One of the most famous lines from the hit Broadway musical comes from the song, “My Shot” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. In it, Alexander Hamilton acknowledges he comes from a very different background than most Americans at the time. That his real only value to the world lies in his youth, scrappiness, hungriness to make his mark, and his brains.
“I am not throwing away my shot.” Although death eventually takes Hamilton, as it does with each of us, he recognizes that he has only one life to give in order to make his contributions count toward the American Revolution. While I’m not sure he was ever suicidal, there were times he probably ought to have been.
These lyrics inspired by Hamilton’s story can also act as an inspiration to those contemplating suicide.
We’ve all been in a place where our lives were seemingly full of nothing but pain. While not all of us have contemplated suicide, more have done so than you’d think have. Probably at least one of your closest friends has thought about it, maybe even seriously.
The problem with suicide is that we think of it as a perfectly reasonable option to our seemingly hopeless situation. But that’s really our brain tricking us and offering us a solution that’s really no solution at all. A very permanent solution to a relatively temporary feeling.
Later in the same song, Hamilton also speaks of thinking of his own inevitable death:
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
When’s it gonna get me?
In my sleep? Seven feet ahead of me?
If I see it comin’, do I run or do I let it be?
Is it like a beat without a melody?
See, I never thought I’d live past twenty
Where I come from some get half as many
Ask anybody why we livin’ fast and we laugh, reach for a flask
We have to make this moment last, that’s plenty
We need to make this moment last, because we get so few of them on this planet. Sure, you can throw away your shot by choosing suicide over life. But in doing so, you’re also throwing away all of your potential of things that may be — that still could be — if only you could get through the next minute. The next hour. The next day.
All of that, just for a passing moment, a feeling that came on you, but one that can also leave just as quickly.
I don’t look at people who contemplate taking their own lives as being weak. I think they are being strong — some of the strongest people I’ve ever known.
But turning away from suicide? That’s real bravery that takes an inner strength not everyone has. Most people are never tested to the core of their depths like those who’ve thought seriously about suicide have. People who’ve thought about suicide and lived to tell about it — those people are my heroes.
Hamilton had little chance to make his mark on this planet. He was born on a Caribbean island with no formal schooling until he went to America to change his future chances by going to school and getting an education. I’m certain that this man felt many dark days in his life, as his life was torn apart by circumstances and his own poor choices in judgment.
And yet… He turned out to be one of the Founding Fathers of America. Without Hamilton’s advice, counsel, and leadership, it’s likely we’d be a very different nation than we are today (for the worse).
He resolved not to throw away his shot, despite his many chances to fade into the background when things got heated and his own honor was at stake. He didn’t choose suicide, he chose to continue living, to face the darkness head on, and to make the best of more than one really bad situation.
You can too. You always had that choice. You can either choose to throw away your shot and let the next person in line take your place in doing all the awesome, wonderful things you will still do one day… Or you can resolve not to throw away your shot. To stay with us one more day. To reach out to someone — anyone — and let them know you’re hurting and you’re in need of help.
Please, don’t throw away your shot.