Mind Science Now + Beyond

Let’s look into why the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is popular

Despite the criticism, about two million people take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or the MBTI) annually, and it’s become widely popular among the millennial generation. Even though the test resembles certain psychological theories, it’s called a pseudoscience, and the subject of its validity as a psychometric assessment is the source of much criticism.

But admittedly, it’s fun and I loved it when the test declared me an ENTJ, thus stroking my “Commander” ego further. Is perhaps the reason why the MBTI test is beloved is that it speaks to our generation?

Firstly, what is the MBTI?

For those who don’t know what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is, it is an introspective self-report questionnaire that produces different psychological personalities. The mother-daughter duo, Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, created the questionnaire based on Carl Jung’s conceptual theory. Essentially, it calculates and evenly distributes people into boxes according to their personality type based on sensation, intuition, thinking, and feeling. As a result, there are 16 possible personality types in total, combining Sensing (S) or Intuition (I), Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I), Thinking (T) or Feeling (F), and Judging (J) or Perceiving (P). Each MBTI personality even has a quirky name associated with it.

The 16 types are as follows:

ISTJ- Inspector, ISTP- Crafter, INTJ- Mastermind, INTP- Architect, ISFP- Composer, ISFJ- Protector, INFP- Healer, INFJ- Counselor, ENFJ- Teacher, ENFP- Champion, ESFJ- Provider, ESFP- Performer, ENTJ- Field marshal, ENTP- Inventor, ESTJ- Supervisor, and lastly ESTP- Promoter.

Why is it so famous?

MBTI has garnered recognition and has become extremely popular for its so-called “accuracy.” Now I quote accuracy because even though the test is loved, it has a diverse base of users, some for and others against it. MBTI memes and pages are famous all over social media and even tempts some young people to select careers according to what each personality type suggests.

For example, my personality type suggests that I am decisive, and I love momentum and accomplishment. Therefore, I would make a great lawyer or a politician, which honestly I would love to do, but who doesn’t like accomplishing something? Is it a completely stereotyped way to divide people into neatly categorized boxes, or does it actually contain grains of truth?

Let’s talk about stereotyping:

Sure, people are similar in virtues and enterprises, and it’s okay to sort people into groups via psychological similarity collectively. However, psychologists rarely agree on the correctness of the MBTI. Therefore, it isn’t easy to define whether it is an actual psychometric evaluation or simply stereotyping people like any standard quiz. Again, many of the studies that endorse the MBTI lack scientific merit. Moreover, with time, each personality type has become associated with ever-changing stereotypes making it a fallible issue.

So why has it garnered attention?

Psychometric tests such as the Big Five or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory aren’t as common as the MBTI. This can be easily explained because the MBTI model is simpler to understand and better at being utilized as a label. Like that of Zodiac signs, having a similar system is easier to popularly share and discuss off the top of the tongue. Sharing that I am an ENTJ is easier to talk about than going into a detailed description of my Big Five results. To categorize into either an ISFP or an INTP easily is understandable and interesting enough to spread quickly without the additional scientific jargon. Additionally, the quirky names associated with each type help easy identification and create better meme material, I suppose.

This is reflected in how MBTI is widespread among social media profiles, with particular pages having curated content about each respective type and even outfits associated with each type. The popularity of Tumblr-styled mood boards dedicated to MBTI personality types is a testament to the extra attention devoted to this test.

So, pseudoscience or not, MBTI is widely cherished and adored with a devoted band of followers. Personally, I swear by every detail that was predicted about me from the test (but that is just my opinion). And while it might be simply stereotyping roles and considered pseudoscience, the Myers and Briggs mother and daughter duo’s work continues to resonate with modern youth. That, alone, is highly valuable.

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Celebrities Movies Pop Culture

Youn Yuh-Jung is our favorite grandma, and we love to see her win a SAG Award

Youn Yuh-Jung accepted her SAG (Screen Actors Guild) award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role with tears in her eyes and careful care of her articulation in English. There was a moment in which she consulted someone off-screen to check her pronunciation of “supporting actress”, taking due diligence with her words even in a moment of fervor. Fans on Twitter call her their queen and relate with her fellow nominee fangirls. It’s heart-warming to see positive Asian representation in mainstream media – something that’s sorely lacking.

