It was a cool summer day, unlike other summer days with no electricity, breeze or anything special. This day was the opposite, as it had all of these things, especially something special.
My brother, Anis, had just opened the garage of our house to introduce a new friend, my first car!
It took months to save the money for this car, and with the help of my parents, all that money turned into this metal extravaganza, a Daewoo Lanos 1997. The car seemed a little rusty but still drivable. Only one problem: not by me. Not yet, at least. Although I was a frequent rider of cars, by that time I had only summoned the courage to get behind the wheel for two horrific drives around the neighbourhood with my siblings.
So back to that day: I rushed outside to have a look at what I thought would instantly be my new grey best friend. The feeling of excitement lasted about 2 minutes before my stomach started to sink and I began to panic. I remember being asked “what do you think?” briefly followed by “get in, drive us somewhere!” But I was frozen. My brain, that for the last months had continuously obsessed over the benefits of driving and having a car, had just realized the opposite side of that spectrum. Intensely.
I remember when being asked to “at least” start the ignition, I couldn’t do it right, partially because the car needed time, and I thought I was a failure. I remember the thrilled look of my family gradually being replaced with sympathetic stares questioning if I’m ready. I remember going back to try again alone the same night and failing again. Returning to my room, having just bought a car with the entirety of my savings and not yet knowing how to use it, I lied on my bed, reached for my phone and Googled “wiki how to drive a car”. As ridiculous as that sounds, it helped! I started reading comments about people who felt the same way I did, and how they overcame their fear of driving.
The next day I made a second attempt and a third the day after, choosing to overlook any chance of failure by staying focused, keeping my eyes on the road and in my mind that Ben Franklin quote “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
I had my first car accident 5 months later. On that cool summer day, I was convinced that if something like that happened, I would be too frightened to ever drive again. Today, exactly a year and 4 days from that day, I’m still driving.
This is just one example of the important work produced by YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region.