I voted in my first election when I was 21 years old. It was 2008, and I was a senior in college. My boyfriend at the time had taken me to see presidential hopeful Barack Obama speak, and I was smitten. (With Barack…and my boyfriend…but mostly Barack.) I had spent the election cycle learning as much about him as I could. I took my parents to see him speak. My boyfriend and I hosted a presidential candidate forum on campus, and invited local representatives for each candidate- Democrat and Republican. I met Beau Biden that night and shook his hand. I had the opportunity to sit feet from Michelle Obama, when she spoke to a small group at my high school. Afterward, I talked to her, she hugged me, and we got a picture taken together. In the fall of 2008, I took a part-time job with the local Obama campaign office. I was the liaison between the campaign and my campus. The 10 hour a week job was more than that, but I gave it all I could. I called, I canvassed, and I made sure everyone at St. Ambrose knew how to vote on election day. One day after class, I had a voicemail from Kal Penn- YES KAL PENN- thanking me for everything I was doing at the local level to get Barack Obama elected. I remember election night so vividly, and the feeling of pride I felt as the polls closed and the electoral votes were awarded. The change I so strongly believed in was here. The man I believed in had won, and was about to change the course of our country, for the better.
I fell in love with politics after that. I blew through all seven seasons of “The West Wing.” I aspired to be CJ Cregg…I still do, most days. And I was beyond psyched when two of my favorite things, politics and musicals came together in the form of “Hamilton.” And even more psyched when I got tickets!!! That’s right, friends, this kid got HAMILTON TICKETS! It was a whole process- Mal had tickets in her cart, Ticketmaster booted her offline, we searched with no luck for several hours, until, like some sweet Baby Jesus magic, two tickets IN THE ORCHESTRA appeared, and the rest was history.
Mal and I went two weeks ago, and it was exactly the Pamper Day I needed after a crazy month. We got up early and drove into the city, hoping to avoid World Series traffic (which we did.) We grabbed lunch at Potbelly, then walked to the theater.
We showed up WAY early, and hung out in the lobby, where it was confirmed that the three people I was most excited to see (Joshua Henry, Karen Olivo, and Ari Afsar) were all well, and would be performing.
We also visited with a lady and her daughter, who had flown in from Arizona just for the show! Eventually the lobby filled, I got feisty and ready to throw some elbows at anyone who tried to get in front of me, and at 1:15pm, the lobby doors opened and we all funneled in. I bought myself a program book, and Mal and I waited to go into the house. And guys, when the doors opened…it was magical! We were sitting in row M on the end, and it was just perfect.
I could literally talk for an hour or more about how fabulous this show was, but I need sleep and so do you, so I’ll just say a few things…
- This was the pampering of a lifetime. I was so engrossed in the show, experienced so much emotion, and was just overwhelmed with pure joy. Some of the best money I’ve ever spent.
- My biggest concern going in was that I’d be sad I wasn’t seeing the original cast. I wasn’t sad in the slightest. They were INCREDIBLE. To be in a room with that much talent and love…words can’t describe it.
- Joshua Henry…mmmmmm. I am a fan. I could watch him play Aaron Burr all day long.
- I cried…a lot. More than I expected. Seeing tears in Karen Olivo’s eyes during “Satisfied” (yeah, we were so close I could see tears in her freaking eyes!) killed me. It was pretty much downhill from there. And do not get me started on Act 2. I can’t listen to “It’s Quiet Uptown” anymore, unless I have a game plan to fix my make-up immediately after.
- This was the best anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t say that lightly. Every single thing about the show was outstanding. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve never, ever felt this way about a show. #blessed
I’ve been thinking about “Hamilton” every day since I’ve seen it, but particularly today. I’ll admit it: I felt at ease about Election Day. I felt at peace. I had voted absentee the week before. No, it wasn’t Barack Obama who was going to change the world, but I believed in Hillary. I believed she could unite us. I believed she had a message of love at her core. As the people around me, friends/family/students worried and stressed over the impending results, I kept saying the same thing: “It’s going to be fine.”
I was wrong. It’s not fine. The optimist in me has been looking for a shred of something that I can cling to, something that I can hold to the light and say, “See? It’s going to be ok!” Something that makes me feel like this country is more than a place filled with hate. Something that makes me not worry for my friends and loved ones. Something that makes me, as a woman, feel safe. And this morning, it came in the form of Hamilton…
“I am not throwing away my shot, I’m just like my country, young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.”
“The sun comes up and the world still spins”
“Rise up, when you’re living on your knees”
And lastly, while jamming out to “The Schuyler Sisters” for the millionth time… “how lucky we are to be alive right now.” And you know what? They’re right. Maybe things didn’t go the way I expected or hoped last night. I’m sad and I’m scared and I don’t know what the future has in store. But I do know this: I’m alive at a time when I have the power to do something. I have the power to love when others show hate. I have the power to rise up. I have the power to extend a hand to those who feel unwanted and unwelcome. I have the power to be that shred of something that someone can cling to. So, I’m going to take a page from Hamilton and not throw away my shot. I’m going to take my optimism, my love, and my gifts, and I am going to use them for good. I’m going to teach, and inspire, and choreograph, and love, love, love, love, love. I’m not throwing away my shot…because that, that is what will change the course of this country, for the better.