Her role in Minari has welcomed her to the Western sphere of cinema. She stars as the doting yet vulgar grandmother Soon-ja who moves to the US to help raise the children of her immigrant son. To much of her grandson’s chagrin, Soon-ja brings a carefree spirit to a house that is injured by poverty and marital discourse.

For much of the movie, she holds as the emotional tether for the children of the household, something that is lost on the struggling family. She reminded me much of my own grandmother who provided me a safe bubble from the afflictions of my own parents and I’m sure that this empathy is universal for many that were born here too. Throughout Minari, Youn’s performance felt and stayed raw and heartfelt, as she channeled her own immigrant experience to America during the ’70s. 

But who is this veteran Korean actress that has managed to capture every international heart? 

Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought.
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought. Credit: Philip Montgomery for New York Magazine.

Youn Yuh-Jung didn’t think of acting until the start of her term at Hanyang University in Seoul. She was dejected after receiving her low college-entrance exam scores barring her from any elite colleges so when a TV director suggested she try out for an open talent audition, she went ahead with it. 

She debuted on the screen with the drama series Mister Gong in 1967. Though she received a TBC Drama Award for Best New Talent, it was not until 1971 that she gained critical acclaim. Her role as a paramour femme fatale in the film Woman of Fire awarded her three  Best Actress awards from the Stiges Film Festival, Grand Bell Awards, and Blue Dragon Film Awards, the latter the Korean equivalent to the Oscars. Awards aren’t enough to quantify the impact of her role, however. 

To this day, sexism is deeply ingrained in almost all pillars of respect due to historically Confucianist ideals. Within Confucianism, there are the Five Relationships that symbolize the basic links that must exist for harmony: ruler and ruled – be it father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and friend and friend. The kinship between the husband and wife particularly contains increments of patriarchal values when considering the adjacent values of filial piety. A woman was expected to show only love and respect to her husband with their subservience. 

 Yuh-Jung’s role as a young woman grappling with the moral complexities of marriage, poverty, and lust, was unbeknownst to the big screen; women were simply never characterized so humanly, at least in popular films and TV shows. 

From then on, Yuh-Jung shot to popularity but at its zenith, she married and disappeared to the US, following her husband where he attended college. During her time, she gave birth to two sons but moved back to South Korea with them after divorcing her husband. 

Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in "Woman of Fire."
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in “Woman of Fire.” Credit: HanCinema. 

Yuh-Jung was a 40-year old divorcee returning to a country that rarely turned on its screens to middle-aged actors starring in anything but a parent role. She had no chance but to labor at any opportunity that came her way; to act was to work and support her family. To date, Yuh-Jung has starred in more than 30 films and 70 series. 

Eventually, Yuh-Jung was able to relinquish the chains of financial responsibility for her two boys. This finally allowed her the possibility of choice, the ability to choose what kind of roles she’d take on. At an age where women retire, Yuh-Jung looked frequently to amateur directors who, like Woman of Fire, weren’t scared to play around with the boundaries of the status quo. In The Bacchus Lady, for example, Yuh-Jung plays an aging prostitute who grapples with her role in a modernizing world. 

Yuh-Jung is, however, not simply just an actor but an adored public figure. Korea’s bustling entertainment TV business gives way for many actors to reveal their true personalities and personas. Youn’s Kitchen stars Yuh-Jung leading an ensemble of other actors in functioning a cafe in a foreign country. The show has not only gained general popularity with another show called Youn’s Stay in production but has cultivated a public image for Yuh-Jung. One in which many are able to watch her calm and pensive attitude infused with a dry wit that only age could give you. 

Now, she is an Oscar-nominated actress and holds a SAG award. There doesn’t seem to be any more that this actress can do yet for Youn Yuh-Jung, there’s no telling what’s next. Western cinema needs more Asian representation, and I am so excited to see Youn Yuh-Jung get the praise that she deserves. 

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Jess from New Girl makes me feel validated in my awkwardness

Recently I have been rewatching the 2011 Comedy tv show New Girl to pass my time at home.

For those who have never watched the show, the premise is as follows. After going through a bad breakup with a cheating long-term boyfriend, upbeat and quirky, Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel) decides to move into a loft with three single guys she met on Craigslist. Over the course of her time in the loft, Jess, along with Nick, Schmidt, Coach, Winston and Jess’s best friend Cece form a sort of dysfunctional family.

