the lego house that is Maryam. One thing’s for certain now, no asshole is ever going to make me feel ashamed of eating a bun kebab EVER AGAIN.