By Charlotte Alter, Diane Tsai, and Francesca Trianni
April 21, 2016

Being in your twenties is a mixed bag. Even if you later go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Genius Award, a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy in your 30s, your twenties are still a period of growing pains. Just ask Lin-Manuel Miranda, now a TIME 100 honoree.

Miranda says his twenties were “the most fun,” but he certainly had his fair share of quarter-life crisis anxiety. “The drawback of your twenties is the terror of not knowing if you’re actually going to accomplish what you set out to accomplish or who you’re going to be when you grow up,” he said. “I think it’s pretty miraculous that I survived my twenties without ever working as a waiter.” Not that he didn’t have his fair share of odd jobs: Miranda working as a seventh-grade English teacher, a political jingle-writer and a Bar Mitzvah dancer.

The Hamilton creator also says he’s been worried about how he’ll be remembered since before he turned 20. “I’ve been worried about legacy since I was a kid,” he said. “we have this amount of time, it’s the tiniest grain of sand of time we’re allowed on this Earth to be alive. And what do we leave behind and how much–and we’re not even promised a day.”

“So what can we do in the time we’re given?” he continued. “I think that question has gnawed at me as long as I’ve been conscious.”

He says that question—and the acknowledgement that life is finite and there’s only so much you can do with it—is something that’s also woven into the lyrics of Hamilton. “When faced with a life full of incident, it forces you to reckon with how you’re using your time,” he said. “And that’s why when people come away being like, ‘that show messed me up,’ it’s because it forces you to reckon with how much time you have.”

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