Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)



First Advisor

Robert J. Nash


In sixth grade, I did an art project where I painted a self-portrait. I decided to paint myself looking in a mirror. On the right-hand side of the canvas was the back of my head. On the left-hand side was a reflection of my face looking back at me in the mirror. During one session with my art teacher, she looked at my painting and paused before asking, “what happened?” She paused again before continuing that at one point the painting was on the right track, implying since that point, something had gone terribly wrong. I mean what was looking back at me in the mirror was quite scary. It was a girl with sharp, angry brows who was grimacing like that emoji with clenched teeth. By the end of the project the painting only got uglier and unfortunately lived in my family’s home for years to come. My mom once told me that “interesting” isn’t necessarily a good thing. It was said right after I proudly shared with her that I received a certificate that read, “Most Interesting Art Project” for a paper doll I made to look like myself in eighth grade. Since that subtle comment, I’ve always been careful about how I choose and use words. I didn’t dare challenge my mom’s comment. Instead, I recall being mad at my art teacher. How could she call my paper doll interesting! What did she mean by that? I’ve always been better with paper than paint and I knew that unlike my self-portrait that I had painted two years prior, this doll I constructed, complete with my ponytail and 空手着 (karate uniform) actually looked like me!

It’s been over a decade since these two “art incidents” but oddly enough these stories are quite telling about my current self-perception. This is the power of storytelling. Not only does it help me to connect with people beyond small talk but writing and reflecting on my past has helped me understand who I am now. Today I am an educator, supervisor of students, and a young professional in higher education. More than titles or positions I hold, I find meaning in the relationships I build with my colleagues, students, mentors, and community. What I have learned and hope to share to all educators, staff, students, and leaders by way of writing this thesis is the value and necessity of exploring, unlearning, and challenging yourself to understand who you are, how you are who you are, and why you are who you are. While recognizing that I have changed and will continue to change through growth, learning, and time, I find security at this intersection of past and future where I am present in this self. As someone who is empathetic, I am sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions. With context, I attempt to understand how someone else may feel still while recognizing I may never truly know their experience. On the contrary, I’ve discovered that to be empathetic with my own self is quite challenging! This insight has created inner chaos and has helped me understand how I do and don’t process my own feelings and emotions regularly. As someone who has made it a priority to serve others, I am fueled by keeping busy as a way to have a purpose in all of my actions. I want to be useful. Through this grind, I’ve lost a sense of who I am and valuing myself beyond my work and what I am capable of. I don’t believe this is a unique experience. I have taken responsibility for burning out and running on empty. I am shifting gears. I have taken this opportunity to write my own experiences in hopes that there is something to be learned from it for anyone who has ever taken on too much, has run away from themselves, or been uncomfortable with who they are.



Number of Pages

101 p.