Harker Aquila

Humans of Harker: Living with conviction

Angela Li explores the world and herself

%22It%E2%80%99s+not+necessarily+stage+fright%2C+but+I+don%E2%80%99t+like+being+put+on+the+spot%E2%80%A6+%5Bor%5D+showing+myself+in+general.+Honestly%2C+I+hated+%5Bthe+beauty+pageant%5D+at+first.+But%2C+I+kind+of+gradually+liked+it+more%E2%80%A6+Going+through+it%2C+I+didn%E2%80%99t+realize%2C+but+then+after+it%2C+I+realized+that+it%E2%80%99s+given+me+a+lot+more+confidence.+I%E2%80%99m+still+the+same+level+of+self-conscious+as+I+was+before%2C+I+think%2C+but+when+it+comes+time+that+I+can+be+more+open%2C+I%E2%80%99m+a+lot+more+confident%2C%22+Angela+Li+%2812%29+said.
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Humans of Harker: Living with conviction

"It’s not necessarily stage fright, but I don’t like being put on the spot… [or] showing myself in general. Honestly, I hated [the beauty pageant] at first. But, I kind of gradually liked it more… Going through it, I didn’t realize, but then after it, I realized that it’s given me a lot more confidence. I’m still the same level of self-conscious as I was before, I think, but when it comes time that I can be more open, I’m a lot more confident," Angela Li (12) said.

Gloria Zhu

"It’s not necessarily stage fright, but I don’t like being put on the spot… [or] showing myself in general. Honestly, I hated [the beauty pageant] at first. But, I kind of gradually liked it more… Going through it, I didn’t realize, but then after it, I realized that it’s given me a lot more confidence. I’m still the same level of self-conscious as I was before, I think, but when it comes time that I can be more open, I’m a lot more confident," Angela Li (12) said.

Gloria Zhu

Gloria Zhu

"It’s not necessarily stage fright, but I don’t like being put on the spot… [or] showing myself in general. Honestly, I hated [the beauty pageant] at first. But, I kind of gradually liked it more… Going through it, I didn’t realize, but then after it, I realized that it’s given me a lot more confidence. I’m still the same level of self-conscious as I was before, I think, but when it comes time that I can be more open, I’m a lot more confident," Angela Li (12) said.

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Golden star-shaped earrings swaying and glinting, Angela Li’s (12) highlighted hair projects a muted ochre in the hazy autumn sun, a pleasant complement to her cream-colored sweater. Sitting on a dented metal bench and idly mixing a slushy plastic cup of vanilla ice cream, she smiles, describing her experiences as a swimmer and gesturing towards the outline of her eyes, where swim goggles tend to leave their imprints.

“Most people know me as a competitive swimmer,” she said, “Most of the time people can recognize me by my goggle tan…  I’ve been swimming since I was five, and then competitive swimming since I was eight.”

Angela’s effort during practice has always been evident to her teammates and her coach, Tania Chadwick.

“[Angela] is just a hard worker in the pool,” Chadwick described, “There were times when she really had her mind set on what she wanted to do — like at a race, really giving it her all and putting all of her effort in to get to where she wanted to be.”

Swimming has been a huge part of Angela’s life for so long that senior year, as she takes a break to focus on applications, feels empty without it.

“Since we practice so much, it’s just like a part of my life,” she said, “Like now, I feel weird because I don’t have anything to do after school… and I’m not used to having so much free time.”

Although Angela’s determination is evident in her athletic prowess, she still finds time for a variety of other activities outside of swimming that interest her, like sewing, which she began upon finding how some clothes wouldn’t fit her well, either being too long or too short.

“Growing up, my mom always would sew stuff together because she didn’t want to buy new stuff, so then I slowly learned how to hand sew from her and now I have a sewing machine, which makes it so much easier,” Angela said.

She never hesitates to try new things that she considers fun or enriching, be it with her friends or of her own volition.

“She’s just really open to do things with me,” Ashley Jia (12), Angela’s friend since freshman year, said. “That’s really cool because sometimes I get scared to do things by myself, and with someone else, it makes it more fun and it helps us connect more.”

Despite having to balance swimming, school and her other interests, Angela pushes through with determination.

“[The hardest thing to deal with in high school] was definitely balancing swimming with academics…  I would get home at like eight, and then I would eat dinner and I wouldn’t really have time to do anything,” she said. “Especially having to wake up for morning practice… I would show up to first period with completely soaked hair, and I would want to nap the entire morning.”

English teacher Christopher Hurshman, Angela’s adviser, described her resolve and attitude towards difficulties like these, especially in such a competitive environment like Harker, where many students are overloaded in their responsibilities.

“The thing that has been most impressive about [Angela] is that she’s been able to continue to move forward and to bounce back from these occasional frustrations and obstacles and use them to reevaluate her priorities and what’s most important to her,” he said.

High school has not only seen Angela grow stronger and more resilient but also more confident, as Hurshman also mentioned. When their advisory first met four years ago, she was more quiet and didn’t contribute her opinions and thoughts with quite as much ease.

“Over time, she’s grown obviously comfortable with speaking out when she wants to and asserting herself as necessary,” Hurshman said. “It’s not something that stands out as a really dramatic difference but in some ways, it’s the most important difference, that she’s settled into her own skin.”

Last year, when Angela participated in a beauty pageant for the first time in San Francisco, coerced by her parents, she was fully prepared to dislike it. A pageant seemed unnecessary and uncomfortable, and she had never been one for the limelight. However, Angela had no choice but to accept this new situation and give it her all – and in doing so, she realized as time went on that the pageant had its own positive effects.

“It’s not necessarily stage fright, but I don’t like being put on the spot… [or] showing myself in general. Honestly, I hated it at first,” Angela said. “But, I kind of gradually liked it more… Going through it, I didn’t realize, but then after it, I realized that it’s given me a lot more confidence. I’m still the same level of self-conscious as I was before, I think, but when it comes time that I can be more open, I’m a lot more confident.”

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Humans of Harker: Living with conviction