By now, if you are following my story, you know the short version. That one day I took a detour from my usual routine and the end result was a day on a movie set with M Night Shyamalan. Seemingly, the main impetus for leaving the comfortability of my corporate career and becoming a filmmaker. But there was more to it than that.
The grainy picture you see above was my true inspiration. Let me explain.
When I won the bid to spend the day on the set of Shyamalan’s The Visit, I was contacted by the young woman in the middle, Jenn. At the time she was the Shyamalan Foundation’s Executive Director. She and her colleague Joanna, who is not shown above but also plays an inspirational role in my leap, were the first people to contact me about the logistics of my upcoming day. They hung out with me on the set and our conversations were rich. These conversations have continued since that first meeting in March, 2014 and today I consider each a good friend, despite our age difference.
Shortly after my incredible day on the set I received an invitation from Jenn to come to an event that would feature a young woman they supported through the foundation. Eager to learn more about the Shyamalan’s work I jumped at the chance. That evening I met the third woman in the above picture, the one on the right, Katie Meyler.
The Shyamalan Foundation supports the grassroots efforts of emerging leaders as they work to eliminate barriers created by poverty and social injustice in their communities. Katie Meyler is one of those leaders. Katie is the Founder and CEO of More Than Me (MTM), a leading education network in Liberia. She started MTM in 2009 in an effort to find the most vulnerable girls in Liberia and get them into school. She was 27 then.
That night at the foundation event I sat in the front row listening to this thirty-something woman tell us her story and her dreams, through her poetry. We connected that night in a big way and it was at that moment that all the little fears I had about jumping ship and becoming a filmmaker were washed away. I have never been inspired as much as I was by this woman. We have remained close and have had deep conversations about life and love and dancing…she is always dancing!
Since starting MTM, Katie has not only helped to transform the educational network in Liberia, but has gone on to work with the Ministry of Education to add 8 private partners running over 200 schools impacting over 50,000 children. She was named 2014 Time Magazine person of the year for her efforts on the front lines of the Ebola crisis. The list goes on. Her story is inspiring not just because she has achieved so much but because she achieved it on her own, with no money in her pockets, just a lot of love, fierce energy and big dreams.
Katie makes you see that any obstacle or fear can be overcome, and that with true passion you can move mountains. I thank her for reminding me of that regularly. I thank Jenn for knowing I needed to meet this woman. I thank Joanna for bringing me to Zac, my film Director for the Beyond Sixty Project. I thank all of them for encouraging me, supporting me and offering regular doses of inspiration. They give me a deep and important connection to our marvelous younger generation.
Back to the picture above. It was taken May 27, 2018, late at night in Rincon, Puerto Rico. After Katie’s marriage to Theodros, also known as Teddy the Bush Doctor. Teddy works along side Katie and MTM to develop school-based healthcare programs in Liberia. They are one dynamic duo. I remember when she met Teddy and said she thought he was “the one.” He was and he is. I have never met two people so perfectly matched. I am sure the universe was waiting for just the right time to place them in the same location. I look forward to watching them as they continue to make their mark on the world.
In my lifetime most of my inspiration has come from people I have read about. Usually people who were older than me and for the most part, people I would never meet. But then one day back in March of 2014 I took the detour and all that changed. I still look back at the chain of events that day and all that has come after it and wonder. What would I be doing right now if I had not made a change in my routine that day?
I hope you always take the detours. You just might find your inspiration along that unknown stretch of road.
Peace and Love,