I’ve been a massive Supenatural fan for a little over a year now, but until last week I had never jumped into one of the fandom’s biggest projects. Misha Collins (Castiel) heads an international scavenger hunt for one week every year called “G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S.” or “The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.” It’s one week out of the year where normalcy is thrown out the window and your comfort zone kind of takes a hike. It’s also the number one contributor to Misha’s (he made me wear a swim suit on a glacier. We’re on a first name basis at this point,) charity “Random Acts,” which strives to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time. That’s really what Gishwhes is all about. Through the use of the weird and the kind, our team “Nerdfighters Who Eat Kale” made a lot of people smile last week.
The first day of the hunt, Misha let out an absolutely insane list of 200+ items each 15 member team was to attempt. There were crazy, what-the-hell-am-I-doing items, like climbing up to a glacier in your bathing suit (completed) or playing ping pong underwater with an egg for the ball (not completed. Kudos to those teams.) There were items that involved doing charity work like donating board games to a local shelter after throwing the game a going away party (completed). And there were inspiring items, like taking an elder to a place from their childhood and asking them to tell you a story about it (completed adorably.) Each item had a point value assigned to it which would be tallied up to win the grand prize: A trip to Costa Rica with Misha Collins. However, that really isn’t the point of the scavenger hunt and most teams don’t play to win. Our team just wanted to have fun and make an impact in our community and boy did we. Not only that, but Gishwhes impacted me on a personal level. Here’s what I learned during the crazy death-to-normalcy week I experienced the first week of August.
You are so much more capable than you think you are.
I have pretty bad depression, so sometimes just getting out of bed is a challenge. A week before the hunt I remember lying in bed thinking, “How am I going to pull this off? How am I going to keep motivated to do this crazy stuff? I’m going to let my team down. I should just pull out now.” But I didn’t and when the first day rolled around and our team sat down to deliberate the list, I felt scared but invigorated. Every time I looked at an item I thought, “Well, I’m not doing that one. There’s no way,” but then I hunkered down and did it and it usually turned out better than I was expecting it to. If there’s one thing I learned from Gishwhes, it’s that if you have an idea, even a half-assed idea, you can make something truly amazing.
Ask and you shall (usually) receive.
Some of the items on the list seemed absolutely impossible. A few actually were. But others felt impossible because it meant I had to ask for favors from complete strangers. One of the items was to combine drive-thrus and Jeopardy. We had to get someone at a drive-thru to guess our order using Jeopardy-like questions. I used to work at a drive-thru Starbucks. They’re incredibly busy, the customers are rude, and everything has to get done impossibly fast or you might end up with scalding hot coffee in your face (very nearly happened to a friend of mine. He ducked.) I was nervous about asking for a favor that could potentially cause someone to have a harder day at work. However, with the spirit of Gishwhes poking and prodding at me, I made a call to my old Starbucks location and asked the manager (who I didn’t know) if they could help us out.
The girl was absolutely ecstatic. She could not wait for us to come over, but that day was very busy for them due to an event happening just across the street so we decided to meet the next day at a less busy time. My teammate and co-captain Ashlee and I drove over after completing another item (let’s just say the world is a safer place for Unicorns because of us) and bellied up to the bar. I was dressed as Dean Winchester and when I drove up to the speaker, someone I used to worked with answered. I panicked. I couldn’t remember his name and didn’t think he’d want to do the item. Luckily, I make a damn good dude and he didn’t recognize me through the drive-thru camera. Nervous, I opened my mouth and said, “We’re doing a scavenger hunt and-” there were a scuffle and the sound of someone being elbowed out of the way and then the manager we’d spoken to came on the line. “Hi! I’m ready! Go ahead!” Before we knew it, I had a grande iced caramel macchiato, she had a big tip and our team had another item in the bag.
Believe it or not, people are usually willing to help you out if you ask politely. It might take a little bit of searching around (we had to go to two separate locations for a different item to find what we needed) but ultimately, people want to help each other.
Being kind doesn’t have a point value.
While there were a few items that had me thinking, “That’s worth a ton of points. We have to do that,” for the most part, the points system came second to the work I was doing. One of the items was to do something kind for someone who had sacrificed something for you. It was only worth 21 points. It didn’t have to be a big thing. Buying them a box of chocolate or taking them out to dinner would have sufficed. But I didn’t want to do that. My mother has been there for me, cleaning up my messes, helping me get back on my feet my entire life. Being a therapist with a child who has depression is very hard for her, as it means she never really gets a break from her job. On top of that, she has to do your typical mom stuff: cleaning, cooking, watering the plants etc. I could have just bought her something nice and spent the rest of the day doing items with higher point values, but instead, I decided to give her a little bit of a break.
My mother feels best when her home is clean, but it takes a lot of time and effort to do the whole house, so she rarely gets to enjoy it. I decided to give her that. The moment she left for work, I went to town, dragging the vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs, cleaning all the dishes, dusting and scrubbing every square inch of the house. After six hours of cleaning, I was dripping with sweat. Just before my mother got home, I changed clothes and started making dinner, a package of bath bombs and a new Betty White book (my mother’s idol) ready to give her when she got home. The item was only worth a handful of points, but the look on her face was better than I could have hoped for. She was ecstatic all night long.
