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How 'Hamilton' Changed My Life

I feel so lucky that I got to experience this.

I've wanted to see Hamilton since last October, well before it swept the 2016 Tony awards. I thought it was so cool that there was a rap musical on Broadway — even better, one that had a cast made up of nearly all people of color. So when my mom asked me what I wanted to do for my 16th birthday, there was no question.

The fact that it's the most successful show on Broadway right now and was also created by a person of color is extremely important to me. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator, has opened doors not only for himself, but for other people of color. He has proved that casting people of color in no way diminishes the quality of a production, but can actually make it better.

As someone who has struggled with my mental health, I also heard so much of myself in his lyrics, from "I've imagined death so much it feels more like a memory" to "There's a million things I haven't done, just you wait." I've always thought I have had to struggle through these feelings out of the hope that they might get better someday, but Hamilton gave me hope and made me feel like life can be, and is, amazing.

Especially at this point in my teenager-dom, when I have no set plans for what I want to do in the future, Lin-Manuel Miranda has shown me that I can do whatever I want as long as I'm willing to work hard and put my heart into my work. It's been difficult to find many stories like his — stories that show me that my race doesn’t need to hinder me as a writer and creator, but also can empower me to be widely successful.

Even back in October, it was super difficult to find tickets. But I was determined to see the show. I started a GoFundMe campaign called #Ham4Cam. I explained why I wanted to go, and shared the page on Twitter. Amazingly, the donations all came from my Twitter followers — friends that I've made, authors whose work I've read, some other people whom I've never met. These are the people who helped me see the show. Thanks to all those who donated, I reached my fundraising goal after only 21 days. I screamed when I found out. Other than paying a little more than $100 out of pocket for a "handling" fee, I basically got to go for free.

I got to the theater early on the day of the performance. I was sitting next to a lovely young lady who was just as excited as I was, and who had also come alone. It was great having someone to scream with every few seconds. The performance included many members of the original cast — like Miranda (!!!), Daveed Diggs, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson, Okieriete Onaodowan, and Anthony Ramos —  but everyone, including the understudies and ensemble, was amazing. I felt like a little kid at Disney World for the first time after having marathoned all the movies.

I don't know how to describe the show except to say that it was pure magic. I wanted to cry many times but couldn't. I was actually upset I didn't cry by the end, but my feelings felt like they were stuck inside of me. I just couldn't believe I was seeing the musical I'd listened to countless times before, with this amazing cast, the choreography, the staging — everything. I was laughing, clapping, and singing along with everyone else the entire time. I was in awe, and could barely register anything for most of the show.

I kept staring at Miranda, wondering how it must feel to know he made something so fantastic, so breathtaking, so stunning, that it sucked up its audience's emotions for two hours and 45 minutes. I was just so thankful for him, that he fought through all the difficult moments in his life, as a person and as a writer, to tell this story. And that I was able to see it.

This show has inspired and meant so much to me. It will always be a large part of my life because it proved to me that my background, appearance, and life can all help me break barriers and records and be extraordinary.

I'm so glad that I'm alive during the same time that Hamilton is on Broadway and speaking to people, and feel so lucky that I got to experience this. I won't always remember every detail of the show like I do now, but I'll remember how much it empowered me. Dying is easy; living is so much harder. But as Alexander Hamilton himself raps in the play, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their emotional health, visit Half of Us for resources and ways to get help.

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This post has been updated to correct a reference to lyrics from Hamilton.