My family is made up of a bunch of one-of-a-kind people. They are happy, joyful people, they are successful, but they are also rooted in humility and gratitude.
My mother and father were born to poor families from Virginia. Their parents – my grandparents – were sharecroppers, people who worked the tobacco fields for peanuts, for just small amounts of money on which to survive. But they had big dreams of living a better life.
In the 1940s, after being married for 20-plus years, they established a business – a small restaurant in Petersburg, Virginia. Ten years later they sold the restaurant – which had by that time become a chain – and they became millionaires overnight. They then invested much of their money, in turn increasing their wealth. They got into real estate, corporate finance, and other investments. For two people without a college education, they were still very intelligent, perceptive and had impressive foresight. They have always been wise in their decision-making.
My mother then inherited their estate once they passed on, and she went on to have the financial security to pursue her dream of becoming Hollywood screenwriter. She was fortunate enough to have sufficient money to support herself even if she failed as a writer in Hollywood, which of course she did not do.
I was 15 when we moved to Los Angeles, California. After sending in spec scripts to various TV shows, she received an offer to write scripts for a soap opera and a children’s show – and she ultimately had some scripts made into episodes. By this time, she had divorced my father, who at the time was the owner of a large corporation, a construction company in South Carolina. So when we moved to Los Angeles, it was just the two of us. We were a team, and we learned to live together. It was hard at first, me a teenager in this big, scary, foreign city. But it took her three years before she completed her first screenplay. It was a love story, in many ways based on her life and love story. It sold a year later to Universal Studios. Yes, we were already quite wealthy. But she wanted to be successful on her own terms. She wanted to live out her own destiny, leave her own mark on this world. And she did.
Now I am in college, soon to graduate with a degree in Creative Writing. I have dreams of following in her footsteps: I too want to have my scripts made into films and TV shows. I am writing too – all of the time, actually – and it’s what I want to do with my life and my short time on this crazy planet. I want to be just like my mother, who has always been a sort of hero to me. She is happy and successful, she has been able to make a career out of writing professionally – and she loves the life she has created for herself. Yes, she has been wealthy most of her adult life, but that fact had nothing to do with her finding success in writing. And I really admire that about her. Did coming from a wealthy family make success a bit easier? Sure. But she did the writing, she put in the work each day, and she has made it.
My family is not an ordinary bunch, nor is my family an ordinary American family, at least in my mind. I realize that we have had more opportunities than most families, but that doesn’t make me better than anybody else. I just have more advantages than most, and I’m very grateful for that – and I'm glad I can acknowledge this. I owe everything I have today to what my grandparents and parents accomplished. It is because of them that my own success may come a bit easier than most.