Karine Ghahramanyan (BAPG ‘25): Ode to Onions and Despairing Fruitarians

5 min read

As a kid swimming in the fantasy of pink skies, weekend cartoons and chocolate-flavored dreams cooped away far in a little village of warm morning skies and breezy nights, I was more than certain life was a ripe fruit you just bit into as a kid and feasted on the unending sweetness flavoring your tongue for as long as you lived. Young me couldn’t have foreseen the fatal deceptiveness of the fruit I had been gifted but time would prove to be a sage with the task to ease me into adulthood.

When I was 10, I was running around the house without a care in the world and not even considering living the nest that was the only true spectator of my complacently quiet existence. I was at the top of my class, showered in praise, called ‘gifted’ wherever I went and the plumpness of the fruit resting in my hands had never been so lush. I didn’t have to bat an eyelash or strain a single muscle to have the undivided attention of my surroundings and to revel in the joy of being hailed as exceptional. I didn’t even have to sink my teeth into the fruit — the honey simply dripped into my mouth and clouded my head with a sense of luster and otherworldly contentment. This was a feeling unlike anything else, a feeling that lasted well until the eve of my adulthood.

Once I reached the threshold of my adult years and was tasked with conquering a hilltop I never previously considered — I discovered the fruit hardening in my hand, the oh-so-familiar rich sweetness now gone and unattainable. Coming to AUA was a sudden decision and in a matter of days I saddled myself with the responsibility to achieve a previously unknown height. As I kept going, I lost the feeling of being one in a million, while the fruit kept solidifying in my hands. It must be said that I never really put much importance in being the first, nor had I gained a big head after years of praise and celebration. However, being the same as the rest for the first time made me feel slightly insecure. In response to that, I continued working hard, with a newfound vigor burning brightly to prove myself humbly among the cream of the crop. 

Coming to AUA and studying has got to be one of the hardest but, nonetheless, most gratifying things I’ve ever accomplished and I look back at my days of hard work and endless worries fondly. The classes are demanding, the people are brilliant, and I have to accept the challenge of proving myself anew every single day. Yet somehow I enjoy it. The fruit in my hand is still hard as a rock but I’ve learned to bite into it now. Some days I fail and my teeth clatter at the surface painfully, other days they poke the solid skin with practiced ease. Nevertheless, one thing that has become an unsaid certainty through my everyday trials and tribulations is that the fruit has never tasted sweeter.

As my tongue came to recognize both the much-anticipated sweetness and the occasional painful bite, I gained the courage to dabble into my hobbies more publicly — tentatively allowing myself to be seen. Writing has always been the sole object of my undivided passion, and it has been thriving since recently. Gaining a place at AUA has skyrocketed my occasional writer’s ponderings into daily philosophical abstract considerations about beginnings, ends, and everything in between. With so many encounters and human interaction on a daily basis, my antisocial self is striving to break out of the shell more than ever. However, on most days I’m still inside the shell — observing humans and learning from them at a carefully non-disruptive but still uncomfortably revealing distance.

A curious fact about human beings is that they like to associate themselves with various cliques as a way of belonging to a certain group of people. My whole life I was the picky eater: the one who would separate the egg whites from the yolk and stare at an endless hole into the leaves of cilantro garnishing my meal until someone had the mercy of taking the plate away from me. I didn’t like when the peas were too mushy or when the pasta was soggy. But most of all I detested the onion in any shape and form. So imagine the horror when I discovered I had become the very thing I disliked my whole life: a multilayered head of an onion with an unlikeable crunchy texture and a skin that just begs to be peeled and peeled until nothing is left of that vile-tasting vegetable. 

Over the course of my life I had acquired a hard surface comprising layers and layers of newfound identity that would be hard, if not impossible, to shake off. I thought I was a shy speaker but college revealed a layer hiding within someone who genuinely enjoyed public speech. I thought I was bad at math but surprised myself with a newfound knack for the previously confusing mix of numbers and letters that I once considered an abomination for forever ruining numbers for me. I thought myself incapable of caring deeply about people that I hadn’t known for at least half a decade, yet here I was catching myself caring a bit too much at times. Suddenly I was interested in new causes, supportive of previously dismissed ideas, wanting things I never thought I would. Needless to say, it was all a bit too much for an onion that has barely crossed the threshold of adulthood. 

I hated the premise of being singularly reminiscent of my weirdly food-related archnemesis, so I looked around. I had to find others on my team now that I was an adult, so that I could make peace with the reality of an onion-shaped universe. It certainly sounded better than a single onion strutting around in a more-or-less normal universe. So, for the sake of my own sanity, whenever I looked at people around me, I imagined them as onions made up of layers that would reveal something new about them if you had the knack of peeling them properly and convincingly. I, for one, have never been a good conversationalist. So peeling layers is something that I have positively given up after years of failed practice full of jarringly embarrassing incidents. Nonetheless, being aware of those layers and the premise they hold is just as helpful as peeling layers would be. It is this realization that holds the key to taking a much-abhorred vegetable out of context and finding it absolutely fascinating when applied to people, including yourself.

A curious fact about human beings is that they like to associate themselves with various cliques as a way to belong with a certain group of people. One would think there would be a better fit to reflect the essence of a species that has gone through a lengthy course of evolution and birthed wonderful innovations that have fostered enlightenment in the world. What can I say, sometimes the way things are in the universe may be strange — almost as strange as placing mankind on par with an onion in the bustling imagination of a 19-year old me. However, as exhilarating as this metaphor may seem, nothing, not even the key to human nature, can change my resentment of onions into something positive.

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