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Humans of Harker: Derek Yen voraciously pursues knowledge

%E2%80%9CI+don%27t+want+to+have+to+abandon+anything.+I%27m+one+of+those+kinds+of+people+for+whom+choosing+a+major+will+be+painful%E2%80%94not+just+difficult%E2%80%94painful.+Cause%2C+I+really+don%27t+want+to+have+to+restrict+myself+to+anything.+I+really+just+enjoy+learning+whatever+as+it+is%2C%E2%80%9D+Derek+Yen+%2812%29+said.
“I don't want to have to abandon anything. I'm one of those kinds of people for whom choosing a major will be painful—not just difficult—painful. Cause, I really don't want to have to restrict myself to anything. I really just enjoy learning whatever as it is,” Derek Yen (12) said.

“I don't want to have to abandon anything. I'm one of those kinds of people for whom choosing a major will be painful—not just difficult—painful. Cause, I really don't want to have to restrict myself to anything. I really just enjoy learning whatever as it is,” Derek Yen (12) said.

Kaitlin Hsu

Kaitlin Hsu

“I don't want to have to abandon anything. I'm one of those kinds of people for whom choosing a major will be painful—not just difficult—painful. Cause, I really don't want to have to restrict myself to anything. I really just enjoy learning whatever as it is,” Derek Yen (12) said.

by Kaitlin Hsu, Winged Post and Wingspan Co-Editor-In-Chief

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On all counts, Derek Yen (12) is an enigma.

On this particular Thursday, he is clothed in a blue shirt, an unbuttoned red and black plaid jacket, khakis and Vans. He forgets to drink the Earl Grey tea he has steeped for himself and absentmindedly fiddles with the corner of his shirt throughout the interview.

But, it seems that actually understanding Derek escapes even his own scrutinizing eye. Who is Derek Yen? What is an identity? Historically, scholars, academics and philosophers, amongst others, have thoroughly debated this ontological question.

Some may attribute identity to rational thought or to emotion, but another tradition asserts that one’s identity truly resides in the things that one desires. By defining Derek as what he loves and cutting away the swathes of negative space around him, perhaps, one can begin to solidify the edges of Derek Yen.

Throughout his high school career, Derek has participated in Quiz Bowl and Science Bowl, led Linguistics Club as its president and acted as the STEM and Opinion Editor for the Winged Post, among other activities, such as conducting research as a Near Scholar.

The wide range of extracurriculars points to Derek’s clearest personality trait: his unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

“Derek is delightfully and confidently odd. One of the things I like best about him is that he doesn’t apologize for his idiosyncrasies and his particular interests,” English teacher Mr. Christopher Hurshman said. “He pursues them passionately without apology. He is relentless about figuring things out when they perplex him—intellectually curious, dedicated to figuring things out.”

Delving deeper into his love for knowledge, Derek specifically enjoys occupying the liminal space between the esoteric and the practical. In fact, for him, the two aren’t mutually exclusive—pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge will naturally lead to beneficial, pragmatic outcomes.

“There is value in not having a particular goal in mind because there are a lot of things that are only discovered serendipitously,” Derek said. “I mean, that’s the theme of scientific discovery as a whole, and I think if you spend high school trying to meet numbers, you’re going to be very disappointed.”

Derek brings this zeal not only to his learning but also to his everyday character. He comports himself confidently in his daily interactions, never equivocating on his personal values—be that his interest in watches and pens or esteem for the truth.

“[Derek] can’t really be confined in any sort of box, and I think that’s one of his greatest attributes. I think that who Derek is can be more easily answered by what he isn’t,” Andrew Semenza (12) said. “In that, he isn’t the sort of person to acquiesce to other people’s standards, demands or categorizations at all. I admire that in people. I really do.”

But, Derek’s faithful adherence to his principles shouldn’t be mistaken for rigidity. These tenets are less black-and-white rules than general guides for life.

“I think he’s kind of hard to fit into only a few words because he’s a very broad person,” Sara Yen (9), Derek’s sister, said. “I think he has a lot of personality, so sometimes he can be really funny and goofy, and other times he’s more serious.”

Understanding Derek completely may amount to a Sisyphean task: the time and energy necessary to dissect any individual far exceeds these 619 words. But, like Derek’s perpetual journey for knowledge, starting with an educated guess is better than never beginning.

“I don’t want to have to abandon anything. I’m one of those kinds of people for whom choosing a major will be painful—not just difficult—painful,” Derek said. “Cause, I really don’t want to have to restrict myself to anything. I really just enjoy learning whatever as it is.”

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Humans of Harker: Derek Yen voraciously pursues knowledge