I have always loved the show for its unique, hilarious, and endearing characters. However, the character of Jess particularly resonates with me. As an often awkward girl myself, Jess makes me feel validated in my quirks. I have always considered my awkwardness to be a detriment. However, through watching Jess’s antics and how those around her react to them, I see that what I consider to be my flaws, may actually be endearing to others. 

To provide some background on Jess, she’s an innocent, glasses-wearing, big-blued eyed teacher who often sings to herself, doesn’t know how to act around men, and has a bit of old soul energy. She is often nerdy, clumsy, and emotional. A lot of her hobbies are that of a grandma (scrapbooking, knitting, croquet) while she herself is only in her 30s. 

Jess makes me feel validated in my quirks.

Not every single personality trait of Jess’ applies to me, but enough do that I feel comforted by her character. She is relatable in the ways that count. For one, I myself also identify as hyper-emotional and empathetic. Jess cares deeply for her friends and will quite literally go to the ends of the earth for them. Only a few days after moving into the loft with the boys, Jess tells them she loves them. She has an open heart with her feelings. I am very much the same way. Watching Jess ugly cry at Dirty Dancing made me feel seen in ways I hadn’t before.

Jess is also an old soul who sometimes feels different from her peers. She’d probably rather scrapbook or craft than go to a club. I have often felt similarly out of place for my age group. I’ve never loved partying all the time. Sometimes I’m in the mood, but usually, I live for the late-night Mcdonalds after the party much more. I am also the type who enjoys a quiet night in watching a movie with friends equally if not more.

Despite her awkwardness, Jess continues to be apologetically herself.

Besides Jess’s overall personality, her behavior is also super quirky. She particularly struggles to flirt with men and frequently embarrasses herself when she attempts to. I think all awkward girls out there know how that feels and have there fair share of embarrassing romantic encounters. I myself still stand by the fact that I don’t really know how to flirt. I’ve definitely tripped over my words and myself more than a few times when talking to someone I find cute. 

What’s perhaps most relatable about Jess though is how her character never quite grew out of her awkward phase from her preteen years. Sure, she physically “glowed up,” but a lot of her personality remained the same. I resonate with that feeling deeply. Even though I look at myself in the mirror now and don’t see the glasses, braces, and acne I used to have, I still have some of the same insecurities as middle school me. Seeing Jess’s flashbacks to her early life being unapologetically herself makes me feel like I can embrace my quirky and sometimes insecure younger self.

Jess’s character shows women that they don’t have to be put together and effortlessly cool constantly to love themselves and be loved. Jess’ quirkiness and awkwardness are what makes her lovable and herself. New Girl shows all the other awkward girls out there, myself included, that it’s ok to be yourself. So sing little made-up songs to yourself, talk during movies, and wear whatever makes you happy. Your identity is unique and awesome just the way it is!       

Shopping Fashion Lookbook Inequality

Shopping at thrift stores can save your wallet and the environment

In our time, the traditional notion of summer, fall, winter, and spring style is being replaced by a fashion industry working on rapidly putting out new and cheap clothes every day so that nobody ever worries about being a season behind. Blink, and your wardrobe being a month outdated is seasons behind in the current times.

That’s all because of fast fashion. Our desire for the newest and coolest styles has only led to cheaper online stores popping up. The success of Forever 21— in creating the low quality yet affordable clothing that’s always incorporating the newest street and social media influencer styles—has only encouraged other companies to follow in their footsteps, and the results are catastrophic. Journalist Elizabeth Cline writes about how this occurs in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Essentially, the lower the quality of our clothes, the sooner we dispose of them and the more waste we put out into the world. In 2017 the Copenhagen Fashion Summit reported that fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste dumped in landfills each year. The fashion industry is also the second-largest consumer of water. They produce 20 percent of wastewater while also generating more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. 

And as we all know, being kind to the environment means being kind to our nation’s pockets.  Nationwide, a municipality pays $45 per ton of waste sent to a landfill. New York City alone ends up paying $20.6 million annually just to ship textiles to landfills and incinerators.

So what’s the solution? How do we look good without spending so much on shipping costs alone?  How can we reduce the time spent waiting months for our clothes to ship in from China? (if you’ve ever bought from Zaful, you know the struggle).

The answer: thrift shopping.

By shopping less and less from huge fast fashion companies and instead, turning to sustainable thrift stores selling second-hand clothing, we can ensure less waste goes out into our environment.

