Art Global Conference in Istanbul, 2022 Perspective Top Travel

YJI’s conference in Istanbul taught me to dare

Nargis Babar after climbing to the top of the mountain on Büyükada. (YJI photo)

ISTANBUL – When my editor at Youth Journalism International first approached me about taking part in the Istanbul conference, I thought “never in a million years.”

But that night, a small voice turned the possibility over in my mind. Maybe…

My whole life, I’ve been afraid to try things because the prospect of failing or not fitting in with others seemed inevitable.

Whether in school, my personal life or hobbies, I held myself to the standard of perfection and equated anything less with failure. When the opportunity to take up ballet came, my self-consciousness took over and stopped me from joining lessons.

I gave up on violin as soon as I started because I felt hopeless in it. Even when joining Youth Journalism International, I was afraid of publishing my work because it meant I was suddenly incredibly vulnerable.

Not daring to do what I deeply wanted to experience was a struggle that followed me for years. Even now, it still does.

During the pandemic, I stumbled into a crisis after realizing that outside of academics, I had done virtually nothing.

When school went online, I felt like I lost everything I ever was.

But since then, growing up has been a process of learning to try. And the YJI Global Conference in Istanbul encapsulates that journey for me.

When I first met everyone at the conference, I felt apprehensive of what was to come. I was going to meet so many people from around the world that I had only interacted with over Zoom. I was both daunted and brimming with excitement.

After some small talk on the first day, we settled into a routine and rhythm. I realized after only a few days that this conference was crucial to me.

I found a second family through YJI. The Istanbul conference was as much a personal journey inward as one of exploring the city. 

The author, at center wearing glasses, surrounded by many of her YJI friends. From upper left: Regina López of Mexico, Holly Hostettler-Davies of Wales, Sreehitha Gandluri of the United States, Beren Deniz Öcek of Istanbul, author Nargis Babar of Sweden, Erin Timur of Cyprus and Sena Naz Ekşi of Istanbul. In the front are Naz Mergen, left, and Lina Köksal. (Group selfie by Lina Köksal/ YJI)

We spent so much time together and I experienced things I never imagined doing, like walking to the peak of Büyükada, the largest of the Prince’s Islands, and standing by the cliffs there.

The conference was a valuable reminder that pushing myself to do things in spite of fearing not fitting in or failing is necessary. 

Now I am a high school graduate. I dare to debate, to write, to travel and put myself out there. I throw myself into challenges as much as I can, meet new people even though it terrifies me and feel stronger than ever in my ambitions.

I am still not anywhere near perfect, but this will be a constant struggle of overcoming that I am now ready to do.

Even though I sometimes meet obstacles, there is so much I have gained from a simple realization: trying and failing are not the same.

It is far better to take a chance than to live with regret. 

Nargis Babar is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Sweden. She wrote this essay.

Lina Köksal is a Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from Istanbul. She contributed the center photo.

Parnian Shahsavary is a Senior Illustrator with Youth Journalism International from Iran. She made the drawing of the author.

Nargis Babar, the author, at left with fellow YJI student Parnian Shahsavary of Iran, who drew the above image of Nargis while they were together in Istanbul.

See YJI’s entire Istanbul Adventure by clicking on the logo below:

Parnian Shahsavary/YJI

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