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My name is Nawal, but I used to call myself Titan.
If there was ever a moment when I thought the stars would align for me and my one wish would come true, it was a moment not taken for granted. I would always ask for the same thing: to be a superhero.
I admit that sometimes it feels ridiculous and embarrassing that I harbor onto these childlike notions, but my imagination has always been a big part of my life. It was the only way I could communicate what I really wanted to do, and that was save the world. Coming from a very conservative family, it was always black and white with no grey area, which meant my thoughts were not welcomed. Certain questions I had were deemed inappropriate by both my family and the religious institutions I would frequently visit. It was as if a wandering mind meant a wandering interest, and a wandering interest was a threat to my faith.
Yet still I imagined. I found myself planning out my life as a superhero. When I flew on a plane for the first time, I planned out how I would use my telekinetic powers to prevent fatal plane crashes. When my brother had his hip surgery and was in great discomfort, I thought about how I would use my healing powers to take away his pain and discomfort. When I heard a gun being fired for the first time, I thought about how I wish I could prevent anyone from ever resorting to using that weapon with my telekinetic powers. I even planned out how my alter ego would be a notable film critic.
Two years ago, my parents took us on a trip to Egypt. I was told to stay by my mother’s side when walking in the streets, and to not say a word to anyone about how my parents disapproved of the President. It could land them in jail, I heard, because freedom of speech meant nothing here. Beggars followed us in the streets, sometimes returning even after my mother gave them money. Poverty, sexual harassment, and violence in the streets were a startling regularity. When I mentioned this to my mother, she shrugged it off, saying how “we were better off than the other Middle Eastern countries”. She showed me a picture that went viral on the internet, a picture of a Syrian toddler’s body washed up on a beach.It was like I woke up from a dream, and being Titan was that dream. I wasn’t going to get super powers,I wasn’t going to fly around and save the day. Instead, I was just a girl who lived on the other side of the world, who didn’t know how to help, and who clung helplessly to her mother’s side. I was stunned as I saw the Syrian crisis unfold in the hours I spent reading and learning about it. My heart was heavy when reading the stories of the refugees and the incomprehensible hardships that they went through just to be able to sleep without a barrel bomb destroying their homes. All I could think of was that I wanted to do something about it.
So I did. I used my social media as a platform to share the things I would learn. I actively spoke about it at school. I signed petitions and passed them around, I donated money that I would earn from my tutoring job. Eventually, I became an advocate for UNICEF. My imagination, I realized, was what I used to push further, to consider all the possible what ifs and to be persistent. Maybe I’m not stopping bullets with my mind or flying to the rescue, but it didn’t matter. So what if I wasn’t Titan? There is nothing that isn’t super in wanting to create a better word.
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