(Why I Love Harry Potter and Hamilton So Much)
Hello again, friends. This post is a departure from the norm, but I think it’s a good thing.
If you know me, you know I have a fondness (read: obsession) for all things Harry Potter. I’ve read the books and watched the movies too many times to count, and I can dominate in a game of HP Scene-It. I own a wand, a sorting hat, a Hedwig stuffed animal, two pairs of themed earrings, two full-size original movie posters, multiple copies of several of the books… need I go on? My friends/family/husband know that if they give me anything Potter-related I’ll be extremely happy, and soon I want to ink myself with an HP tattoo.
Recently, though, I’ve become infatuated with another pop-culture phenomenon: Hamilton. You know, the musical? The musical about Alexander Hamilton? The hip-hop musical about forgotten founding father Alexander Hamilton, the guy on the ten dollar bill? And when I say infatuated, I want you to read “obsessed” again, because that’s really what it is. I listen to the soundtrack on the reg – my car has become the setting for a one-woman adaptation of the show starring me as all the characters. I’ve convinced myself that I’m an exceptional rapper, and the other night I may or may not have cried because I want to go to NYC and see the musical on Broadway so bad it hurts.
So I’ve got two fandoms in which I’d consider myself a devoted citizen. Harry Potter. Hamilton. One is framed in a world spilled forth from the mind of JK Rowling, a world of her own creation, a world that drew us all in and allowed us to grow with her characters. And the other is history, a biography-turned-musical that makes me want to research men who lived and died hundreds of years ago, while simultaneously inspiring me to get out and create because, after all, “who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”
But why? Why would I choose to spend so much time investing in something that isn’t real, or something that I may never see? I know so much about Harry Potter it’s almost embarrassing. Ask me almost any question about the story or characters and I can answer it. Alternately, ask me almost any question about the Hamilton soundtrack and I can answer it. Like. Yeah.
I’ll probably never meet JK Rowling, and I certainly can’t attend Hogwarts for real. Likewise, it costs about a trillion gazillion dollars to get a resale ticket to see Hamilton, not to mention getting to New York in the first place.
So again, why?
I’m certain this has been said again and again, so I apologize for the redundancy, but here’s why I love these stories: We all have something inside of us that longs to be seen, to be understood. And these stories make me feel seen and understood. There’s utter humanity in them, tragedy and heartbreak and love and humor and indecisiveness and light and dark and fear and shame and triumph and beauty. And that helps me understand myself a little better.
When I’ve had a *day* at work and my heart feels like it’s going to explode, you know what helps? Rapping all the parts in “Non-Stop” and belting along when Leslie Odom Jr. sings, “Iiiiiiiii’ll keep all my plans close to my chest” because what could be better than getting lost in a story that isn’t mine?
And that’s just it, isn’t it. I long to get lost in a story that isn’t mine. Whether it’s because I’m having a tough time, or because I just need an escape from the world I’m in, or I need inspiration in my own craft… these stories are continually surprising me.
There’s magic in them – not just Expecto Patronum magic, although it is pretty dope that dementors are a representation of Rowling’s own struggle with depression. No, there’s something in these stories that connects directly to my core, which I think is truly beautiful.
Harry’s struggle with anger in Order of the Phoenix made me feel less alone in my own teenage angst. His fascination with the darkness inside of him, his unwillingness to learn Occlumency to protect his mind from Voldemort’s intrusions in the following books… we all have that same fascination, don’t we? We want to give in to the darkness. Ultimately, though, he chooses to resist. He chooses light. That’s what I want.
Aaron Burr struggles his entire life to live in the limelight, constantly being overshadowed by Alexander Hamilton, always waiting to see which way the majority will lean so that he can make his decision based on what other people want. And in a moment of desperation and anger, he makes a rash decision. “Now I’m the villain in your history,” he sings, knowing that books will paint him only as the man who shot and killed Hamilton in a duel. There’s such visceral humanity in Burr, at least the way he’s portrayed in the musical, and I find it so powerful that music can make me feel that in my gut. I feel that visceral humanity.
And these stories make me want to chase my dreams. I don’t want to always be waiting around to see what other people will do before I make a move of my own. I want to take action, be bold, have courage. I want to inhale knowledge like Hermione, find joy in life like Ron, struggle like Harry. I want to be innovative like Hamilton, passionate like John Laurens, open an orphanage like Eliza.
Harry Potter and Hamilton inspire me. They help me cope. They provide humor and depth and wonder when I need it.
And everyone’s got something like this. Does it have to be Harry Potter? No. Does it have to be Hamilton? Absolutely not. (Although, I recommend both if you haven’t had the opportunity to experience them. After all, I’ve written an entire post on them). But it’s something. Whatever it is, be unafraid in enjoying it.
Now, here’s a confession (“Confession time, here’s what I got: my fellow soldiers’ll tell you I’m a terrible shot,” okayimdonesorry). I think the reason I wanted to write this post in the first place was to open myself up to writing about things other than the deep trauma in my life, and I was scared to do that. But writing this post has brought me back to the place I always end up in at the end:
Live your truth. Heal the way you need to. Trust God. Be you. Love the things you love and know that they’re part of your story, and if they bring you joy, then by all means… blare Hamilton as loud as you want and rap along while you’re driving down I-65.
Honestly? I’ll probably be somewhere rapping, too.