BY GRACE HACHIGIAN
To my odar friends, I would say that what makes me different is being 100% Armenian, going to a traditional Armenian church, and living in regards to my rich heritage. Although I am a traditional Armenian woman in these specific ways, I am unconventional in that I play the aggressive and somewhat masculine sport of beach volleyball.
Everyday, I throw my body through the sand, diving for each ball before it hits the ground. I endure lifting weights and demanding drills which give me stronger muscles. I jump as high as I can to powerfully spike the ball, resulting in a point for my team. I scream at the top of my lungs calling for the ball and telling my partner where to hit. As if screaming, diving through sand, lifting weights, hitting the ball with all my might, and viciously competing for every point isn’t unorthodox enough, I do it all in a bikini. Many Armenians would argue that a bathing suit for a uniform is amot, but it is a part of who I am.
I am not your ordinary Armenian woman. I do not speak fluent Armenian, I have not mastered the art of baking boreg (yet), and I do not represent the stereotypes of what an Armenian woman should be like. Although I am fierce on the court, I clean up for church on Sundays wearing nothing less than my Sunday best. I am deeply involved in my Armenian community. This includes being the president of the thriving Armenian Club at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, California. As a woman president leading 75 members, I demand respect and attention while leading the club through meetings, service projects and conducting educational presentations about the Armenian culture.
Being different does not make me feel unattached to the Armenian community even though what I do may not fit the molds of the orthodox society. Instead, it makes me feel motivated, passionate and unique. I love being Armenian and I cherish the uniqueness I bring to my culture! That’s what makes me Grace Veronique Hachigian, a 16-year-old Armenian woman who steps out of the box of social norms in order to advance our beautiful culture and community.