One Degree of Separation

Written by: Katherine “Ringleader” Imp

I’m so close I can taste it.

I remember waking up in Maine, two years ago, my body completely worn, but my mind rushing with excitement. So close to finishing. So close to summiting Katahdin. So close to wrapping up production of my first feature film. So close I could taste it.

Two years later I’ve got that same excitement running through my veins. This is my year. That year I’ll talk about with my Grandkids when they ask how Grandma made her dreams come true. The year I didn’t sleep or rest because I was too busy livin’. The year my life changed forever. I’m so close I can taste it.

I’ve always thought it was my destiny to empower people–empower them to lead their best life.  But I didn’t know how or in what capacity.  So after college I spent some time working for Outward Bound and Landmark Volunteers, leading wilderness trips for at-risk youth. I enjoyed it, and learned a lot, but it wasn’t my platform. I needed something bigger. I wanted something bigger.

Three years ago, when I came to Jason, Brandon, and Emily with my idea, I promised them the moon. I told Jason I’d help him be the producer he always wanted to be. I told Brandon I’d help him either get into medical school or get his own travel show. And I told Emily that I’d make our dream of inspiring young people a reality. The only thing they had to do was trust me. But I had no credentials, no connections, and no proof that anything lucrative would come out of this project. There were so many degrees of separation between me and the moon that failure began to seem inevitable.

Those degrees of separation, along with the exhaustion of filming while hiking 20 miles/day, led to tension and anger and stress, and worst of all, a loss of trust.

In 2011 I sat on this project, wondering if the only thing left was to admit failure and move on with my life. But I couldn’t. Not after everything we’d been through on the trail. So, like we did on Springer Mountain, I began to put one foot in front of the other. I began to believe in my dream again.

This was one of the best summers of my life. After a year of post-production, we brought Beauty Beneath the Dirt on the road to realize the dream I had back in 2009. I didn’t sleep. While Brandon was driving up the coast from Georgia to Maine to host screenings, I was in Chicago booking venues and making press calls in between billable hours. I flew in for screenings in Baltimore, Harrisonburg, New York City, and South Jersey. I reconnected with friends and trail angels. I watched as our audience laughed and cried. I talked about life, relationships, and the Appalachian Trail with hundreds of strangers. I felt the degrees of separation fade away.

Our G2M Tour ended in Monson, Maine at the end of July and I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. I flew in for the screening, wanting to share the moment with my brother. We re-hiked Katahdin, exchanged stories with the owner of Monson’s General Store over breakfast, and mingled with hikers at the Lakeshore House. 120 people crammed into Monson’s community center that night. All ages and backgrounds, some coming from towns over 40 miles away. As Brandon and I stood up to give our last Q&A, I looked around the room, looked at him, and just smiled. We did it.

In the last few months, I’ve connected with BBC, PBS, OWN, foreign distributors, producers, and friends of Mark Burnett. Three years ago these kinds of connections were a fantasy. But now there’s only one degree of separation between me and the moon and I feel more focused and alive than ever. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings…

For more blog entries by Katherine Imp, see her new website

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