My Memorable High School Experience: Rites and Rights

April 10, 2014 at 6:13 AM

My eyes analyzed the horizon, wavering for a moment to admire the frost on the trees, the silvery icicles hanging off the lampposts. I was flying, soaring further, higher, faster, away from the world I knew, and into the unknown.

Well actually, I was driving.

Driving is a rite of passage, a taste of freedom and independence, not just from parents and their restraints, but also societal shackles, at least for me. It's a chance to defy years of oppression, attain liberty from an otherwise certain future of subservience, and garner the rights of an equal citizen.

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My family is from a conservative part of the Middle East, and has always been protective of their daughters. Growing up, I was always hesitant to speak out, always put my family’s values before my desire to go to birthday parties, to have sleepovers, to play outside under sparkling night skies. I didn’t mind being an obedient daughter, didn’t mind making sacrifices – until I took driver's education at school.

The wheel enticed me. It was a chance to take over my life, but at what cost? Defiance? Dishonor? I thought of my grandmother, who wasn't even allowed to ride her bike outside because it meant she had control over her whereabouts. A shudder went down my spine at the thought of such oppression, and it spurred me to fight against this destiny. If I didn't seize the opportunity to get my license, I would only secure my future as a second rate citizen, always dependent on others to make my decisions for me.

Frustrated yet determined, I practiced for hours, motivating myself to move past failures until I had successfully brought to life the diagrams and maneuvers I had studied in class. By the end of the month, I was a pro at parallel parking, reverse parking, and merging. There was little more to do but voice myself to my parents after sixteen years. With a rather, dare I say, impressive PowerPoint, I presented my argument to take the road test and held my breath; my future rested upon their response.

Needless to say, I had nothing to worry about; they were obviously going to let me get my license, but they were surprised by my firm message. It set a precedent, told them that I was going to be different from other women in my family. I would pursue higher education, apply to co-ed colleges, and even play sports. However, while getting my license was a victory it didn't mean complete equality – I still have to overcome restraints and injustices. Regardless, I promised myself to embrace the freedom I’ve found, to always voice my opinions and desires. Someday I want to find equality for other girls like me, tell them that it’s ok to speak out, to be heard. But for now, I will venture to drive beyond cultural and societal boundaries, to never limit my potential to fit into others' molds.

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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