(Don’t) Wait for It: A Hamiltonian Reminder

Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) ©Theo Wargo/Getty Images

By the time my friend, Lisa, and I saw “Hamilton: An American Musical” in mid-February, I’d already listened to the soundtrack a few times. I was quite excited to see the show and to hear the songs, especially these songs, performed live:

– “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” about the American victory in the Siege of Yorktown

– “Cabinet Battle No. 1,” a rap battle between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson about how to pay our new nation’s debts

The ‘Cabinet Battle’ songs reframe arguments between Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), left, and Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda)  in the context of a modern-day rap battle.

A song that initially did not catch my attention — but has since become my favorite — is this soliloquy, sung by Aaron Burr near the midpoint of Act I: “Wait for It.” I’ve replayed it countless times, captivated by the solemn melody and evocative lyrics that powerfully raise the question: Do we assert ourselves and create the opportunities we want, or do we more passively wait for the right one to find us?

Burr answers:

Life doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When so many have died
Then I’m willing to wait for it

At the same time, Burr can’t help but wonder about Hamilton, even as he ultimately doubles-down on his own timidity:

What is it like in his shoes?

Hamilton doesn’t hesitate
He exhibits no restraint
He takes and he takes and he takes
And he keeps winning anyway
He changes the game
He plays and he raises the stakes
And if there’s a reason
He seems to thrive when so few survive, then Goddamnit —
I’m willing to wait for it

Thinking back on my life, I see a mixed record: times when I took appropriate risks and times when I was appropriately and, of course, overly cautious. Who’s to say whether I struck the right balance or what might have happened had I been more assertive?

…(I)f there’s a reason I’m still alive
When so many have died

Then I’ll take it.

Even so — having turned 50 this past December — I’m cognizant of time passing and mindful of all I want to accomplish in the time remaining.

I can’t help but appreciate the reminder: (Don’t) wait for it.

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