When I was 11 years old I read a book by David McCullough. It was about John Adams.
I devoured the tale of our country’s beginnings, completely fascinated by the idea that freedom could be fought for and won. I wanted to learn as much as I could about this era that had to do with the idea of freedom. It was so bad that I even had a revolutionary war themed birthday party one year. We’ll get to that in a minute.
As an adult I look at those times and my fascination with the revolutionaries, and I see the beginnings of my devotion to social justice, and to the freedoms for people with disabilities.
So when the musical Hamilton came out on NPR I was both excited, and a little afraid. I’ve always been very protective of the eras that I love and study.
When I finally listened to it, I cried through most of the show. Not out of relief alone, but out of emotional attachment to the very words that were being sung.
Hamilton is the story of people rising up and taking what they need to survive – not unlike what it means to be a disabled adult.
It’s also a story that I can personally attach myself to, because it’s not just about the era, it’s about the words.
“I never thought I’d live past twenty.” “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry and I am not throwing away my shot.” “Why do you write like you need it to survive?”
Words, so many of them that resonate with me on a personal level – a level that sometimes I don’t acknowledge.
I am so lucky to be alive right now – at a time when people with disabilities are fighting for their rights, at a time where I can live past thirty, at a time where the medicine and the support are revolutionary and supportive. The world isn’t perfect, it probably never will be for me, but I am closer to independence as a disabled adult that any disabled adults ever have been before. The future has so many more possibilities for me than it could have had.
Hamilton, whether or not it was intended to, tells my story. I’m not the only one who feels that way either – Deaf fans are doing sign videos. I imagine they’re feeling some of the same feelings that I am. It’s been an experience to learn the words of Hamilton. They come so fast, so furious, so close together that it has taken many times listening to it (and probably meany more) for me to hear all the words and connect to them. Each time I listen to the show without distractions I learn new lyrics each time I connect to the show in a new way. All because my hearing prevents me from a first listen without confusion.
Each time it connects more fiercely to my own story.
I wrote my way out – I wrote my way out of being an AIDS victim’s child, I write my way out of disability on this website. I write my way out of my depression, through my anxiety, and I write my way to revolution. I write because it is how I survive.
I want to see this show so badly (yes, I know everyone does.) Unfortunately, in order to see it I need to have a seat I can see from. Those tickets are prohibitively expensive. For now, I have to settle for trying to lottery a few times, and hoping that maybe I am one of the lucky few. My husband and I are going to give it a shot. If not, I will patiently continue to research ADA seating and figure out how to get to see the show.
When I do go, I’m taking my tricornered hat. It was the hat I wore when I went as a revolutionary for halloween, for my birthday. I want the cast to sign it – because the words in this show strike my heart. I want the cast to sign my hat – really I want Lin Manuel Miranda to sign my hat because he’s written a show that I’ve connected with so deeply. He’s written the words of the fight I live in. He’s reminded me why I love to be an historian, why this era speaks to me so strongly. He’s given me the gift of renewed devotion to making history fun again. (and there’s a separate post with exciting news coming on that front.)
I write everything down. I write my way out.
I write because I need it to survive.
I am so lucky to be alive.