Humans of Harker: Satisfaction in duality

Richard Hu (12) freely switches in and out of spontaneous humor and creative introspection


Anthony Xu

"I internalize a lot of things. Inside I'm pretty creative, but that could be subjective. It's easier to communicate with yourself what you're thinking than with others...I feel like when you keep things to yourself, your thoughts progress more rapidly even if you're [not] getting an outside perspective," Richard Hu (12) said.

Every day, when you walk past the green tables outside the journalism room during the hustle and bustle of lunchtime, you may hear a sudden outburst of genuine laughter pierce the regular conversations between the many friend groups. If you turned your head towards that sound, you would likely see multiple seniors doubling over, heads in their hands and tears in their eyes, all because Richard Hu (12) opened his mouth for just a couple of seconds. 

“You never know when Richard’s going to break out in some hilarious joke that will leave you dying [of laughter],” longtime friend Vishnu Jaisim (12) said. “You never know. And that’s what makes Richard so unique: his ability to completely blindside you by what he’s gonna say. No matter what he says, it’s always amazing and insane and intuitive and informative.”

One of Vishnu’s favorite memories of Richard occurred within an iMessage group chat with more than twenty people.

“Someone sent a video of their dog with bunny ears eating a carrot, so Richard goes and puts a medicine mask on his head and eats an orange peel,” Vishnu said. “That was the funniest thing ever, and we started dying of laughter in our respective households. Richard has such an ability to lift [the spirits of] a crowd of his friends, people that he cares about.”

Richard himself strives to keep making these short, random remarks to his peers because it brings joy to him as well.

“Sometimes I like to see if I can make people uncomfortable for humor,” Richard said. “I find it funny. For me, interacting normally feels boring. There’s not much of a time to talk about the thoughts I have. It’s hard to bring that stuff up, so acting in this way feels more spontaneous and more natural towards others.”

While much of the school community is familiar with Richard’s hilarious remarks, few know about the life that Richard leads when he’s not cracking jokes. In reality, he spends a lot of time quiet with his own thoughts, as his friends have noticed.

“He switches on and off between this quiet, rational person to someone who is quite emotional, and he changes between it often,” close friend Jack Jia (12) said. “He’s not extreme on both levels, but he jumps around between the two. Sometimes he’s humorous, sometimes he’s serious.”

Many of the thoughts and ideas that arise in Richard’s mind are never brought up in discussions with his friends, or with anyone.

“I internalize a lot of things,” Richard said. “It’s easier to communicate with yourself what you’re thinking than with others … I feel like when you keep things to yourself, your thoughts progress more rapidly, even if you’re [not] getting an outside perspective.”

When he keeps to himself, ideas start to flow, and from a surprisingly young age, deeper conversations and topics develop within his own mind.

“When I was younger, I used to daydream a lot, so I came up with weird scenarios,” he said. “Sometimes I actually thought of existential questions. When I was in like 4th or 5th grade, I was already thinking about ‘What does it really mean to be us?’ or like ‘Are all the perceptions we hold of reality true?’”

Richard believes that many people also internalize these types of thoughts without talking about them.

“I’m pretty sure more people think about that than we know,” he said. “We have enough free time to explore our own thoughts, and I think those topics come up sometimes.”

Through this internal process, Richard’s creativity shines through when he acts on his ideas. For instance, when he has free time, he makes abstract drawings with a distinct art style that nowadays, many students can immediately recognize his artwork. For his art, he often starts off spontaneous, and then he turns those initial shapes into a piece that often evokes a certain mood.

“I especially do things that are angry or disgusting,” Richard said. “Then, I start creating abstraction in the object to convey some kind of symbolic message. Sometimes I try to draw with illusions. For example, for one of my recent ones I tried to do a gradient background but I put suffering faces into each of the grids so that some were darker than others.”

Richard believes art that highlights the grotesque is typically underrepresented, which is why he’s so fascinated with making pieces that deal with naturally repulsive visuals. 

“A lot of people, when they think of art, they think of aesthetics, referring to beauty or something pleasurable,” he said. “But that’s not the only emotion you can convey. I think art that people find unpleasant and therefore be repulsed by has a lot more areas that we can explore. So I try to convey a specific subset of those emotions. I just want to be a little more creative than normal.”

Additionally, Richard finds a sense of relaxation in making this type of raw, emotional art.

“If I’m angry, drawing something that conveys anger helps release emotion,” he said. “Putting your emotions on paper helps you understand what you’re feeling in the moment more.”

Richard’s creativity also carries over in the academic field, specifically with his interest in biology, which started with curiosity as a seven-year-old observing ants that raided his kitchen every summer for food.

“I wondered ‘How were they able to find these sources of food?’ and ‘how did they know to follow the same path back and forth from all the way in the garden to the kitchen food and back?’” he said.  “It didn’t seem like they could communicate, and later I learned they are not able to see. So starting to explore that animal behavior got me interested in the secret mechanisms of life.”

One idea he’s been working on for a year and a half now is a device that can translate speech from those with vocal impairments. This idea stemmed from him thinking about his grandfather, who suffered from a stroke and developed a vocal impairment.

“I thought of how hard it was for him to communicate his medical needs to people, even the basic needs, and we would have him blink to say yes or no,” Richard said. “With the recent improvements of speech recognition technology, I came up with the idea of focusing on these patients with unique vocal patterns to help them translate.”

Even when it became hard to balance schoolwork and extracurriculars with the research project, Richard stuck with the research and followed it through, due to his philosophy of hard work. Now, he’s waiting to collect data from real patients in order to test the accuracy of his program.

“I was really aware that if I didn’t put in the effort, it wasn’t going to go anywhere,” he said. “I’m trying to get as close to my goal as possible, so that’s why I was willing to sacrifice that one semester of junior year to get things working.”

Even though Richard jokes around with his friends with his unique, quirky personality, there’s a whole other thoughtful, creative and hardworking side that pushes him forward. His biggest fear is failure, but in Richard’s eyes, failure is not defined by a lack of accomplishments or accolades. Instead, it’s defined by a lack of value in the activities one does.

“I don’t want to be wasting my life away,” Richard said. “I’ve had that feeling multiple times, for instance in sophomore year when I started playing video games for like five hours a day. After a while, you don’t even enjoy that stuff anymore and you feel like you could be doing better things. This is a certain time in your life when you should be developing, so you should try to make the most out of it as you can.”