Highs and Lows

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Ms Hulis Mavruk Black Artwork

I begrudgingly worked for a prominent insurance company for 2 years. It had highs and lows. I was taking a gap year from Stony Brook University.  However, in my twenties we didn’t call it a “gap year.”  There was no cute term for leaving school or taking a break from school.  I was tired of working 3 jobs and being a “broke college student” so I chased the money and I chose the industry that my mother worked in.   I liked the company when I first started but as time passed it became stale.  The main attraction to the position was the money I was making and the annual profit share.  On another note, I was in a relationship and admittedly I was more focused on that. Young and dumb, the man I was with at the time had a driving restriction.  Trying to literally be a “ryde or die,” I would pick him up in the mornings and bring him to work on my way to my job.  Some mornings it was pretty tight trying to get us both to corporate positions that both carried a dependability clause. That basically means…”If you can’t get your ass to work on time, you’re fired.”  I was on a written warning and on a rainy day/snooze my alarm 2-3 times day/traffic/ can’t find a parking space day, I arrived to work a critical 9 minutes late.  Well, it took a few weeks to notice but shortly after presenting me with an award for my call quality and after receiving a congratulatory email from my supervisor for being a “team player” I was called into the main conference  room. I remember feeling incredibly calm.  My supervisor and my manager told me they had no choice but to “part our professional ways.”  They asked if I had any questions and I told them I didn’t. I stood and shook their hands and wished them both an early Happy Mothers Day.

My mother isn’t big on “Hallmark holidays.”  Yet, being fired for the first time seemed more of a failure because it happened the Friday before Mother’s Day.  How in the hell was I going to tell her?  My parents got divorced my freshman year in college. When I left school, I moved back home with my mother and baby sister. We would lean on one another a lot. We sometimes would affectionately call our trio “The Three Musketeers.”  It had highs and lows. This was going to be a low.  My mom was reliable and responsible.  She was learning how to fit into a fairly new role.  I was supposed to be a help and not a hindrance. I felt guilty, careless, and ashamed. So I chose to omit my termination.

This is where there is some pixelation in my memory reel.  I don’t remember how my mother found out I was no longer working but she did. What I do remember is her acceptance.  I remember her reminder that this was a temporary setback and I would quickly find something else.  She didn’t remind me of all the sacrifices she made for my sister and I.  She didn’t shove private school bills in my face.  She definitely didn’t tell me I ruined her Mother’s Day.  She simply moved on.  Many of us can forgive but forgetting is the true challenge.  Many of us try to provide everything our children want and need but we have a cerebral calculation of every dime spent and every minute served. Parenting is about highs and lows. 

Thank you to a mother that came to every concert.  Thank you for buying patterns and sewing Halloween costumes and dance costumes.  Thank you for exposing me to Broadway plays.  Thank you for a standing hair appointment beginning at age 3.  Thank you for the lows too.  You taught me how to survive them.  How to be strong.  How to pray before I speak.  How to think with my heart and ignore the noise. How to ask for help.  How to try to come to terms with the things I cannot change and still don’t fully understand.  Thank you, Mom, every day.

 

By: Shaun Liriano

 

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Don’t Snooze The Alarm

Just smile.jpgIt happens every year.  New years resolutions, dream boards/vision lists, gratitude jars, and planners.  We are bombarded with ways to make the new year count.  “New year new me” is a popular headline.  Social media timelines are inundated with new looks and haircuts and matching pajama sets. We sync into the idea of needing a “fresh start.”

How necessary is this?

If you simply don’t snooze the alarm and you answer the alerts the Creator is giving you daily, can’t you make the most out of every day?  Can’t you make each day productive and prosperous and consequently become a new version of yourself?  My 5 year old has a habit of saying, “I trust my promise.”  We used to correct her. Now we’ve adapted to it. We all say it now.  It means, I’m giving you my word and I know you’re trusting in me to keep it.  We have to teach our children the importance of responsibility.  There are times when there is no one to blame and no one to point a finger at.  You are responsible for the way you respond to situations and you are responsible for doing what you say you will do.

Lets be really REAL for a moment.  You know there are about 5 things you could have responded to differently this week.  There are at least 5 times you could have ignored the trolls and the nuisances. There are at least 5 times you could have stayed focused on your goals. There are at least 5 customer acquisitions you could have made. There were 5 new followers you could have had in the grocery store or the nail salon this week. Each day could have been “new day, new you.”

