I often wonder whether "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda does part-time shifts at the self help doctor's office. Why? Every word of his smash hit musical has advice that rings true to real life. The lives of the founding fathers have never been more #relatable. In honor of Lin's impending departure from his show, here are the ten biggest lessons I learned while listening.
1. Being independent doesn’t start off easy.
King George III may be a source of comedy throughout the show, but his words of warning to the newly United States ring true for anyone about to go out on their own. “You’re on your own, awesome! Wow! Do you have a clue what happens now?” As excited as you may be to get off into the big wide world, you can’t expect everything to go your way right off the bat. Your tribulations may not provoke a national financial crisis, but they can still feel pretty serious all the same.
2. You won’t witness your legacy, and that’s what makes it important.
For me, probably one of the most meaningful lines from the musical is when Hamilton likens a legacy to, “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” He never got to see the America which his work helped to shape, and yet the country we live in today wouldn’t be the same without him. The choices you make in life will affect countless people, but you’ll never know the extent to which they go. That’s why, when you make choices, you should think about the impact they’ll have in the future.
3. Everyone lives. Everyone dies.
This might not seem like a lesson so much as it seems like a basic fact, but Aaron Burr said it best: “Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints; it takes and it takes and it takes.” No matter who you are or what your circumstances may be, you have something in common with the rest of the human race in that you are living right now and, one day, you’ll die. Everyone will experience ups and downs; maybe some more than others. But the fact that we all have that similarity is pretty impressive.
4. We are living in a very important time.
Okay, so "Hamilton" takes place in the 1770s. But when you hear the passion in Elizabeth Schuyler’s voice as she sings, “look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now,” you can’t help but think about how lucky you are to be living at this moment in time. Nothing today will be the same as it is tomorrow, and that sense of uniqueness makes you want to get out and live life to the fullest.
5. Stress makes your vices all the more tempting...
Would Hamilton have commenced his affair with Maria Reynolds had he not been under stress to create a plan for a national bank? It’s debatable, but probably not. You may not have that kind of stress in your life, but come college and finals season, it will become easier to succumb to temptations like a Game of Thrones binge when you’re supposed to be focusing on your studies. Don’t let it happen!
6. ...so that’s why it’s important to take time off.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton and her sister Angelica dedicated a whole song in the show to getting Hamilton to "take a break" (as aforementioned, it wasn’t successful). Not only did Hamilton end up losing time with his wife and sister-in-law because of his work; he also had a slightly less close relationship with son Philip, who only saw him as an idol and not so much a figure of love. These relationships, not work, are ultimately the most important part of life; take time to cultivate them.
7. Personal feelings aside; family comes first.
Angelica Schuyler may have been in love with Hamilton from the moment she laid eyes on him, but she allowed him to fall for her sister Eliza; when Hamilton became disgraced after his affair, Angelica came to her sister’s aid first. In the end, her love for her sister overpowered her love for Hamilton; it’s a testament to the importance of family, and it definitely made me think more about my relationship with my own sister.
8. Staying quiet can be advantageous…
Aaron Burr is easily one of the most brilliant politicians in the show, partly because of his well-crafted strategy of not taking a tangible stance on the serious issues to avoid political repercussions. At times, this is a pretty viable option; it can be better to not speak up about an issue to stay out of any drama, even if you have an opinion you feel is worth sharing. So if you’re witnessing some Twitter beef and want to add your two cents, staying mum can be the best option.
9. ...but sometimes you have to speak your mind.
Hamilton ended up endorsing Thomas Jefferson for the presidency on the basis that he had more steadfast morals than rival Burr: “When all is said and all is done, Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.” Sometimes, you need to make your beliefs known to prove your legitimacy. Even when people might question them, if you believe you’re standing up for what’s right, it can be worth the scuffle.
10. It’s okay to have learned more from a musical than you did from actual life.
Why not just accept it?
Lin-Manuel Miranda may be done playing Alexander Hamilton (for now...), but let's hope that he continues to produce meaningful content that causes us to think deeper, reassess our preconceived notions about life, and make better choices. And if you STILL haven't listened to "Hamilton" and have no idea what any of this piece is referencing...well, you've got some work to do.
Lead Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr Creative Commons