Humans of Harker: Conquering fear

Jacob Kim faces his fears to progress through life


Muthu Panchanatham

“Everyone has their own fears. For me, it's being alone on stage and having all the attention specifically on myself. I think the thing with fears, what's important, isn't that they are all going to go away, it's that you need to face your fears. You're going to feel afraid, you just need to do it anyways,” Jacob Kim (12) said.

Eyes peering over the rocky precipice, he contemplated what the consequences of dropping from such a height would be. Jacob Kim (12) describes himself on top of a cliff in Hawaii, having known that the logical option would have been to walk away from the cliff’s edge and return to his peaceful vacation. The other, more perilous prospect was to jump off the threshold and trust the assurances of others that plunging over the edge was perfectly safe. “What the [heck]? I’m not doing that!” he said to himself. Yet, despite his misgivings, Jacob took a “leap” of faith and dived over the edge to soon emerge unscathed from the water’s depths.

Jacob’s willingness to put himself out there is exemplified by his performances as a saxophonist in jazz band and plays made as one of the captains on the water polo team. Although he dislikes being the center of attention, Jacob surmounts this fear each time he displays his talent onstage.

“Everyone has their own fears. For me, it’s being alone on stage and having all the attention specifically on myself. I think the thing with fears, what’s important, isn’t that they are all going to go away, it’s that you need to face your fears. You’re going to feel afraid, [but] you just need to do it anyways,” Jacob said.

Over the course of his life, Jacob has developed his speaking skills and has become more confident in his abilities. Jacob strives to make the most of every day and forge his own path, disregarding what other people say he should do. Jacob’s previous English teacher Nicholas Manjoine acknowledges Jacob’s transformation during the course of his class.

“He seems like he has a lot more self confidence. He came into my class, not feeling like he was a very autonomous writer or thinker, and I think he left feeling like he owned the experience,” Mr. Manjoine said. “I think he’s definitely matured in that way, he’s got much more self confidence and is not worried about trying to do something everyone else is doing as compared to his own decision based on his own interests.”

In addition to being a role model as a water polo captain, Jacob demonstrates admirable qualities off stage as well. As an experienced musician, Jacob volunteers at a choir for young adults with autism, along with one of his best friends Kelsey Wu (12). Kelsey appreciates Jacob’s eagerness to support those in need, despite his own interests.

Jacob and Kelsey who have been friends for years, have traveled together on many occasions. In one instance, while preparing to snorkel with friends and family on another trip to Hawaii, Kelsey was having second thoughts about jumping off the boat into the cold, blue depths of the ocean.

“I remember holding onto the rails, trying to muster up the courage to jump off the boat, and I think Jacob really encouraged me in that process,” Kelsey said. “I think that aspect of him really shows through in a lot of the things that we do together. He’s really willing to help other people, even at the expense of his own entertainment or enjoyment,”

Nishka Ayyar (12), another of Jacob’s close friends, values Jacob for his eagerness to carry on a conversation and spend time with friends. Nishka described a moment when Jacob exhibited his attentive nature.

“I did [Stanford] Jazz Camp with Jacob, and after camp we used to go to the restaurants in Stanford to eat and ended up talking for a long time. That was really fun,” Nishka said.

Jacob also understands that his achievements would not have been possible without guidance. He recognizes that his parents have made many sacrifices to help him reach his goals, and he hopes that in the future, he can reach even further. Jacob’s dad, after moving from Korea to Washington without a lot of money, had to work extra hours and spend many sleepless nights to support his family. After many hardships, his dad turned his life around with “a little bit of good luck, and a lot of spirit”.

“If I look back to what I know happened in my family before I was born, my parents were poor, and they worked really hard to get me into a place like Harker. That’s really inspiring. They came from nothing, and they made it to something. It just makes me feel that since I’m coming from something, I should be able to make something greater out of what I have. That’s a sentiment that I’m working on,” Jacob said.