What are you doing?

Years ago I worked for a reputable insurance company (I’ll leave them nameless.)  I was in their customer service department.   I received a verbal warning one day (first stage of disciplinary action) because our quality team caught me writing poetry while on a phone call with a customer. Now, I’m the queen of multitasking so the customer wasn’t neglected at all. I would write when the customer said “give me one minute” or “just a sec, let me find that paper.”  It happens all the time.  Instead of sitting there rolling my eyes, staring at the phone wondering, “What are you doing?”  I would write.  I would write poetry.  I would write narratives. I would create stories around the customers and imagine the details of their lives.   Then when they said, “Okay I’m back, sorry about that”  I would snap back to reality. At this particular job, I took 1000 calls a month.  Yet, they scolded me.  I couldn’t understand it.  If I was doodling in a pad, it wouldn’t be a problem but typing brilliance in Microsoft word was enough to get a recorded warning from a superior.

I was livid.

That was the moment my feelings towards that source of income changed.  I even remember performing a poem at an open mic that night entitled “disciplinary action.”  The crowd loved it.  The warning was unfortunate for my customer service career but it inspired an influential moment in my love for poetry and stage performance.

Sometimes I’ll send my daughter to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  Fifteen to twenty minutes will pass and I’m waiting for her to finish so I can read her a story.  I’ll scream into the bathroom “What are you doing?”  She’s always responds,” I don’t know.”  In reality she was singing, dancing, making animals out of the toilet paper, cleaning the sink  with hand soap or just staring into space.  I ask her, “Why do you say you don’t know when you know exactly what you were doing?”  She just laughs at me.

I went to a reading for a play a week ago.  When the reading ended the lights came up and everyone was beginning to stretch and socialize.  I was fixed. I couldn’t move.  I kept staring at this desk in the corner.  I could imagine writing at the desk. I could imagine doing homework with my children at the desk.  I could even imagine a naughty marital moment on top of the desk.  I completely zoned out.  I was gone. I could feel the splinters from the desk.  I could smell the wood. It was awesome.  I took a picture because I didn’t want to forget it and I knew there was some reason it impacted me the way it did.   An associate next to me said, “What are you doing?

I am making sure I don’t miss the sign I am supposed to see. 

Do not get distracted from what you are supposed to be doing.  Look at a picture and pay attention to the background.  There is something huge you were created for.  Don’t get in trouble playing with toilet paper and dealing with other people’s sh*t. You have to get your bread and butter but don’t forget the meat and potatoes.  You are here to do something meaningful and influential.  Do what makes you feel complete and let that be the distraction from day-to-day noise.

Hey! What are you doing?

By: Shaun Liriano

Why I Write

“I’m not really qualified to do anything else. “-James Frey
“If writing were illegal,  I’d be in prison. “-David Baldacci
“I write to shed dead skin and to explore why people do the things that we do to each other and to ourselves. “- Terry McMillan


I was an angry child. I was in martial arts and all kinds of extra -curricular activities. Those were supposed to be outlets. I was still angry.  I was just angry, busy, and in some cases talented.  The anger didn’t vanish.  I later acquired interest in literature.  I sought solace in myself.  I would write. I would curl up on the pink rug in the front of the heater vent and write.  I’d eat a whole row of saltine crackers, a red delicious apple and a yogurt with fruit on the bottom and I’d write. I’d only get up for two slices of raisin bread with butter.  My poetry didn’t have to rhyme.  It just had to bleed. It had to have a heartbeat.  It had to have a conscience.  It had to have bruises.  It had to have the kind of scars that cocoa butter couldn’t rub away.  Grotesque scars. It had to secrete the tears that I couldn’t. 


When I was at Stonybrook University I had a phenomenal professor in one of my Africana Studies classes. Day one of the class there was an elephant in the room. Finally,  one of the Italian football players said, “You’re lily white. How can you teach a black studies class?” That woman sat on his desk with a nonchalant poise that I have never seen. She said, “I am whatever I choose to be. I am Cherokee Indian and Italian.  I have a history degree with a minor in Black studies.  I have a lot to teach and you have a lot to learn. ”

I did a lot of writing in that class. I did a lot of soul navigation and destiny seeking.  I am whatever I choose to be. I think about that a lot. I choose to be a writer.  I know my writing has the potential to engage,  enlighten , excite and empower.  I know I’m not getting any younger but I know I’m just starting to delve into my true abilities.  I plan to show strength,  creativity,  and resilience.

I write because it allows me to be whatever I choose to be.

What do you choose to be? Dare to satisfy yourself today! Tell the world you are fulfilling your destiny or you can Shutyamouthandcallmeugly.

By SMN 5:58 pm 4/29/14