In 1957, defending himself against a heckler while on stage, Allen Ginsberg took off his clothes and said, “Come up here and share your feelings. The poet always stands naked before the world.”
In Ginsberg’s poem, Howl, he states that he’s seen the best minds of his generation “starving hysterical naked”. It conjures images of a madman, a Kerouac-ian loaner, dancing naked in the rain, screaming anti-capitalist statements at the top of his lungs, maybe on Benzedrine, probably smoking tea. But that’s not what Allen meant. I get that now. He meant the naked soul. Baring your body is nowhere near as scary as bearing your soul. Kim Kardashian will forever get more clicks by baring her famous buttocks than she will for bearing her soul. I get that now. So here I am, getting naked.
2 years ago my wife and I had a child. He is my best friend, my closest family member, and literally the funniest guy I know. We spend tons and tons of time together. And I am no longer the same person. My son taught me things I never would have imagined. He taught me that I need to live out my life as best I know how, to provide for him and teach him. I somehow understood something new about myself, just by looking at him, just by changing a diaper, from sleepless nights to quiet moments. I decided to stop hiding and try to launch my writing career. I needed to know what it meant to live out your dreams and to never settle in order to truly teach him that things can always be better.
I was scared, and felt stupid. I didn’t know anything about promoting myself as a writer. I had already let past successes in my writing career pass me by. I was almost embarrassed to say that I was a writer, and I wasn’t confident enough to let it define me. Not yet anyway. How would I make money? What would people think of me? Would they tell me to get a ‘real job’? I needed answers to these questions before I could dive in. I needed assurance that my rebirth would be accepted by friends and family. I was not able to cope with that in my mid-twenties, so I ran from it, buried it, grew long hair and played in a punk rock band instead. My forever rebellious attitude forever rebelling against myself.
I needed to make sure that I could provide for my son and wife. I needed to get a good job that could pay the bills and settle into something that had a good balance between corporate and family life. And I did. But Parker needs to know that life is supposed to be hard, you’re supposed to struggle to get what it is you really want. Nothing is handed over, nothing of any value anyway. I knew I’d struggle to launch a successful writing career, but when I do it’ll show him what it is to truly achieve your dreams to the fullest, the only side effects being good work ethic, drive, passion, intensity, and emotion; even if I fail. I need to teach by doing, not by telling.
I have always been scared to branch out, nervous to speak my mind completely; afraid of what others may think of me, afraid of what they may say when my back is turned. But you can’t be a real writer until you bare it all. You have to strip away the layers of what others think and feel and communicate your real emotions, your truest and deepest emotions. Only then can you be a successful writer. Allen Ginsberg was right; the poet always stands naked before the world. I know that now.
I am dad. I am son. I am husband. I am one. I am brave. I am weak. I am strong. I am meek. I am happy. I am free. I am all. I am me.
Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.
He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband