This week I watched one of my favorite musicals become a film under the direction of Lin-Manuel Miranda. The musical, tick… tick… BOOM! was written by the late Jonathan Larson, who is most notably recognized for writing Rent. I’d like to take you back to 2005, when I was a student at College Station Middle School. In my eighth-grade English class, we were asked to select a person whom we would research and eventually give a speech over. I chose Jonathan Larson. I had just seen the film adaptation of Rent and could still recall the tears I had shed in the theatre at the local Cinemark upon seeing it. I was fourteen years old. I had never cried like that over a film. I had no idea at the time that I was queer. It stuck with me. I chose to write a speech about Jonathan Larson’s life. I researched all that the school library would allow regarding Jonathan Larson, Rent, and tick… tick… BOOM! and I can still recall giving that speech in my class.
I had not anticipated how much the film adaptation would affect me. I watched it with my mother, who was actually part of the speech I gave in eighth grade. I can remember making a tri-fold poster, my mother helping me craft a 3-D design in which a door showed an eviction notice with chains. I had not visited tick… tick… BOOM! in almost a decade. Thus, when I watched Andrew Garfield dressed as Jonathan Larson, saying “I’m turning 30 on Sunday,” tears began to well in my eyes.
I’m turning 30 on November 30th. I think about that fourteen-year-old, still unaware of being queer. I had yet to experience the trauma that would follow me into my queerness. Yet, the life of Jonathan Larson would be instrumental in that process. Me, unaware of myself, unapologetically giving this speech in my class, talking openly about queerness, AIDS, art, and loss. Here I am now, still speaking on my own loss. I’m turning 30 soon, living a life I did not know I would live to see. I’ve lived so many lives through my grief.
I told these stories to my mother, as we watched Andrew Garfield sing the stories that Jonathan wrote about his short life. My mother sat next to me as we discussed the impact this man had on the very person who wrote Hamilton. She said, “you never know the impact you will have on the world.” She’s right. I’m turning 30, you know. As this fourteen-year-old, so unaware of what would happen to me, of who I was, I never knew the impact this person would have on my life. Jonathan Larson was 35 years-old when he died. Because of him, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton. Because of him, I realized the beauty of my queerness at a young age.
You have no idea, absolutely no idea, what impact you will have on the world. But it is there. It is there.