You fail all the time but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming someone else.-Bum Phillips (football coach)

I posted on Instagram in December that I will be posting on ShaunLiriano.com once a week and/or releasing a new YouTube video once a week. Why?

Calling:  The intentional use of our specific gifts to influence God’s kingdom.-Mike Todd

What you do is bigger than you! Every person you come in contact with is an opportunity to make an impact.  Furthermore, I do not delete old posts.  Why?  Transparency is important! Yes, you used to curse like a sailor.  Yes, you used to drink like a fish Sis!  Bruh, you were “sexually free” allllllllll through college! Share your story and stop letting the devil delight in exposing the things you keep trying to hide so you can seem self righteous.

Finally, humble yourself. Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do. Realize that you are flawed.  If you didn’t get that raise, what could you have done better?  If your child isn’t flourishing academically, what can you implement at home to strengthen their scholastic confidence? This one is good -> -> -> -> If there are aspects of your life that you skimmed through and you half-assed, can you revisit them and do them right? Can you be more mature?  Can you submit in your marriage more?  Can you submit in your Faith more?  When’s the last time you read a book?

Discern the difference between daily goals and annual goals and Don’t Snooze the Alarm!

By: Shaun Liriano

IG: @ShaunLProductions

Check out my newest You Tube video:

 

Okay Mr.West…

…don’t make me regret this.

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Photo credit: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/kanye-west-graduation-portrait-acrylic-painting-junko-abe.html?product=fleece-blanket&blanketType=blanket-coral-50-60

Let me start by saying, I am writing this as an artist. I am writing this as a student of life. I am not a political blogger therefore I am assuming you are already abreast of the controversy surrounding one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time.  I do not usually provide commentary on societal trends. I am writing this as a tortured creative soul.  I am writing this as a lover of hip hop.  I am writing this as an optimist.

I love hip hop.  I will not mourn Kanye West.  I do not agree with his political views. I am not even sure Kanye West agrees with his political views!  I’m celebrating the parts of him that I can morally subscribe to…his genius.  I will even go so far as to say that I am astounded by his acceptance of himself and of others. He has been saying that he is “leading with love” and that he loves every creature who walked the earth.

I am perplexed by the dichotomy dwelling in Kanye West.  He is talented and articulate.  He is a wordsmith.  Yet, he is thinking clearly (kinda) and he is not successfully conveying the true intent of his actions and thoughts.  In fact, when one mentions that he may be “hurting others” you can see the distress and the SUDDEN awareness on his face as he carefully chooses his words.  How does this happen?

People will take something enlightening, put it in a different context and then call it crazy.  To try to diminish the impact and the value of what I’m actually saying. -Kanye West

 

I was born in 1985.  The artists who have impacted my generation in an astounding way all had a common motif …they were “crazy.”  I don’t even have to mention their names.  You’re thinking of them right now: Michael Jackson, Prince, Left Eye, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston…

They were judged when they were alive.  They were called icons and legends when they died.  Food for thought:  We studied the poetry of Tupac Shakur at Pace University post his death.  We studied the lyrics and videos of Lady Gaga in English Literature at Stonybrook University.  Her “enlightened viewpoints” were compared to the great Edgar Allen Poe.  What measurement do we use to distinguish the difference between brilliance and insanity?

But I know the view is that I’m emotionally unstable, which is reality. Like you aren’t?-Lauryn Hill

One of the most terrible things we do to artists is forget to separate their human form from their ethereal imaginative alter egos.  We have to consider that in order for a person who is of this world to create something out of this world, he or she has to remove their consciousness from the boundaries and constraints of what is accepted as “normal.”  

Bravery is more important than perfection.-Kanye West

I am actually scared to publish this post.  What will you do tomorrow, Mr. West?  What hat will you wear tomorrow, Mr. West?  Will you forget this girl from South Jamaica Queens who bumped “The College Dropout” in my 1980 Pontiac Grand Prix? Will you forget this wannabee rebel who had “The wise man say, you’ll find your way
The wise man say, you’ll find your way” scribbled on the back of my favorite denim jacket?*  This fake actress-Spike Lee geek was glued to the computer screen when you had the balls to release your own full length film, “Runaway.”   I’ve never considered myself a “fan” of anyone really but the respect I have for your talent and perseverance is immeasurable.

I see your pain but I see your passion.  I can disregard the blond hair and the liposuction because that is just a physical representation of a spirit who is lost on a level that he wasn’t fully prepared to ascend to.

We don’t want to mourn you, Sir.  We want to be moved by your music and motivated by your mystique. Get out.