Buying more and more from thrift stores means we are buying less from fast fashion industries. That means fewer clothes are thrown out each year, doing good to both our environment and economy. If you’ve ever wondered how you can contribute to decreasing your carbon footprint or how to promote a more sustainable lifestyle in a way even easier than ordering a reusable metal straw online, look no further.

Thrifting is the easiest way to go, all while you save money and look good doing it. Even more, it’s way cheaper than the popular inexpensive clothing of stores of Zaful and Rue 21. By shopping at thrift stores, you can find clothes that truly represent your one of a kind style.

I am always looking for simple ways to contribute to bettering the world around me. We can’t all take down the huge organizations and companies contributing to pollution and waste in our world overnight. Through small acts along the way can make a big difference. Fast fashion is a lesser-known enemy of the environment. We should replace our one time wear online purchases with a thrifted jacket or top that we know we’ll reuse over and over.  By doing that we too can contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable world.

Gender & Identity Life

Newsflash: You’re so much more than the strain of grass you like to smoke

As Canada is legalizing the recreational use of marijuana after decades of prohibition, this is a huge moment for cannabis lovers everywhere.

Between folks that need medical marijuana for physical illnesses such as fibromyalgia and mental illnesses like PTSD, all the way up to people who just enjoy smoking a joint after a long day of work, this is a history-making moment. What I’m concerned about are the stoners that believe smoking weed is a personality.

Let me explain what a personality stoner is.

A personality stoner is someone who smokes, eats, sleeps and breathes weed.

They mostly talk about strains, different ways to get high, dab rigs, bongs, etc. These people will try and convince you that weed could grow back your arm if you cut it off. Weed culture has become so whitewashed, it’s really sad.

You can’t go to any mall in my hometown without seeing a couple of young white kids thinking they’re cool because they’re smoking a poorly rolled joint.

These personality stoners I speak of usually only wear red, green and yellow, mostly listen to Bob Marley or songs about smoking/dealing/buying weed and sometimes, if they’re in really deep they’ll try to tell to you that they’re a ‘Rasta.’

Rastafarianism is an actual religion, and I promise you it’s not based around marijuana. Sure, smoking cannabis is a part of Rastafarians spiritual practice, but smoking and listening to Marley does not automatically make you a Rasta. And if it wasn’t obvious, like 98 percent of these types of stoners are white.

As someone who doesn’t smoke weed due to paranoia, I’m kind of an outcast in my hometown.

I used to smoke, and I even worked for a smoke shop.

(Or as we call them, head shops. They give you brain, maaaan.)

I know quite a bit about marijuana, strains, types, and ways to smoke. But because I don’t smoke, I can’t be apart of the culture. Even when I have suggestions, my voice isn’t considered valid because I don’t partake in the ganga goodness.

I am so incredibly sick of talking to people who only talk about weed.

Marijuana has so many health benefits, but it’s not for everyone. It’s not going to fix my heart problem, and it’s not going to help me lose weight. It’s not going to help my anxiety, no matter how many times you explain how Indica works to me.

And oh god, don’t you EVER mention the negative effects to these personality stoners. If I had a dollar for every time I got yelled at for explaining the dangers of driving high, I would have enough money to pay lawyers for all of the people of color still in prison for marijuana-related charges.

My old group of “friends” used to sit in someone’s room, basement, or shed, smoke weed and talk shit. That’s it. That would be the entire night. Most folks in this group felt as though weed made them more creative, and that they felt terrible without it.

Again, because I don’t smoke I didn’t have much to contribute so this was a really fun friendship to be a part of for four years.

The main reason I’m writing this is that not everyone uses marijuana the way you do, personality stoner.

Not everyone can take a massive bong hit and be fine. Paranoia, anxiety, and depression can all come from smoking weed, and no matter how desperate you are for everyone and their grandma to smoke, it may not happen and you have to still be okay with that.

Some people don’t smoke, and that doesn’t make them a ‘nark’ or uncool or whatever. Different things are meant for different people.

My best advice to you, sweet stoners, is to leave people alone.

There’s no need to get up in someone’s face about how they can only smoke a half gram every once in a while. Don’t freak out at people when they explain to you that Bob Marley’s birthday was not 4/20 and that he wasn’t the one to start 4/20.

Weed is fun and, of course, it’s magical, but it doesn’t need to replace your humanity or ability to be a decent person.  

