Humans of Harker: Acting with confidence

Riva Saksena (12) spreads positivity and finds courage through acting

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Isha Moorjani and Sally Zhu

“[My motto is to] embrace what comes to you … I was so terrified of embarrassing myself that I never put myself out there for most of high school. It wasn’t until last year until I was like, 'Maybe you should just let go.' I embrace all things that come to me: good things and bad things, because they’ll pass, and I can get through them,” Riva Saksena (12) said.

Face animated and eyes bright with energy, Riva Saksena (12) chuckles as she recounts the events that occurred at one of the SDS productions last year. She describes the passion she had felt while performing, and how she accidentally spit water onto the stage when too immersed in her acting. Riva draws smiles to the faces of those around her, her charisma amplified through her vivacious character. Her eyes focus back to her surroundings as she finishes her story, but a glow of excitement continues to light up her face.

Riva discovered a new hobby while finding her personal confidence: acting. She participated in SDS productions in her freshman and junior years and performed this year as well in “An Absolutely True Story (As Told by a Bunch of Lying Liars)” as the character Kelly. As a freshman, Riva lost much of her confidence after injuring her ankle as a cross country athlete, but she soon gained back her confidence through SDS. 

“There’s a lot of embarrassing moments, but it’s a very exhilarating experience,” Riva said. “The adrenaline you get on stage is the best thing you could feel. SDS helped me … love acting again.”

Acting not only helped Riva enjoy her junior year to the fullest but also helped her close friends experience a new, more confident side of her. Radhika Jain (12), who has known Riva since eighth grade, has watched her grow tremendously over the years. 

“[Riva has grown into] someone who is aware of what she’s good at, and she’s aware of her support system, and she’s just more aware of herself,” Radhika said.

Through her high school years, Riva’s optimism has spread to her friends, family, and teachers. Even through difficult times, her positivity never fails to shine. 

“She always comes in with a smile, no matter how hard her day has been … that’s what I think is her greatest strength. She’s such a positive person to be with,” Dr. Mala Raghavan, Riva’s advisor, said. 

Radiating positivity wherever she goes is an integral part of Riva’s personality, and it reflects in her everyday interactions with the people around her. She and Ayla Tanurhan (12), another one of Riva’s close friends, go to Philz Coffee every day to work on homework or just to talk, and they are always open with and supportive of each other. 

“She has such a positive energy, and I think that’s continued as we’ve gotten older. And obviously stress tears her down sometimes, but she always builds herself back up again,” Ayla said.

Aside from spreading positivity, Riva is interested in various topics, one of them being politics. Riva is an advocate for feminism and follows politics avidly. She stays updated with the events occurring in the 2020 elections, and she also plans on voting in the elections, for she feels it is important that her voice is heard. 

“People aren’t actually listening to others and just staying in their own views and regressing … If we could all listen to each other and understand where [others] are coming from, I think that would help people a lot,” Riva said.

The supportive environment in which Riva lives has shaped who she is today, and she is grateful that her parents gave her the freedom to discover what interests her. 

“I definitely feel like [my parents’] letting me live my own life and giving me the independence to do that really helped me not focus so much on the little details and look at the bigger picture, and that it doesn’t matter in the long run.”

Riva has tried many hobbies throughout her life, such as squash, art and guitar to find something that she loved doing, and she has made many mistakes along the way. Still, her confidence has not waned, only growing stronger as she explores new interests. 

“It doesn’t make you any less of a person if you don’t have one specific passion that you want to pursue for your whole life. [My parents] taught me that I have my whole life to do that, and it’s okay to mess up a couple of times before I figure out what I want to do because that’s just how life is,” Riva said.

For much of Riva’s freshman and sophomore years, she did not find her personal confidence, but she has learned to let go of her worries and to focus on accepting life for its ups and downs. 

“[My motto is to] embrace what comes to you … I was so terrified of embarrassing myself that I never put myself out there for most of high school,” Riva said. “It wasn’t until last year until I was like, ‘Maybe you should just let go.’ I embrace all things that come to me: good things and bad things, because they’ll pass, and I can get through them.”