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Tick, Tick… Boom!

Per Wikipedia: Tick, Tick… Boom! is a biographical musical written and executive produced by Steven Levenson. It is based on the same-named stage musical by Jonathan Larson, covering Larson’s experience in the theater industry. Jonathan Larson, for those unfamiliar with the name, wrote Rent. He tragically passed away at age 35 from an aortic dissection, the day before the first Off-Broadway preview of Rent.  

At the turn of the new year, I finally sat down to watch the musical. I really enjoyed the entire show but one song in particular, 30/90, stuck out to me. 

The song, a reference to Jonathan Larson turning 30 in 1990. 

Myself, a few months from my own 30th. 

I put a note in my blog document to revisit this closer to. And here I sit now, watching a lyric video of the song on YouTube and trying to remember what my brain had originally flagged as the important message to share. Oh there are great lines. “Hell, you still feel like you’re 22” and “At least you’re not alone // Your friends are there too” and “But you’re not into // making choices” being some of my favorites.

But about 90 seconds in, Andrew Garfield (who plays Larson) belts out “what can you do?”

This line is repeated throughout the song.

What can you do?

What can you do?

What can you do?

And blame it on a sentimental heart and the rocking melody of a show tune, but I think, sitting on the edge of 30, the answer is a whole heck of a lot. 

One of the last writing courses I took in college used a book by a local author who came to some event at the school. A big fan of his work, I was thrilled to have the chance to say hello. In our conversation and as he was signing something for me, I found myself babbling about my endless dreams for what post-college life might be. He smiled and winked and I looked down at what he had written, “Do all of your ideas. Every single one.”

I get that the song has a sense of dread to it… as do many conversations about “turning 30.” More on that another time. But I can’t help but hear “what can you do” as a sort of rallying cry. 

At first—again high on musical soundtracks—I wanted to write, “I can run marathons!! I can make delicious vegan quiches!! I can play the trombone!!”

Oh but I can also make the person I love laugh. I can give good hugs. I can listen when someone needs a sounding board.

Perhaps flirting with 30 is less about what I’ve accomplished in the tangible sense of race medals or job titles and more about what I can do to make people feel loved, cared for, and heard.

I’m so grateful for every day I have to discover what I can do.


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