Quality over quantity is what matters.
As a writer and someone who often feels like I haven’t produced enough work, it’s important to remember that it’s not the quantity of a portfolio that makes an artist but the quality of the work that has been made. There was a moment at the end of the hunt when I felt the need to run around to try to pull something together just for the points, just to add another item to the pile. I decided against it, though, because the item I had in mind couldn’t be done well in the time I had left. There were definitely items our team made that were last minute and they were great, but for the bigger items, we took care to make them as awesome as we could. We took time to produce quality work. Making a small amount of really awesome stuff is always a lot more fun, and a lot more rewarding, than making a lot of mediocre items just to have more.
Don’t do the obvious. Push yourself to come up with something different.
There was one item that asked participants to make a video or image of what Supernatural Season 50 would look like. My immediate thought was to dress up as Castiel and stand in front of two tombstones, as Castiel is an angel and he’d outlive the brothers. However, I quickly realized that was too obvious a choice and decided to make a joke about Sam’s incredibly long hair, instead. I took time with it. I made my face look older and made both my friend and mine’s hair grey and set up the shot to make sure it was well composed. When we were finished, it looked great and was super funny.
Once the hunt was over and everyone was allowed to share their submissions, I was glad I hadn’t gone with my initial thought. There were tons of Castiel’s standing over graves. Had I gone for the obvious, it wouldn’t have stood out to the judges. Our submission would have just gotten lost in the sea of mourning angels. (Not that it’s a bad idea. Just a popular one.)
Never take the obvious route when you’re doing a project. The obvious isn’t interesting. Everyone is doing the obvious. Branch out. Think “Yeah, that’s the logical choice, but what could be funnier? What’s cooler than what everyone else is doing?” That’s where good art comes from.
When you don’t feel like making art, make art anyway.
Again, as someone with depression, it can be hard to continuously create. There were at least one or two days during the week when I didn’t have anything planned for that day and I felt terrible. I didn’t know what to make. I didn’t know what to do. I would look at the item list and feel incredibly overwhelmed. I felt resigned to not getting anything done one of those days until I realized that not making art wasn’t going to make me feel better, either. Laying in bed and feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help me or my team. Instead, I got up and tried to find an item that I did feel I could do. I didn’t listen to the voice in my head telling me, “That’s too hard. You can’t do that.” I jumped onto the item, pushed through the ennui and did it anyway. And you know what? It turned out pretty damn good. Had I just sat there and not done anything, I’d had felt terrible and we’d have one less item done.
Give yourself time to be less productive.
On the opposite end of things, sometimes you just need a moment to yourself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes you just need to curl up in bed with Netflix and a bowl of ice cream. Do that. We all need that. I needed that once last week and while I still made sure to get at least one item done, I decided it to be something I didn’t have to get out of my pyjamas for if I didn’t want to. When you’re doing something as big as Gishwhes, it’s important to have one day where you don’t have to be super productive. You get one day off. Give it to yourself.
Have a plan even if it feels like you don’t need one.
Before I did Gishwhes, I figured we’d just get the list and go from there. I assumed things would fall into place and we’d communicate easily enough to get things done. Boy was I wrong. I’m incredibly grateful to Ashlee for being so damn organized last week. She put all of the items into a giant spreadsheet with columns for who was doing what, the description of the item and whether it had been completed or not. This made things incredibly easier when it came to completing items. It also made it easy to collaborate. Even if someone had called an item, it was easy to simply message them and ask if you could help out. Having a plan made things a lot less hectic and left more time for item creation and less time trying to figure out who was doing what.
We also had quite a few meetings before the hunt, one on the first day and an open GroupMe chat that continuously updated us on what was going on. This gave us a good way of figuring out how we wanted to operate and plan for when and where to meet up for multiple person items. Our Facebook group also made it super easy to get feedback and make sure we weren’t breaking any rules.
It might seem like a project is just something you do, but really the more you plan, the easier it is to get everything done. This is especially true when you have 15 people to worry about and several of those people live out of state. If it weren’t for the tons of planning and organizing we did, our team wouldn’t have gotten nearly as many items done.
Doing strange things with weird people is the best way to live your life.
My teammates are some of the most wonderful people I have ever meet. There are few individuals who would feed you cake blindfolded in a fancy restaurant with your hands behind your back, or hike up a rocky terrain to an icy glacier just to take a photo with you in their swimsuits. Before this hunt, I didn’t think anyone would help make “Save the Unicorn” t-shirts and convince people to sign a fake petition with me or spend three hours helping me construct a Campbells Tomato Soup Can cosplay. This week we did all of that weird shit and more and we had an absolute blast doing it. After a while, I got so used to doing strange things that it came as second nature. Now that I’m back in the “real world,” I don’t really know what to do with my life. My solution to this? Continue to do strange things. Always challenge normalcy and do it with the people you love.
If you’re looking to do something fun, something different, something you’ll remember until you’re old and grey, Gishwhes is the best way to spend your week. I learned a lot and had a ton of fun. No one normal ever made change in this world. Do something weird with your life. Death to normalcy!