Kayla McCain - Contena

Kayla McCain

Hello everyone! I'm Kayla, a freelance writing ESL teacher! I'm currently teaching English in South Korea but will be transitioning to freelance writing full-time by September 2020. Freelance writing is a career I've wanted as it allows me to work with people from all over the world while I travel where I want, when I want, so it's time I make it happen!

Writing was a hobby in high school but turned into a passion while I attended San Jose State University. I started with a nursing major but switched majors and earned a BA in English with a Concentration in Technical Writing. I also have a background in education that comes from substitute teaching, mentoring at Boys & Girls Club, and now having experience as an ESL teacher for almost two years.

Communicating the beauty that comes with human connection is my favorite thing to write about since life is full of serendipitous moments! I wrote about such moments in my self-published book Letters From Wanderland, which is a collection of handwritten letters dedicated to my loved ones from home and abroad...I worked in Australia for nearly a year before I began teaching in South Korea. :) 

Other passions include scuba diving, reading, and coloring. They're my meditations when I'm not writing or exploring; so is spending time at the beach or camping. 

Let's exchange travel stories! I'm keen to hear where you've been and where you're going. 

A Lion, a Mug, a Drum Set
Front Page
1 minute read

On land I am a lion, for I’ve had to exercise strength, courage, and personal power to tame a steady mind that can savor life. In water I am a playful beluga whale that loves to communicate, except for when my face emotes too fast and therefore robs any chance of responding appropriately in social situations. Can’t complain, though, because my face also radiates joy! In the air I am a tiny, loving, rainbow lorikeet that loves people regardless of sex or gender, but I admittedly have a special affinity for women.

I am not just a mug; I am your favorite mug. Some of us have a few mugs, others have many. If you’re someone that has a few, I am the one you use the most because I am comfortable and reliable. If you have many, I might be forgotten because I get pushed to the back sometimes, or I just get busy doing mug things, but I always resurface to the forefront of your attention, reminding you why I am your favorite mug.

I am a drum set. Any set of drums. I can be loud, chaotic, systematic. You will feel me deep in your chest if you get close enough, or if I am loud enough. I sometimes go unnoticed under the other layers but I am the layer that is deeply missed when absent. The most important things I do are set the beat and have a short solo when it matters most.

My favorite fiction book is Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks. His story has convinced me to believe imaginary friends have their own lives, worlds, and stories that should be respected and cultivated for the children that have them. We cannot maintain imaginary friends through adulthood but we can maintain our inner-child. This book made me realize the importance of maintaining mine for the rest of my life.

A memoir called Call It Wonder: an odyssey of love, sex, spirit, and travel was a life-line that reminded me I matter, as I am, and can do great things when I try. The lion in me wasn’t hungry at the time but Call It Wonder helped me regain my appetite.

My life path is going through a serendipitous shift right now full of abundance. The shift is a bit wobbly and heavy at times but abundant all the same. Not everyone can say that so I am grateful I can. Through this shift came an unexpected opportunity to try something new with my passion for writing so I am here. Here I am...living the journey...being the journey. I am looking forward to what comes of it all.

I am a writer. Brace yourself. Be ready to hear me roar. 

Published May 5, 2020
creative manifesto / permission slip
1 minute read

Note to Self:

Just do it. 

That’s it. That's the message. 

I wish I could give you something less trite than an overused Nike slogan but that’s really all you need. 

Don’t entertain fear or doubt or laziness. Don’t make excuses. Don’t hide. Just do it. Write something. Create anything

Your life will end one day. Worrying about whether or not any of it is good- “it” being whatever you create AND your life- is so beside the point. The point is to let it be. Just let it be. Let yourself be. Let yourself make art, and if you feel like your life was a living piece of art both in the moment and at your deathbed, then you did it. Your creativity lived and so did you. So go be the art and make as much room for it as you can.

PS: This is a line you wrote in the introduction of your first book:

"Wherever you go, whatever you do, do it for love, and wander with courage."

Look at that. That’s art. You are art. You’ve always been art. So stop stalling and continue being the art you seek to create.

Keep going. I love you! 



I give myself permission to trust the ideas my creativity and I have will come to fruition at their own pace. I give myself permission to trust my creativity’s cyclical nature. I give myself permission to maintain patience when it goes, knowing that it will eventually come back to me when it is ready. I give myself permission to welcome my creativity back with open arms; arms that are just as open as when I let it run off to play in the fields that are out of my sight. I give myself permission to be a little more present in reality as it is happening around me, and to exude more extroverted energy without being in my head afterwards. When I can. And to sometimes healthily push myself when I feel I can’t. I give myself permission to write from my soul. 

