I am one of the many who can’t get an affordable ticket to Hamilton: An American Musical. I have eased my longing by listening ad nauseum to the soundtrack. What’s the attraction for me? My attraction peaks in the fourth word of the play. And I “rise up” (Act I, Track 3) from there. The word? Bastard!
“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore, and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor, turn out to be a hero and a scholar?” (Act I, Track 1) Fourth word, and whatever he says next is all “just a blur, sir” (Act I, Track 2) because all I can think is: “What?! Hamilton is a bastard?”
I, like Hamilton, am a bastard. You won’t hear me say that very often. I prefer the term “illegitimate.” Our world is full of them, us.
I lived in a secret. No one talked about it, even when I asked. I learned early to try to look like everyone else even when I was crumbling inside from self-doubt. I more closely adapted to Aaron Burr’s philosophy: “Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for” (Act I, Track 2) I bluffed my way through my childhood. I “started retreatin’ and readin’ every treatise on the shelf” (Act I, Track 1) and I wrote like I was “running out of time” (Act I, Track 23) in a journal.
Bluffing stopped working when I experienced legal benchmarks, like applying for my drivers’ license. This bastard faced life like Hamilton did—head on! I thrust my school ID and my birth certificate—with names that did not match—in front of the man at the DMV and I used my own eloquent gift of speech to explain why my current name did not match the one on my birth certificate. I got my license!
“Ev’ry burden, ev’ry disadvantage I learned to manage” (Act I, Track 3) from that first experience on, buoyed me for the next challenge. Like a marriage license. And later, a passport.
I went to college four days after I graduated from high school. I knew my life had to matter. This scandalous cross-pollination of unlawful DNA that brought me to life had to have a purpose. I had to find it, or die trying. I always thought I would die young and unfinished. “I imagine death so much it seems more like a memory. Is this where it gets me? Several feet ahead of me?” (Act II, Track 22) I have always lived like I needed to hurry and accomplish…something. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it needed to be “a revolution!” (Act I, Track11) So I embarked on some real humdingers!
- It started with equality for Mexican-Americans at my high school and later in college. I am not Mexican-American. I got involved in the revolution of immigrants—similar to Hamilton, who came as an immigrant and joined a revolution in a new country.
- I returned to church after I experienced the grief of my mother’s death. Hamilton experienced the death of his son in a duel and his grief led him to make his way to church. “I take the children to church on Sunday, make the sign of the cross at the door.” (Act 2, Track 18)
- I have always had this little edge of pessimism even as I have progressed from my humble beginning to suburban CEO’s wife/author/speaker. I work hard to maintain a positive attitude. Hamilton, who rose above his station from bastard orphan to aristocracy lapsed often into pessimistic perspectives too, as captured with words like “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?” Act I, Track 3). Just a little edgy.
- I finally got my college degree in psychology to “rise above my station” (Act I, Track 8), but I was on the 14-year program. Hamilton compressed four years of study into nine months and got his law degree to rise above his station! Though it took me longer, I believe the drive is the same, Hamilton and I both knew that education mattered if we were going to “leave a legacy” (Act II, Track 23).
- I remarried to save myself from myself. I had finally matured enough to realize I could I let my new husband become “part of the narrative” (Act I, Track 17) of my life. Like Hamilton did with Eliza.
- In marriage, I have saved my workaholic husband from overworking. I have lent structure to a blended family and given wings to six adults. I moved multiple times and had numerous career changes. “Because, man, the [wo]man is NonStop!” (Act I, Track 23) Like Hamilton, I seriously have no other choice. I am always trying to prove my worth.
But I did not die young. In all of these phases, I have written epic amounts of snippets, quotes and thoughts. I have written countless stories of transition, family conflict and contentment, rejection and joy, and always with gratitude and grit. I have chronicled the process of moving chronically. I have written stories about my husband’s career. I “write like it’s going out of style” (Act I. Track 23) about our own personal revolutions, about my faith which helped me “stay alive.” (Act I, Track 14)
Every time I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack , I am inspired again to write. To speak. To share my story. To rise above my station. To leave a legacy. (Act 2, Track 23).
I have written about the story I kept secret using concepts from the Bible and self-help books. I have healed. I have learned enough to help shape the lives of those who come after me.
Since 1980, over 27 million babies have been born to unwed mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Perhaps you know one of us. Perhaps you are raising one. Perhaps you are one. What if we share Hamiltonian proclivities? What if shame is a common thread that runs through us all? Could we learn by studying Hamilton, how to rise above our station? Could we, like Hamilton, find healing and honor in our faith? Could we change the narrative of our stories? If we don’t “throw away our shot,” could cause a new “Revolution?” Could we leave a legacy in and for our families?
Thank you, Ron Chernow, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Mr. Alexander Hamilton for giving words and meaning to the archetypal bastard. In doing so, you capture the essence of our cry to just be given a chance.
Would this “illegitimate” love to actually see Hamilton The Musical? Would it “change my life?’ (Act I, Track 10) like Angelica did when she introduced Alexander to her sister Eliza? Would the musical illuminate the narrative of my story?
It already has.
Chris Moss is a self-published author and observer of life. She writes and speaks and curates stories of transitions. She is currently compiling stories about people born of scandal and is specifically looking to make others aware of the struggles of being born illegitimate. Got a story to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. She will travel to NYC to see Hamilton the Musical in October 2016. She will buy one of the unaffordable tickets. She apologizes in advance to her children as she spends some of the legacy that was once intended for them.
If you are an illegitimate child, or are adopting, fostering or raising an illegitimate child, leave your email in the form on the right to receive Chris’ ebook entitled: Tips for Raising Legitimately Wholehearted Children. In the ebook, she covers helpful parenting techniques, scriptures to help understand and guide the child or the adult, and a list of books to help parents guide children, or adults to provide their own self-help.