Are you prepared to go unexpected places?

You know how it goes: “If someone told me 10 years ago that I would be such and such, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years.”

I know the feeling. Very well. This notion of unexpected outcomes came to the forefront of my mind this week because I found myself saying that above line nearly verbatim. Mine goes like this:

“In 2002, if someone told me that in fifteen years that I would be a drama teacher in Saudi Arabia, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years. I would have thought they were experiencing severe mental delusions.”

You see, in 2002, I was living in Vietnam, teaching English at the college level to Vietnamese students studying to be English teachers. I was a frustrated, wannabee, writer who never wrote. I was immersed in Vietnamese culture and language, and I had even contemplated (for a few seconds) going on for a PHD in Vietnamese history. I had never acted in my life. I had never been involved in any drama productions. The extent of my dramatic experiences involved writing a play which I read to my mother when I was twelve, and writing a couple small skits which were performed in some low-key settings. Oh, I did act as Forrest Gump in a skit, so I take that acting bit back.

But I had nothing in my background that would have indicated that I was destined to be a drama teacher.

And I had nothing in my background that indicated that I would ever end up in Saudi Arabia.

So therefore, the combination of those two–teaching drama in Saudi Arabia–would have seemed too implausible to even ponder.

However, as I sit in Jeddah on the heels of my first week of teaching theatre at the American school, I am quite taken back at the loops and rabbit-chasing trails my life has gone down in the past fifteen years in order to arrive at this point. And to think it all happened because that frustrated writer sitting in Vietnam became inspired by a group of students in Malaysia.

I’ve told this story before, but I still like it. I moved to Malaysia in 2006 to teach history. (Yes, that’s a whole different story of how I suddenly switched from English to history!) As the drama director at the school was leaving, I volunteered to start a drama-writing group where I would collaborate with a group of students and we would write and produce a play for the next school year.

That was the genesis of it all. The interesting point in my mind is this: what was the impetus for me wanting to write and produce a drama with students? I don’t actually know the answer to this. It’s something that just popped in my mind, and instead of dismissing it, which I can’t believe I didn’t, I embraced and proposed it to the school. That was the crucial moment. For some reason, I stepped in to try something that I had never tried before. If I had not jumped in at that moment, I am fairly certain I wouldn’t be teaching drama in Saudi Arabia. If I had not jumped in, someone else would have eventually filled the drama void at our school and I would have sat in the audience enjoying the shows, never fully understanding how much I loved theatre.

I know now that I wasn’t meant to observe theatre. I was meant to create it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The only advice I have as I look back on my journey is that if you get an itch or an urge that you should jump in and try something, don’t delay. You never know where it might lead you. It could make you change careers in mid-stream and send you to far off lands to do things you never would have imagined but now couldn’t ever live without.

Where might you be in 15 years? I hope the answer surprises you.

Try Something New: I Write Songs

When was the last time you tried to do something where you felt completely out of your element? When was the last time you tried something where you felt completely clueless about how to proceed or what to do?

I feel that way all the time because I like to create songs, but I don’t know the first thing about music. The last music class I ever took was in 4th grade. I remember I learned a tune on the flut-o-phone. My mother played the piano, and I remember asking her as a small boy if I could learn. I took one lesson from her and then didn’t want to do anymore. I regret that now. About 12 years ago, I heard my friend say that he practiced the guitar for 30 minutes a day for 6 months and after that time he could play songs. I decided I wanted to play enough to strum chords and make songs, so I did it. So I know a set amount of guitar chords, but that is it when it comes to music. I can’t read a note.

Honestly, I know nothing about music, but I’ve written several musicals – of course, not without help. Here’s what I’m working with now, my ipad Garageband.


This week, I started writing a mini-musical to enter in the Short & Sweet Musical festival later this year. I have a solid concept, but was wondering how to pull it off. Here’s the way I write music:

I turn on my digital recorder and then just create some sort of catchy melody in head which I will hum or sing with mock lyrics into the recorder. Once I have that basic tune, I’ll sit at my computer with my headphones on, listening back to the tune, and I’ll start pounding out some lyrics. ¬†As I polish the lyrics, that usually helps to refine the melody, of which, I’ll re-record with my vocals.

This week, however, I discovered that I can get out my ipad and peck out the melody on the grand piano. So now, I’ll record the melody on my ipad, combine the melody with my vocals on Audacity, create an mp3 file, and then call in the cavalry.

I’ll send my crude recordings to my co-composer who does all the heavy lifting, since she actually knows what she is doing. She’ll arrange, record, and score the song until it’s amazing.

So I just finished part I of my new mini-musical. Sounding great, so far.

I love musical writing. It’s a very fun, rewarding creative outlet that is different from storytelling.

So if I can write music, trust me, you can do anything you always wanted to do but were afraid to try. Go for it!

And have fun doing it!