I’ve just finished watching tick, tick…BOOM!, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature film directorial debut, his adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical play of the same name. In case you’re not a theater geek, Larson also wrote the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning Rent, the musical that changed musicals forever. The movie is a joy to watch in spite of its general sadness –Larson died of an aneurysm the day Rent had its first off-Broadway preview performance– especially thanks to Andrew Garfield’s amazing performance. Lin-Manuel continues to own my heart one way or another.
But I just wanted to get off the couch and scream.
It’s been a rough couple of months. I don’t make it all public because it’s not all mine to share, but it’s been there. Y. has been in hell at work; she keeps feeling exploited, even if everyone around her, including the top brass, say (rightfully so) how incredible her work is. D. had a horrible couple of months too; we had to get her out of her school and into a new one due to an… incident. So a lack of routine and a growth of stress added to that untreatable condition that is tweenhood and she became… let’s just say, more difficult than usual.
Again, I wanted to scream. Every day. Many days, I did.
And yours truly? Oh I’ve been peachie. Can’t you tell? No, see, work hasn’t sucked at all, the crowds have been great, so generous. Venezuela is bouncing back, my parents are doing just fine. My nephews? Gorgeous little twins? About to turn seven, see them every day. And what my ladies are going through? Nah, doesn’t get to me at all, they’re fine. They’re fine, I tell you. Oh and yes, I have this incurable sarcasm dripping out of my mouth.
Can I scream now?
As you can probably tell, dear readers, the movie, Jonathan’s story, hit quite a few chords with me. The movie takes place in the weeks before his 30th birthday, where he is freaking out about not leaving any kind of mark behind (“Stephen Sondheim opened his first play on Broadway when he was 27!”). In the process, he estranges himself from his girlfriend, his best friend, his life; it all centers on his art. He feels time is running out when technically he had all the time in the world, even during the worst of the AIDS pandemic in New York City in the 90’s, which is saying quite something. And yet he never got to see all that he did accomplish, how he is now kind of a legend, a bright flame that burned the quickest, taken away way too soon. And did I mention he was a waiter? Why would I freak out, huh? I know, right? Right?
I remember freaking out when 50 was ready to come knocking. Heck, I thought by the time I was 30 I’d have a wife and kids. I start every year saying “this is the one, we got this, that book will come out”, or “we’ll do the podcast”, or… anything. But time keeps passing by. I don’t manage to sit at this laptop and put the work in. Or churn out the words on a notebook. And it’s not like I don’t want to. It’s just that there’s always… something. Have to go to work. Have to cook lunch. Have to walk Leia (doesn’t matter if it’s the first thing I do in the morning). Have to wait. Have to sit. Have to sleep. Have to. Have to. Have to.
And not enough things I want to.
I want to take Y. to a nice dinner, or take her to a nice getaway. I want to have a better relationship with D., and help her achieve anything she wants. I want time to sit and write every single day. I want to think I can have a financial future where I can buy my own car next year, and help get ourselves a decent house after that (or before). I want to think that I can submit at least one –ONE– story to a publication. Never mind it getting accepted, which would be amazing, just the actual submission would be a triumph. And above all I want to stop thinking that I’m too old. F**k too old. Stephanie Gangi wrote her first novel when she was 55, and it got published. (Yes, I didn’t know who she was till I read this, but it was inspiring nonetheless.) I want to drink the book I’m reading for my bookclub and let it sink in my brain, because it should tell me that I’m not too old.
In Range: Why Generalists Triumph In A Specialized World, David Epstein argues the point that you don’t need laser focus on one thing to succeed in whatever you want. In fact, in whatever field you want, it’s the ones that diversify their interest that tend to succeed more. Did you know that tennis legend Roger Federer started out not caring for tennis at all –even having a tennis instructor for a mother. I’ll just let you watch Epstein’s TED talk and then I’ll end my rant.
Life is hard. Period. But we don’t need to make it harder. We need discipline, yes, but we need balance so much more. I have been on the “life is hard” part of my life too long now, as far as this absolute beast of a year goes. Enough, man. Enough.
Yes, it’s not the first time I’ve gotten up and written about writing more and getting my shit together and so on and so on. But life can end tomorrow, as poor Jonathan found out. I have to remind myself that life can also… start tomorrow. Heck, here’s a crazy idea…
What if life… starts right now?
I am an unabashed Lin-Manuel Miranda fan. The man exudes such a warmth as a person, but he also has a creativity without bounds. He has had an insane year: besides tick, tick… Boom!, he did voicework for the wonderful, underrated animated movie Vivo, and he composed the songs for the new animated movie Encanto. And if that wasn’t enough, he managed to show up on one of my favorite podcasts, the storytelling show The Moth.