The screening of Jeromy Farkas’s Going Far short film Thursday night should have been a fitting cap to his 4,200+ kilometre Pacific Crest Trail trek finished last fall.
Except, according to his mom, there are a couple of loose ends to tie up. Blog posts, in fact, from the final days of the journey. She asked at a Q & A following the film’s screening, like any good mom would, when the fans could see those complete.
“To be honest with you, I’m really struggling with it because I feel like the moment that I click send on the last day that means the journey is actually over,” Farkas responded.
“I’ll probably do it at my own speed, you know, probably expect it maybe sometime in the next year or two.”
The screening, held at Canyon Meadows theatre Thursday night, highlighted the 7.7 million step hike from the Mexico border back to Canada along the PCT. It featured stunning scenery, treacherous trails, and raging river crossings – but most of all, it featured the people he connected with along the way, including a reconnection to himself.
People were an important part of the 167-day trip that has now raised nearly $250,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters Calgary. Farkas likened it to when you revisit a street you grew up on, you see the house, but you don’t see the people.
“That’s the thinking that I had when I realized, I love this trail and all the journey and all of the experiences that I had was shared with other people,” Farkas said.
“I can go back to many of those beautiful vistas today but without those people I shared it with I it would feel very empty and hollow.”
Change and the doubters
Ken Lima-Coelho, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Q&A moderator, asked Farkas how the trek changed him.
Farkas said it’s not the right question to ask. It’s one he said he’s asked – predominantly by those on the political left – rather often.
“I think it is sort of assumed as this fairy tale story of how villains can transform into heroes or vice versa,” Farkas said.
“And I think the truth is that life is a lot more complicated than that.
“I would say the better question to ask is, well, Ken, do you think that you can support people that you may disagree with that are otherwise doing good things and do you want to support them when they’re trying to do better and to be better?”
Farkas said he realized there are certain parts of him that needed work. There was a chip on his shoulder he had to let go, he said.
“I think I was able to drop them that way because there’s just no sense of taking that with you up the mountain. There’s self-doubts, self-criticism and stuff like that and worries and regrets and I felt that I really had to leave that behind because it was just weighing me down,” Farkas said.
“So, I don’t know if I necessarily changed – I will tell you I don’t think I have – but I know I’m not the same.”
Still, he discovered a part of himself he said he wished he’d emphasized earlier in his life: Jeromy the Pathfinder.
“I think about this guy, Pathfinder. Somebody who’s confident, somebody who’s humble, who’s willing to ask for help, all of the rest. I sort of feel like that’s me and that’s not me.
“But when I came home, I realized you know this persona of ‘OK, everybody knows Jeromy Farkas the city council shit disturber, the guy who ran valiantly for mayor and lost, I sort of realized that’s not me either.”
The challenge, Farkas said, has been integrating his trail identity with who he is day-to-day.
‘I always knew this guy’: Former mayor Nenshi
For his part, former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who attended Thursday’s film, and has continued working with Farkas via a regular radio segment on CBC, said the person he saw on stage during the Q & A was the real Jeromy.
“I always knew this guy. I think a lot of people in the public didn’t know this guy,” Nenshi said.
“I feel like we’re seeing a lot more of this guy, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Nenshi said there are so many different stories intertwined in Farkas’s journey. There’s political, personal, nature and a story of perseverance and physical ability.
“I just love that he pulled them all together. Ultimately, it was a story about people looking after one another, and to me, that was the part that really hit.”
Lima-Coelho said that this whole process has helped reaffirm to him that people connect with stories. That’s largely what’s driven the overwhelming success of this fundraising campaign. It’s about being nimble, and about being smart, he said.
“How has it changed fundraising? It’s opened my eyes to the possibilities. There are no bad ideas,” Lima-Coelho said.
“In my wildest dreams, a year and a half ago if somebody said, ‘you’re going to be doing one of the biggest fundraisers in the entire history of your organization with a failed mayoral candidate,’ I would never have called that. Yet, we’ve got a great brand ambassador now.”
Meanwhile, Farkas had just completed his 25th peak in his 25-day fundraising campaign for the Alex Community Health Centre. As of Friday, they were just shy of their $25,000 campaign goal.