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.
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.