The Chrysalis

I’m in the midst of collaborating on a project, and I needed to refer back to my dissertation. I wrote these words over a year ago, and yet, I feel as though they describe the current state I am in.

…without a doubt, I have been profoundly affected by examining the experiences of the women in this study. When I began the recruitment procedures through a recruitment email, I had asked the participants to think of their journey this way:

A striped caterpillar crawls to attach itself to a vibrant green stem of a leaf. It hangs upside down and slowly begins to expand and contract its body. The caterpillar then becomes engulfed by a green casing. It hangs like a holiday ornament, otherwise known as a chrysalis. Some stay in this stage for days. Others are in darkness for a year. After some time passes, what was once the elongated body of a caterpillar, pushes itself through the casing. The insect that laboriously inched its way across the land flutters away into the sky with its delicate wings.

When I first wrote this description, my intended audience was the potential participants. But now, as I reflect on my journey as a researcher and as an Asian immigrant woman, this metaphor has a deeper meaning for me.

My eight years in this doctoral program often felt like I was in a chrysalis. In the dark casing, I was frustrated and confused about the amount of knowledge I needed to seek out, understand, and synthesize. I could have easily stayed in the chrysalis forever, and my work would have become obsolete. But, a strong desire to move the work beyond my mind propelled me to the other side and into the light.

This body of work would not have emerged without the inspiring stories of the women in this study. By listening to the women’s stories, I have come to recognize the professional and educational achievements I have attained in my life. Their stories became infused with my stories, allowing me to reconsider my identity and how I may transform as I move forward into the next phase of my life, as a scholar-practitioner.

The Grand Canyon, 2013.

Grand Canyon portrait

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