What I see here is nothing but a shell…what is most important is invisible.- Antoine de Saint Exupery (The Little Prince)

By: Shaun Liriano

*Lyrics from Pinocchio Story by Kanye West (808’s & Heartbreak)

 

“As Far As I Can Throw You”

Photography by Shaun Liriano

He threw her.  Just threw her with full force like you chuck a football through a field. He threw her. She flew through the air.

I always knew I could fly, she said.

For the first time there was someone he could trust with his life and he wanted to show her that he cared.  He wanted to show her that she was special.  He wanted to show her that he’d be “mush” without her.

I trust you about as far as I can throw you, he said.

Then he threw her.  He hurled her body and watched it spiral through the air. His love poured out of the sweat that beaded on her forehead.  His faith sprouted wings in her back.  His hope stripped her naked and replaced her bland clothing with an aerodynamic super suit colorful enough to match her vibrant personality.

At first, she was afraid. Fretfully, she gathered herself and tried to get her bearings.  She tried to get used to being in the company of birds, high branches, and jet planes approaching their landings. She screamed in excitement.  No one seemed alarmed that she was up there.  They expected her to be in the sky.  It was as if she didn’t belong on the ground and everyone knew it.

He didn’t look at her though. Once he threw her he didn’t wonder if she could take flight.  He BELIEVED she could. So he obliviously kicked a ball through a field and watched it roll on. He read an article from time to time. He viewed television shows at leisure. He felt the warmth of an onlookers admiring glance. He chugged along knowing she was soaring through the sky for the first time.

Isn’t he wondering if I am okay?  How does he know a larger creature hasn’t consumed me?  Hasn’t he thought about my loneliness? Sometimes it’s cold up here.  I don’t know anyone up here.  Sometimes I’m scared.  I’ve never flown before.  I’ve never been thrown before.  At first it was fun but where is he?  What is he doing?

Her fear ignited a fire so fierce it singed her beautiful wings. It incinerated her custom costume.  It sent her flailing through the sky clumsily…falling.

She landed in a bed of roses.  The thorns, long and sharp, pierced her skin and her blood mixed with the crimson red of the rose petals.  Her body naked and covered in ashes and blood writhed in pain.

She screamed out in horror, “My love! Where are you?  Why didn’t you fly with me?  Why did you leave me all alone?”

Silence.  She waited in the cold.  Naked. Vulnerable.

All the while, he returned to the field of her original launch every day after breakfast.  He wondered why she never returned. He assumed she must be enjoying the clean air, the ascension.

Why didn’t she ever try to throw me?

He felt her absence but he also felt her presence.

-By: Shaun Liriano

*Dedicated to my muse.

My life is part humor, part roses, part thorns.

~Bret Michaels

 

 

Beating the bold and Black

What has fear prevented you from attempting? I look back at years of opportunities. If I had to illustrate my life, I would draw a bold black line. I would be on one side of the line with a hammer, a drill, an eraser, white out and virtually every tool imaginable that could potentially destroy the line. The other side of the line is a variable. It changes throughout my life. It was college graduation. It was buying a new car. When I was a child it was the status of being a great athlete. Fear is the tranquilizer that will prevent you from detonating that bold black line. I remember being in my senior year in college and discovering how many credits I actually had left to graduate. I was a transfer student and I lost a few credits when I changed schools. I had options. I could have stopped working, taken more classes, summer sessions, winter sessions, could have just sucked it up and stayed as long as I needed to in order to graduate. I was scared. My friends were graduating on time. Some of them had made those sacrifices but I didn’t take that into account. I was embarrassed and I gave up. I couldn’t get passed the bold black line. I told my family I would go back to school (which I eventually did in fragments) and I went to work for a fortune 500 company. In my mind, I was successful but I learned later that the black line reappears. It can stand between you and a promotion. You will have to compete with others. It can stand between you and love. Love takes just as much work as anything else. You have to overcome fear to be empowered by it. Every time you encounter that black line, you will have to bond yourself with commitment and subdue your fear. If you cannot become courageous and somehow turn fear into a personified villain in your own mind, you subconsciously turn yourself into a victim. Overcoming fear requires trust, faith, courage, discipline, and preparation. You must prepare yourself for the possibility that you could fail but at least you got a glimpse of what is on the other side of that black line. Maybe it won’t reappear as often. Make fear afraid of you! Who has fear prevented you from becoming? What’s on the other side of your bold black line?

By Shaun M Nickens