Humans of Harker: A world of facets

Arusha Patil commits to connecting with others and thriving in spontaneity

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Sara Yen

“I’m someone who overthinks a lot of things, but the one thing in my life that I don’t overthink is why I do the things I do. It’s more like I do them to the best of my ability — how can I learn the most of [what] I somehow stumbled upon. You make the best of what you have. It goes back to the idea of spontaneity and living in the moment,” Arusha Patil (12) said.

“It’s either a good time or a good story.” 

Whether lost in the countryside of Peru, stuck in a blizzard in Iceland or captivated by a Buddhist temple in San Francisco, Arusha Patil (12) lives by this quote and relishes serendipity.

“[This quote] has very much guided me and my family because my family’s very much the spontaneous type,” she said. “Something that I’ve very much enjoyed [is] the spontaneity of life. Those lifelong experiences happened as a result of not planning.” 

Arusha carries this breezy mindset in her travels not only at the destination itself but on the journey as well. Asking the simple question “Where are you heading?” to the person next to her on airplanes has allowed her to hear many impactful stories.

“When you’re sitting next to a stranger, you’re talking to someone who you will never see again,” Arusha said. “They’re inherently more willing to talk to you and share their experiences with you. For me, it’s always been [curiosity] — who is this person next to me?”

The first time Arusha spoke to a fellow passenger was on a flight to a speech and debate tournament in seventh grade. She soon learned that the stranger was a man who dropped out of high school after struggling with drugs and had been homeless for the past few weeks. After Arusha asked what his dreams were, he revealed he wanted to be a chef.

“That was the moment where I [realized] people have so many facets,” Arusha said. “All of these people that you interact with in one way, in school, for example, they have dreams, they have emotions that they struggle with. That was when I started becoming aware of how we only see a fraction of [people] at school. And more than that, people are people. It’s a very basic realization, but it’s something that I don’t think many people realize.”

This understanding of people guides Arusha in all of her interactions at school, whether in TEDx, student council or Link Crew. The people involved are what make or break any undertaking for Arusha. 

“A lot of the communities that I’m involved in, the parts that I’ve most enjoyed are when I’m discovering other parts of my peers, or other facets of them,” she said. “Whether that be how they lead, how they interact with our community — what do they bring to the table? When I see that, I get really excited.”

Arusha loves how the different perspectives that her peers bring contribute to the strength of teamwork when working toward common goals, such as school events. Seeing students react to the fruition of these projects makes what she does satisfying. 

“Everything just becomes worth it for me when I see the ripple effects of the things that I do,” Arusha said. “When students are laughing at Quadchella or dancing at [Homecoming], it’s these small things that really make me feel fulfilled.”

Beyond school, Arusha also looks to support and make change in her broader community. Hearing a TEDx speaker talk about interviewing hundreds of homeless people led Arusha to volunteer weekly with her local shelter. Arusha’s interest in hearing stories and experiences influences how she interacts with the people at the shelter.

“These [homeless] people have gone through immense abuse but still end up creating a Bible program or a company to sell crocheted items,” she said. “They’re very much human beings, and that’s often forgotten when you generalize [them]. When I talk to a lot of these homeless people, I hear that there’s an overwhelming sense of isolation and invisibility. For me, it’s always been about how I can alleviate that sense of isolation [and] encourage connection.”

Listening to the needs and wishes of these homeless people encouraged Arusha to start a project with Girl Scouts to create a bilingual library at her shelter with books in both English and Spanish. After interviewing 20 to 30 people at the shelter, Arusha saw that one need was a place where people could leave their children, do homework or meditate. 

“I wanted to create a library where people could have a quiet space to connect with others in a different setting other than the shelter itself, where you just have beds and tables,” she said. “It’s a spatial shift — I [wanted to] change how you approach interaction at the shelter.”

Although Arusha challenges herself to connect with more people and push perceived limits, she never questions the rationale behind her actions. She aims to make the most of her opportunities and learn from every experience.  

“I’m someone who overthinks a lot of things, but the one thing in my life that I don’t overthink is why I do the things I do,” Arusha said. “It’s more like I do them to the best of my ability — how can I learn the most of [what] I somehow stumbled upon. You make the best of what you have. It goes back to the idea of spontaneity and living in the moment.”

Arusha’s openmindedness towards her life translates to a receptive mindset in the classroom as well. Her close friend Suman Mohanty (12) attested to Arusha’s flexibility when learning.

“Every time in class, if [Arusha] has an idea, she will say it, [but] if someone else has a contradicting belief, she won’t shut that down or anything,” Suman said. “She’ll be very open to it and have a really solid discussion about whatever the topic is.”

Upper school English teacher Brigid Miller, who taught Arusha American Literature in junior year, similarly recounted Arusha’s ability to make her peers feel accepted when offering their opinions.

“Arusha more than anything to me is just so earnest and passionate about learning and about certain causes — it’s wonderfully refreshing,” Miller said. “There’s this sort of aura around her that makes everyone feel welcome and willing to share and feel safe in the classroom.”

In any environment, Arusha gives off an ambience of warmth and acceptance. As much as she is caring, Arusha is equally as playful and vivacious. 

“[Arusha is] the only person who I could have a full-on dance party with,” close friend Michelle Si (12) said. “You get so much energy from talking to her and seeing her be excited about things. If you don’t have an Arusha Patil, you have to go get one — and she always says that she’s very expensive.”