Some thoughts on time, passion, and Tick, Tick… Boom!
We think we have time, or rather that we will have time. Someday. Eventually. After this. Before that. The life of Jonathan Larson, told in his beautiful musical and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s poignant film Tick, Tick… Boom!, shows us that someday is now. This message is especially meaningful in 2021, after the turbulence and turmoil of the past nearly two years. Today we’re here. Right now we have time. So let’s pour ourselves into what and who we love. In the end, love is the only thing that really matters.
A long time ago, when I first started my career in Broadway theater as a young 20-something, I thought the only way to be a *real* artist was to do it full-time. Get a crappy day job, lament that money is a necessary evil, and create in the dark—the wee hours of the morning and late into the night. And if people choose to go that way, I applaud them. I cheer them on. I think it’s an incredible decision, and one I deeply respect.
And it’s not the only way to live a life we love. It’s also not the only way to make a living and make a life. We can love a job that earns us a living. A passion doesn’t have to be something we must suffer to pursue. There can be joy, light, and happiness in the ways we choose to spend our time and the people who walk the path with us.
I make most of my living as a product developer. I love my job. I make some of my living as a writer, and I love write about things that matter to me. For a few years, I did write full-time, and I hated it because I ended up having to do a lot of writing I didn’t care about in order to pay the bills. There was not joy in that. After years of experimenting with balance, I’ve found the right mix product work and writing work that works for me. I don’t need a vacation from my life or my work because I love everything I do. It took years for me to make this my reality. Every day I took one tiny step, and sometimes those steps were in the wrong direction. I was committed to learning and doing everything I could to carve a path of and toward joy.
I hear a lot of writers talk about the need to write, that they have to write. I’ve heard the same thing said by musicians and visual artists of every genre. And I understand that perspective. I used to have it. But I don’t anymore. After a tumultuous year when I had to teach myself to breathe again, I don’t have to write. I get to write. I have the privilege to create, to pour my heart and mind onto the page, to relish the tap, tap, tap on my keyboard that has become one of my favorite sounds in the world. I’m grateful for a language that lets me communicate what I think, feel, see, hear, and experience.
These words, these very words that you’re reading right now (and thank you for being here!), will live on in some form years and years and years into the future. They will be read by people I may never meet in real-life. And though we don’t know each other, they will know my heart and my thoughts. They will read this, and maybe, just maybe, this piece of writing will inspire them to take one small step toward doing what they love. I write because I want to be immortal. I write because I love to create whole worlds, to connect with people, to share, to learn, to grow.
What brings you joy, and how can you pursue it? Maybe that’s a question that you haven’t asked yourself in a long time. Maybe today you’ll make the choice to try something new, to try to answer that question. I hope you find what makes you happy, what makes you feel alive. And I hope you find a way to bring that into your life, to share it with others.
Jonathan Larson did. He wrote over and over and over again, until he got it right. I’m so glad he did. Millions of people are. Alone in his tiny New York apartment for years trying again and again to tell the truth, did he ever imagine just how far his stories would reach? How many souls and hearts he would inspire. How many people would be grateful that he didn’t give up on his passion, and how many people wish he had lived so much longer than 35 years.
Time is ticking for all of us. Whatever is that you want to do, do it now. Whatever it is you want to create, create it now. Today is your day. Right now is your time. Tick, tick…