Monday, February 16, 2009

Another birthday without me.

My nephew, Tyler, turned fifteen today. When I packed up a van and left Michigan, he was nine. I was there the day he was born. I was not there the day he turned ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen or fifteen. I was represented by a gift certificate, a check, a video game or a phone call. This hurts me. I know it hurts him, too.

How do you stay in touch with a teenager who doesn't like the phone? Video games. Last summer I bought an Xbox 360 because he bought one and they come with headsets. Since then I've killed people in the worlds of Halo, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto just to stay in his life. My guilt is a trail of burnt, dead bodies on the internet.

(Hold on, I should take a moment and admit that I do, in fact, like video games. Always have. This Xbox thing is no great sacrifice. Let's move on.)

My niece, Hollie, doesn't mind talking on the phone but she's better at text messages and snarky Facebook comments. She just turned seventeen and she's about ready to go off to college. She was twelve when I left, she can't possibly be ready to go to college, can she?

When you move to the other side of a continent, you either hate your family or love your dreams. Ugh. "Dreams." I've grown to hate that word. It makes me think of American Idol speeches. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to love it.

"Follow your dreams!"

"Never give up on your dreams!"

"Keep true to the dreams of thy youth!"

In grade school I wanted to be a novelist. In college I wanted to be a poet and a playwright. After nine screenplays, a couple of minor options and a bigger one they wrote about in Variety, I am a screenwriter. When I moved to California I didn't know anybody and I didn't have much of a plan. I was slowly dying in Michigan because I felt like my life was secretly happening somewhere else. After five and a half years of looking, I found it in Hollywood. You know what? I love it. It has a fantastic woman in it. It has a great dog. It has a healthy bank account and no debt. The price for all of this is an empty chair at many, many birthday parties.

I've given up all these birthdays to follow my dreams and I'm not done yet. Every time one rolls around I'm reminded that I better get back to work. I better do one more rewrite, flesh out one more pitch because I'm paying for this time with every candle they blow out without me, and I'll never get them back. My only hope is that my family can understand how important this is for me, and that they don't hold all those candles against me.

Happy Birthday, Ty. I hope you have the courage to follow your own dreams, no matter what they cost you.


  1. This is an amazing testimonial to the love of a family through thick and thin. We love you for having the courage to pursue your dreams. We would never hold them against you!

  2. You forgot... "If you're going to dream... dream BIG". (with love from the bookstore lady).