Published May 22, 2020
This Is a Sandcastle
1 minute read

If you asked a group of people to build a sandcastle, naturally you would get a unique blend of castles that vary in shapes and sizes. Some would build it alone while others would work together and share their resources. A few people would borrow ideas from each other or even go so far as making the same exact sandcastle. Some would be paralyzed with fear and make nothing, and others would build nothing because they don't enjoy being told what to do. Some people might not care about building sandcastles to begin with. Others would boast about their sandcastle making talents and create the ugliest, least original of them all. And, there are always one or two who would (or wouldn't) boast about their talents and still deliver impressive creations. 

But she was a little different.

She would help others with their sandcastles before starting her own and openly admire what they create. She was often the first person to encourage them to keep going or was the first person to give them ideas on how they could build their sandcastles a little bigger; a little stronger. 

Eventually she would collect her sand and water and set off to find a space of her own to quietly make a sandcastle by herself, minding her own business. Minding to her own sandcastle. Sometimes she would stop to help others again but never asked for anything in return. Instead she would return to her space and get lost in her own world building a sandcastle that outwardly represented her inner-world.

When it was time to present the sandcastles some would say “this is my” or “this is our” sandcastle. But when you asked her, she would point to what she created and say “this is a sandcastle.” The others would look at her castle for the first time and would be so moved and excited to see her sandcastle that they showered her with compliments. However, she would stand there wet with confusion; it was just a sandcastle to her. She did what she was asked to do. 

Build a sandcastle.

She is the person that is both unassuming and unaware of her power. 

Imagine what she would create if she was aware.

Published May 22, 2020
What's In My House
2 minute read

A closet full of secrets I keep safe.

They aren’t secrets, though. Just pieces of me I didn’t want anyone to see. I hid them because my house was raided once; many times. People have taken things from my house. “Friends”, “lovers”, family members. They took small things; things that were supposed to make me feel comfortable in my house. Sometimes I gave them away. Other times they were forcibly taken. But their absence always made me feel naked, so I hid from the world to protect the few secrets I had left. I hid naked in the darkness of my own bedroom to protect those secrets. The door was locked, curtains closed, no clothes; just me, lying next to my closet full of secrets. I stayed there lifeless for several years. 

Living in darkness was easier than being seen in the light.

But time passed and I slowly felt less naked. I dressed myself a little more here and there. Never rushed myself. Just kind of picked up a sock one day. Then another when I felt ready to. Underwear. Pants. Then I had an entire outfit on. 

I had energy to move around a bit so I opened the windows so light could bring life into my house again. I didn’t open all the windows at the same time. It was similar to getting dressed- I slowly pulled back a curtain here, then there. With more time all the curtains were pulled back, and all the windows were open. The fresh air cleared out the negative energy I lived with for most of my life.

I walked around my house like before, exploring all the rooms and the things they held. Memories, people, hobbies, passions, desires, successes, failures, goals- everything that made me, me. I remembered how much I liked these things. I remembered all that I was, I saw all that I could be, and eventually I felt brave enough to open the front door and walk out of my house. I joined the world, and life, again. The world was a bit scary in the beginning, and a little too bright, but my eyes adjusted. I loved the light. I loved my outfit. I felt safe to be seen.

I also loved gathering things from the outside world, returning home, and cooking something new with different flavors I never tried before. I often enjoyed leaving my house more than staying in it. Leaving my house wasn’t even my favorite part, though- it was inviting people in that made me feel the most alive.

While my house is big, and bright, and full of life, and I regularly leave my house and invite others in, I recently discovered I still kept those pieces of me hidden regardless of feeling safe. Keeping my secrets tucked away in the closet was a habit that no longer served me. I learned this when I showed the closet to someone; someone wise, someone I love- someone that made me want to open it

So I opened it. 

I opened the closet that housed the core of who I am- someone capable of unconditional love; someone that finds beauty in every corner of being alive and wants to share that passion with others. I mastered them for myself, and now I feel safe to let those pieces of me run free towards someone else. Towards life. 

All of me is free to love, and be love.

All of me is free. 

Published May 25, 2020