I’m going to take a hot-minute and talk about Hamilton because I can! I know, I know, with all the Hamilton hype that it seems a little cliché to focus on such a popular musical but I’m going to do it anyway. Because I liked it. I’m not going to apologize for liking something just because other people like it too. That’s another allowable thing, other peoples’ love or hate of something doesn’t have to be a consideration to like something. If it’s not hurting someone then you do you and I’ll do Hamilton! (That probably wasn’t the best way to put it – whoops!)
So back to Hamilton. I didn’t find it without help. The story goes back a year before I ever head about the musical. I defended my BA thesis, a lovely little dive into the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, against a panel of professors and small gathering of students a year below me who were all defending their thesis proposals (basically a practice round in third year for the real thesis in fourth). It wasn’t a requirement that you be defending anything to attend, you could just go because you were interested but the students my year were all defending things. One mutual friend of myself and other girl defending her thesis was really the only one there for pure mutual support.
So right, there I was defending my thesis and question period opened up from the professors to all those attending. I can’t remember what L asked me, we had attended many of the same classes and knew each other well enough to sit together at lunch every now and then. But she asked me a question that she admitted later she thought was a softball question but even blew the professors out of the water. It was the hardest question I fielded during that defense and the one I bumbled through the worst. After all was said and done I jokingly told her I was going to attend her own full thesis defense the next year and ask her a hard question in return. She found it funny. I nearly passed out on the car-ride I got back to my apartment and did pass out when I hit my bed. I woke up to a glass of water and a bowl of candy from my roommate on my bedside table. I didn’t think I’d actually get to keep my promise.
The day I was due to move out from that apartment that August I got an email from one of my previous professors asking if I’d serve as her teaching assistant for that next year. Which was due to start in a week and a half. I even secured a second TA position with another of my favorite professors. Eight days later I went to Ontario and back again and spent seven of those days half-conscious on my parent’s couch with a chest cold from moving repeatedly between a non-air-conditioned apartment and an air-conditioned car. My mother found an apartment, furniture, and even a friend to drive us and the furniture back out.
It surprises me how many little things needed to fall in place for me to end up discovering Hamilton when I did! Fast-forward the school year and I made sure to keep my promise to attend L’s thesis defense. I didn’t end up asking a hard question but I did get invited along to dinner to celebrate the defenses (something that didn’t happen the year I defended, the jerks!).
But it was something like 1:30 and dinner wasn’t until 5. The bus ride was a relatively straight shot that took like 15 minutes. L invited me to her apartment to whittle away the time before we went down to dinner together. And, of course, what I mean by whittle away the time I mean play for me the entire soundtrack for this really cool Broadway show that’s made up almost entirely of rap songs. It has made the best rap album of the year and its actually about the founding fathers of the United States of America. What? Yep, that’s a thing.
And what a thing it was!
We talked about it a little, even during the actual songs. She explained the casting and what characters were doubled and how it gave a lot of things double meanings. We also constantly kept an eye on the time so that we weren’t late for dinner since some professors were putting the thing on for us. It wasn’t optimum appreciating time – but it was enough.
After dinner that night I walked myself home, pulled the blinds shut against the late sunset, and bought the entire Hamilton soundtrack off iTunes. I fell asleep about the third loop through. It became my go-to track for the summer. Every solo walk, every bus ride, every overly quiet moment in my apartment when none of my favorite You-Tubers had uploaded anything, Hamilton was playing.
I realized when I walked to ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’ I would switch paces and movements when Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan introduced themselves. I still get a hip swing in my walk when Lafayette comes in with “Oui, oui, mon ami”.
‘My Shot’ and ‘Wait for It’ tagged out with each other as my anthems when I spent most of the summer keeping to myself. When friendships fell apart and I had one left, when work with my professor was inconsistent, when swimming in the morning when the little lake was covered in mist was both lovely and lonely, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics spoke to me. Very little else got air play on my headset that summer when I walked the bike paths in the evenings and stalked the library at noon. And that was okay, sometimes the music was enough and a lot of the time it had to be enough. That summer was a remarkable improvement from the summer before and Hamilton helped to make that improvement in leaps and bounds.
I expanded my music play when I returned to school that September in a new province and a new program. Don’t get me wrong, I listened to Hamilton plenty and I might have read a fanfiction or two, but with so much philosophy and political science to remember I couldn’t be constantly drilling Hamilton lyrics into my head. Well, until my little five man class did the Federalist Papers and I might have quoted ‘Non-Stop’. Apparently pulling the lines:
“Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays
Defending the new United States constitution
Entitled The Federalist papers
The plan was to write a total of twenty-five essays
The work divided evenly among the three men
In the end, they wrote eighty-five essays, in the span of six months
John Jay got sick after writing five
James Madison wrote twenty-nine
Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one” (Lin-Manuel Miranda) out of nowhere is a little bit strange. The professor asked me where I knew that from and I proudly admitted I was a fan of a rap musical about the American founding fathers. I thought maybe some people would be curious or, with a little luck, maybe I’d find another fan.
Nope. Just super judgmental looks and my professor saying I was correct though some people still argue that you can’t tell exactly who wrote each individual paper but those were the relatively agreed upon numbers. The other girl in the class found it supremely funny that I was interested in such things because she really just preferred to focus on political science. To each their own but, as a personal note, don’t be an ass when someone likes something you don’t. Support them or don’t say anything if you have nothing good to say. Just…don’t be a dick.
I still listen to Hamilton quite frequently. It’s my go-to soundtrack when I start feeling down and I just need something to sing along to. I can’t match the rap speed but I’m not about to stop trying!