I’ve read lots of accounts attempting to explain the reach and appeal of Hamilton, a Broadway show that has taken the world by storm. Some who have written about it are immigrants, or have close relatives who were, and they identify with Alexander Hamilton’s trials, determination, and hard fought success. Some are fathers, and they see themselves in the many paternal relationships that are portrayed in the story, in that long reach for approval and legacy. Some identify with Hamilton’s meager beginnings and his drive to improve his lot.
As for me, I am a forty-four year old woman of Irish heritage. My family has been on these shores for a few generations now. I came from modest beginnings and they certainly formed me, but I always had everything I needed. I’m no history buff, or revolutionary. I rarely rap. But when I heard this music, and saw the show in person, I saw my life all over that stage and there was no response but astonishment and tears, utterly transfixed. Somehow these songs, and the insights into the human condition that they portray, along with the poignancy and brilliance of the music and the performers, presents a pretty effective mirror to anyone who chooses to look.
Like Hamilton, I know what it is to feel utterly alone, to want to reinvent myself, to have something to prove. I know what it is to feel purely passionate about a cause, find like-minded friends, and go into battle. I have spoken out more than was politically wise, and been hurt by it. I’ve read and written about a subject obsessively until I understood it completely, then been disappointed when others didn’t understand or weren’t willing to stand with me. I have lost friends based on my opinions and my eager willingness to share them. I struggle to find patience for lukewarm people who stand on the sidelines or who are unmotivated by idealism or who act always in their own self-interest.
Like Hamilton, I take a long view. I think about my legacy, about how I’ll be remembered. I believe that my life’s purpose is Big with a capital B, and that may sound arrogant and narcissistic, but I believe the same for you, too. I am determined to find and live out what I am meant to do here. This is a real, daily motivation for me. I keep my eyes up. Like Hamilton, I sometimes find my everyday relationships suffer because of this perspective that can be hard for others to understand. I think and speak of death, too, more than most.
Like LaFayette, Mulligan, and Laurens, I’ve been bold and brash and taken a stand, and maneuvered with friends to achieve what seemed an impossible goal. I’ve been jubilant in the face of someone’s failings and downfall, like Jefferson was with the Reynold’s Pamphlet. I’ve been wholly invested in my own children and the children of others, like Eliza. Like her, I’ve been wrapped up in concern over the safety of my dear ones, made heart to heart connections with my children and taught them everything I know. Like Burr and Hamilton, I’ve been overwhelmed at the beauty and potential of a baby, and been astonished at how bringing a child into the world changes me most of all. The most anger I’ve ever felt has been directed toward someone who would harm my child. And when I’m angry, hurt, and scared, I withdraw into myself, like she did. Like Eliza, I’m a storyteller, always thinking about the narrative.
I’ve questioned the success of what I consider to be less deserving people and it leaves me jealous, angry, and hollow, like Burr. I’ve admired someone from afar, like Angelica. I’ve defended someone to the point that it caused me great harm, like it did to Phillip. I’ve tried to give advice and somehow deposit my hard-won wisdom in another person, like Washington did with Hamilton. I’ve been frustrated in leadership like him, too. And I’ve sensed when it’s time to step away, realizing the strength that can come from that example. Like Washington, I have a powerful faith that all will be well, and that there is ultimate reward for service that motivates me in difficult times.
Like Hamilton, I know what it is to live in the eye of the hurricane, in that stillness and clarity. To somehow know with certainty all there is to know and all there is to be done. And I know the only way through the storm, from that place of knowledge, through all of the chaos, for me, is to write. And I know very well that feeling of overwhelming grace in undeserved forgiveness for which there are no words but only tears.
Hamilton laid it all out there for me, so many parts and scenes of my own life mirrored there on the stage in such beauty, it’s hard to believe it’s real. And my experience is by no means unique, as evidenced by the lines for tickets and the obsessive nature of the Hamilton fandom. People want to connect with this piece of enduring art, and to connect with the man who created it, ultimately to somehow touch a part of themselves or their own potential. Hamilton was an immigrant, a soldier, a lawyer, a writer, a husband, a father, a leader, and a statesman. But with every costume change that Lin-Manuel Miranda made, every beautiful coat he wore on that stage, his heart remained, and I could see myself there. The world was wide enough, and small enough it seems, for both Hamilton and me.