Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story…


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I had the crazy, breath-taking, totally unexpected and pinch-myself-repeatedly experience of seeing Hamilton on Broadway while in New York last week.  99% of my friends’ responses were essentially “How the hell did you do that??” – which I totally get, as such a cult has grown around the musical that the thought of actually getting to see it on Broadway seems beyond reality – like winning the lottery or sitting down for a cuppa with Kate Middleton (am I the one who wish that would happen in real life?).  My honest answer to “how?” was “I lucked out getting a ticket last minute, I was happy to sit in the last row of the theatre and I spent a lot of money.” #truth

When I lived in NYC a few years ago I was a grad student and then I worked for a non-profit, so spending money on theatre tickets  – let alone a ticket to Hamilton –  was a luxury I never could have dreamed of.  Before I hit the “buy” button on StubHub I struggled w/ a bit of an identity crisis – am I really this person?  Am I about to spend over $400 on entertainment?  I felt guilty and conflicted  – and then I took a breath, let myself off the hook and decided to replace the guilt with gratitude.  “Thank you that I get to have this experience.  Thank you that You have provided this, like you do every good gift in my life – and I’m going to honor that gift by enjoying it whole-heartedly.”

The show itself was just as phenomenal as everyone says it is – impeccably choreographed and acted, beautiful set design and lighting, electrifying, powerful and moving performances.

Tied for first place of the night was the audience – I have never been in a more excited crowd.  Everyone there – from the clearly wealthy banker types to the precious 9 year old little boy sitting next to me – was clearly so happy and grateful to be there.  The aforementioned 9 year old was nearly vibrating out of his chair with excitement.  I asked him if he had listened to the soundtrack before and he grinned ear to ear and nodded enthusiastically.  He was so excited – to sit through a three hour musical.  About American history.  My hope for America’s youth is hereby restored!

New York is not necessarily known for being a strike-up-a-conversation-with- strangers place, but all bets were off in that theatre – the sweet couple in front of me in the line outside shared my anxiety about getting to our seats on time, and the woman sitting next to me chatted about visiting from LA with her kids and leaving them with her brother so she could have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I brought approximately 87 Kleenex in my purse because I knew I’d need them – but I was surprised by which parts of the show made me tear up. *Spoiler Alert* –  when the Hamiltons’ son is dying and his mother is singing to him to keep him from being afraid – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

My favorite song from the soundtrack has always been the finale – Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.  I’m all about story – and the metaphor of each of our lives as a story being written every day is so powerful to me.

I felt sure that song would make me cry, but it didn’t – what I felt instead was calm, deep, and poignant resolve.  There is a another song, the refrain of which weaves through the musical, in which Hamilton sings “I am not throwing away my shot.”

Those two themes merged together to remind me of a precious truth I’ve lost sight of lately – that this is my shot.  Not to write the federalist papers, or become Treasury Secretary –  but to live the life I’ve been given and am making for myself on purpose every single day.  To not be satisfied with “good enough” but to squeeze every last drop out of today – not from a place of striving or trying to climb any sort of ladder, but by leveraging all of who I am, all of what I have, all of who I love to the very fullest.

This is my shot at my life, and I am not throwing it away.

I am an unequivocal and unapologetic  fangirl of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, and one of the reasons is that – like the title character in Hamilton – he exudes this sense of purpose and urgency in how he is living his life.  He posted a picture on Twitter recently (um, not that I follow him on Twitter or anything…again, #fangirl) of his wife and their baby son, and captioned it “Hard to leave home…make today count!”  It was such a beautiful picture of being intentional with your life – recognizing that the people we love are the greatest gifts we have, and if we’re going to spend time apart from them we need to make that time count.

So often  – too often – I think of the hours and days that make up my life as something to be gotten through.  

I just need to get through this stressful day at work 

I just need to get through this tough hill in my run

I just need to get through this feeling of anxiety or fear or pain

I feel sad when I think about how many hours of my life I have spent wishing they would pass, that I could just hurry up and get to the next thing, to the next stage, to tomorrow.  The irony, of course, being that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.

I’m trying hard to switch my mindset from getting through to living deeply – with gratitude for another day to live and move and breath and think and work and love.  To be thankful for that stress at work because it means I care, and I have job that matters and is worth doing.  To be thankful for that hill I get to run up because it means my legs and lungs and heart are working as they should.  To be thankful for the moments of pain because they mean I am human – and because I know that means when the moments of joy come they will be all the sweeter, that the view from the mountain will be all the more breathtaking for having walked through the valley.

I want to think creatively and solve interesting problems and work with intelligence, drive and passion without sacrificing grace, kindness and integrity.  I want to honor the healthy, disease-free body I’ve been given – not something I take for granted anymore – by treating it well, with gratitude and not judgement.   I want to listen to stories that shatter my heart in a million pieces and shed tears with and for the people I love when they suffer and I want to be the first to pop the champagne corks and break out the confetti when something beautiful and joyful happens in their lives.

I don’t care about making a mark in history, or if strangers know my name in hundreds of years, or if someday someone writes a Hip Hop musical about my life (somehow “Elliott” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Hamilton”) – but I do care about not throwing away my shot to live a life of love, justice, kindness and compassion, to love others well, to speak truth and grace and to fight like hell for what I believe in.

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known

When I was young and dreamed of glory

You have no control

Who lives

Who dies

Who tells your story