At some point, someone’s going to tell me to shut the heck up about Hamilton, but today is not that day (and even if it was, I wouldn’t listen to them anyway. I’m passionate about what I’m passionate about, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead).
It’s strange, in some respects, how this musical—or really, my relationship to it—has grown in me over the past couple of months. The fact that I find new threads, new pieces of myself within these songs that have had many, many rotations in my car and otherwise tells me that this, this is really something else. And sure, the public has expressed that as well, in the adoration for the musical and the fact that tickets are literally impossible to find, but I’m talking about the personal here, about me. Egotistical, I know.
It’s almost been a year since I’ve graduated from college and I still feel in shock from the whole thing: I feel like a year has passed and nothing of consequence has been accomplished, despite evidence to the contrary (lines on my resume, files on my computer, a comic that I’ve done a pretty dang good job at updating weekly). I still feel like I’m drowning: like all my life I’ve had this bar to reach, to surpass, and now the bar is just my own expectations for myself, which are unfairly high.
I’d like to think, to some extent, that I’m a determined person. I’ve had many people in my life tell me that pursuing art—pursuing comics, especially—is a fool’s errand. I’ve even had people in comics tell me that I wasn’t doing it “right”. And those words have always spurred me to action, not defeat. I have to keep going because I have a lot of people to prove wrong, as the saying goes.
Lately, some of that spark has dwindled. It’s not gone by any means—it’s just quieter now, under the pressures of realism. And when it comes down to it, I’m terrified that my prideful “I have to succeed to prove them wrong” attitude is a fatal crack in the foundation of my being. That it’ll be the point that causes everything else to crumble.
It’s a fear I’ve always had: what if this decision prevents something amazing that could have happened, maybe I’m making the worst mistake of my life with this decision, maybe I really don’t have it in me to succeed, so on and so forth. I’ve tortured myself with the plethora of possible futures that I’ve destroyed and created with every choice I’ve made.
I woke up this morning with “Hurricane” stuck in my head. For those not familiar with Hamilton, it’s one of the few introspective moments we get in Act 2: it’s this sweeping look at Hamilton’s past, his motivations, the core of who he is…and the moment where all of these things end up leading him to a decision that not only destroys his life, but the lives of Eliza and his family.
And it’s strange, because there are moments in “Hurricane” that resonate with tons of people (myself included) as positive. It’s Hamilton talking about how his determination—his skill and tenacity—lead him through his life, off of his home that was devastated, through revolution, into love, through establishing a new nation: a message that feels right, that feels like us looking back at what we’ve survived through and realizing what we did to get us through it. But it’s right in the end where we see the crack in his foundation: that moment where he and his mother were sick, and she died, and he didn’t.
I’m lucky to have lived a relatively happy childhood, and while I don’t have moments as tragic as Hamilton’s, I can easily recall events or things that have been said to me that have defined certain elements about myself. I am often terrified at the passage of time: I feel the need to get things done, I have the driving hope that I’ll achieve even a sliver of my goals so that I’ll have the opportunity to give back to all of the people that I love and who have supported me all of my life. Many days I feel powerless and lost, because there is only so much I can do, only so much I can control. And in the times where I can allow myself introspection, I am scared of what it may result in. Will this decision become my Reynolds Pamphlet?
Logically, I know the likelihood is slim: I am thankful to be surrounded by people who understand me, and who can help me through these thought spirals. But, in those liminal spaces of the night, in the eye of the hurricane, I can’t help but see the approaching storm and wonder how I’ll come out the other side of it.