The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

Keep It Real Mix: New Year, Just Me

In this current age of social media, we see filtered photos, endless smiles, and happy posts. Everyone looks like they’re having the time of their life, but in reality we all have our own troubles that we are fighting to get through. Now that February’s here and the whole social media wave of “New Year, New Me” posts is over, it’s definitely time for a “New Year, Just Me.”

Because what’s wrong with being honest and showing our true selves for once? Our imperfections are often our strengths, and nothing is stronger than keeping it real.

1.”Dollhouse” || Melanie Martinez

Portrait of Melanie Martinez

Everyone has dysfunctional families, but no one is as brutally honest as Melanie Martinez.  I love getting lost in this beautifully haunting song- it’s eerie, messed up, and really human.

2. “Pray (Empty Gun)” || Bishop Briggs

Portrait of Bishop Briggs

Friends, lovers, families- things don’t always go down the way they are supposed to. I love Bishop’s vulnerability as she confesses her own pain and the hopes to forgive.

3. “Burn With Me” || Whilk & Misky

Portrait of Whilk and Misky

My favorite quote from the movie “The Italian Job” was “I trust everyone, I just don’t trust the devil inside them.” This song epitomizes this idea of people’s inner demons, just as I try to figure out how to reconcile the best and worst sides of myself.

4. “Her Life” || Two Feet

Cover Photo for Two Feet

Two Feet talks about a woman who lives an empty life- a life that no one can change but her. The song is dark and alluring, but it empathizes with the many ways people suffer: in shadows, mistrust, and lies.

5.  “Living” || Bakermat, Alex Clare

Portrait of Alex Clare

For those just getting by day to day, this song is empowering and raw with personal struggles. “Just surviving and living”- that’s all you can do to stay alive.

6. “Ratchet Commandments” || Tink

Portrait of Tink

Tink is brutally honest on how those obsessed with their social media image fail to see what’s important: your character and actions in real life. Tink’s perspective is refreshing in an internet world of filters and false perfection.

7. “Hard Out Here” || Lily Allen

Portrait of Lily Allen

Lily Allen is going to be Lily Allen, and she could care less about you hating her sarcasm, attitude, and blunt truth. Her unfiltered commentary on unfair standards against female artists is ultimately badass.


Because we love you, we compiled all your new favorite songs in one playlist. Enjoy!

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Race The World Inequality

I feel alone because I’m not “like” other black girls

“You’re not black!” is something I heard a startling amount of as a child and even occasionally now as an adult.

It was such a damning statement to hear when I was young that I began to identify with it, to see it as true. It began a decade-long struggle with identity that is still going strong to this day, and it all started with a stupid cookie. In middle school, I was transferring into the second or third week of sixth grade. By then, everyone knew their groups and their biases were affirmed.

They slapped me down the first time we spoke, by calling me an Oreo. For those blissfully unaware of the blaspheming of the most beloved cookies, an ‘Oreo’ is a way to call someone black on the outside but white on the inside. Or, as I saw it, “Not one of us”, a thought further enforced when upon one of my first interactions with a classmate who asked me, “Why do you talk white?”

I was stunned, because to my child mind all I knew was the way I spoke.

It was not an act or even a conscious effort to speak this way. The thought that I might be speaking incorrectly was horrifying to me.

Until some context kicked in, and I realized, she meant why was I speaking properly.

Now, until that point, I never bought into the stereotype of the “ghetto black girl.” Someone with a loud voice, neck rolling, and abundant usage of snapping, as there were plenty of white girls who did that too! But this….this was unexplored territory, and I felt alone and confused. Fast forward to my freshman year at an HBCU and I was completely and utterly lost.

I was about to drop out because of anxiety. I had no friends, I didn’t feel a part of the community, and I felt like an alien growth someone was poking at with a stick.

Because I, a “white speaking” pretender, did not belong.

No one spoke like me, liked the things I liked or even understood my lack of understanding weave. I was “other,” and it was scary to be so disconnected. Thankfully, I found friends, but it was not until I came home for a break that my mom informed me of something I had been painfully unaware of.

The longer I stayed amongst my people, the more I began to conform. I even stopped using some words altogether. Because they alienated my peers. I was the girl who spoke like she was better than them.

A coworker, of all people, reminded me of my other-ness once more. She was playing rap music, and while I am incredibly out of my depth with any new artist, I tried to identify it. No such luck. When I asked her who she was listening to, she seemed to weigh my words before she answered. As if my question was setting off “She isn’t really black” alarms.

When she told me the artist’s name, I just stared at her and nodded vacantly. Only to be abruptly reminded of my differences when she asked, “How do you not know him?!”

When I was fourteen, I had received a Green Day Album and was blasting it as loudly as my poor abused radio could handle it. But mom told me to turn it down, calling it ‘white music’. I do not know about you, but music doesn’t have a race to me.

This is not that “I do not see color” bull, I truly do not understand the difference between black music and white music.

It was not just my taste in music that seemed to set me apart, but my taste in television as well. For instance, I love the show Steven Universe. No particular reason I can point out, but the show just makes me happy.

I’m reminded that Boondocks is really the only thing I can discuss with my peers. Not that I have any issue with that show, I love it too. But it seems I am constantly pigeonholed by my skin. Which makes it very uncomfortable when I have to psychoanalyze every word from new people. To see if it was really thinly veiled insults towards me and my preferences.

Because it seems that while I am black, I do not appear to be black enough.

“If it is a white person singing, it is white music” persuasion.

I find it stifling.

It really sucks to have to deliberate my personality based on who I talk to, but I say all this to say, it is okay.

I know literally nothing about Love and Hip Hop. That doesn’t mean I can’t communicate with you at all, I just that I don’t prefer that show. Yes, I genuinely like music that has nothing to do with capping someone in the chest and stealing his girl. But I would love to discuss the impact of music media on consumerism in the black community.

So don’t blame our inability to gel on my lacking of “blackness,” rather than our lack of common interests. I have to agree with Carlton Banks, who said that being black is not something I am trying or should be trying to be, it is something I am!

I do not have to “act black” or “talk like a black girl” to appease anyone. To tell me I do is only letting me know who not to talk to.

Gender & Identity Life

I found out the hard way that I can’t be an introvert in Iran

“چه قدر خش صحبت هستی!”

“You’re so well-spoken!”

The first time I heard a relative throw that Persian expression at me, I was dumbfounded. All my relatives were laughing at me, but I didn’t understand the joke. As someone who enjoys public speaking and debating, I would have taken it as a huge compliment if someone had told me that here in college. But back in Tehran, particularly when surrounded by my family, I don’t talk all that much.

At the time of that remark, I hadn’t uttered a single word.

My mother explained her uncle’s joke through her own laughter: he had rarely ever seen my speak in public settings, and so her uncle – someone who finds it difficult to stop talking – had sarcastically called me “well-spoken.”

I didn’t find that sardonic remark funny. I had been singled out and called out for not living up to familial, but more importantly cultural, expectations. Good-humored as the expression was, it made me more self-conscious, but also more self-aware.

Never before had the dichotomy between extrovert and introvert been so tangible to me. I am, by nature, an introvert, and have grown more introverted as I’ve grown older. In the U.S., in college, there are far fewer stigmas attributed to being an introvert than in Iran, where hosting, attending and indulging in family gossip at regular gatherings is the norm and the standard.

In Iran, if you can’t make small talk, you’re a bad host or, at best, an invisible fly on the wall.

As someone who abhors and persistently evades small talk, I’ve gotten better at playing this role, occasionally contributing to the steady flow of conversation as needed to keep it from getting stilted. But when the people around you are all at least 70 years old, there’s a generational barrier that makes small talk nearly impossible.

And as much as I’d like to contribute to a vehement debate about literature or history or international politics, most of the conversation is in Turkish, the native language for much of my Azerbaijani family – and a language I neither understand nor speak.

So it’s not always that I choose to not converse. Sometimes, I literally cannot.

But when I returned to Tehran this past summer, my first trip back as an official adult, people grew more aware of my introversion, and I have grown more aware of how much a cultural taboo introversion is. Chattiness is correlated with a greater intellect, so naturally, reticence is correlated with lesser intellect.

But that isn’t the case. I can easily offer input about the Iran nuclear deal or the Israel-Palestine conflict, or talk about the journalism I have done and continue to do. I don’t see the need to prove myself to be discernibly small or well-spoken. I refuse to talk simply for the sake of talking.

And if that means clashing with cultural norms, then as an Iranian-American I will just have to accept it.