GISHWHES: the Good, the Bad, and the Abnosome

The philosophy behind Supernatural star Misha Collins’ annual week-long international scavenger hunt, GISHWHES (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen), is the complete and utter unabashed destruction of normalcy. With this year’s hunt (August 2-9, 2014) featuring items such as the outlandish building of a throne covered in kale, the seemingly impossible climbing of one of the world’s ten tallest peaks, and the laughably random slew of Faux-lando Jones twitter accounts trolling the interwebs for followers, I think its safe enough to say that GISHWHES, and all the shenanigans it induces, probably makes exactly zero sense to those who aren’t in the know.

I did GISHWHES for the first time this August, after a friend and fellow Supernatural fan told me all about the hunt, and the palooza of trashcan-pool-party and skittle portrait antics it creates in one short week. And I can honestly say that I’ve had more “I never, ever thought I would do that in a million years” moments in that one week than I can remember having, well, ever. It’s just that magical. And yes, I do mean truly magical. I know for a FACT that kale has magical properties. I hear some people use it in these putrid concoctions in the hopes it will make them toothpick-skinny overnight. MAGIC. But, I digress. Beyond the hella rad abnosomeness of its exterior, GISHWHES has this way of grinding you down to the person you really are. When it comes down to it, will you stay up all night making condiment art? Will you endure strange looks from people? Will you move on and keep trying when you hear a “no” or when an item doesn’t work out? The trials and tribulations of something as seemingly inconsequential as GISHWHES actually translate quite well to real life. When it comes down to it, will you stay up all night dealing with technological difficulties? Will you get up off your butt and actually put on some pants so you can take care of your real world responsibilities? Will you be able to turn that nice bucket of lemons on your front porch, courtesy of life, into a dazzling rendition of the Mona Lisa in the middle of a parking lot while George Clooney does a handstand in the background? Who knows? But I, for one, am definitely more inclined to stay up hot gluing cruciferous vegetables to a chair with good friends in the name of the dark overlord Misha than I am to stay up all alone writing a what feels like a phD thesis on the history of boredom (but in actuality is just the literal hell that is college applications).

Now, what do all of these tasks have in common? They’re all exercises in endurance. If you start at a flat-out sprint, you’ll burn out. Fast. I had to learn that the hard way. I was all go – go – go with GISHWHES for the first few days. But around the halfway mark of the hunt I pretty much gave up. It wasn’t until the last 24 hours or so that I was able to really get back in the game. The Faux-lando Jones account I made hit the required 400 followers. I made some GISHWHES cupcakes for a friend on another team. I took a friend to McDonalds and together we protested the architecture of their signature arches in favor of more traditional (and clearly superior) post- and-lintels. And it was one of the most thrilling, totally abnosome, and satisfyingly exhausting days I’ve ever had. But its not the bad kind of exhaustion that I imagine people get after doing their taxes, or sitting through a torturous brunch with their in-laws. It’s more of a genuine, fulfilling satisfaction, a desire to keep going, even though you’ve been up all day and can barely keep your eyes open. That’s what GISHWHES is. And believe me, there’s nothing else quite like it.

When I was a freshman in high school, I remember wanting to be normal. To be well liked. And I don’t even remember why I wanted to be liked by people I generally didn’t even like all that well myself. But, whoee, little freshman Carrie sure wanted people to like her.

I don’t remember the exact point at which that all changed, but somewhere around the beginning of my sophomore year I gave up on trying to impress people. I finally figured out that I was wasting so much of my precious time and energy on what people thought of me that I didn’t have very much left to dedicate to stuff that actually mattered to me. Looking back, I can’t help but cringe at my unquestioning conformity to societal norms, and, ultimately, my naivety. When I was a freshman, I never thought I’d spend a day with some of my closest friends building an epic throne out of kale, or rigging a Rube Goldberg machine to launch baseballs at a picture of John Travolta’s face (which now inhabits the inside of the pantry door). But now that I’ve done it, I know that there’s no going back. I’m just glad that I realized that I would rather be judged on my unselfconscious spontaneity, creativity, and innovation than I would based on what store I bought my shirt at. Not that anyone even cared in the first place. But little freshman Carrie didn’t know that.

Now, if little freshman you still wants to be normal, that’s all fine and dandy. But I hope you all give up on maintaining that façade sooner or later, because its one heck of a waste of potential. So, I have a dare for you. Just give up a teeny little bit. Just an itty bitty scooch. Do something for yourself. Not because you think people will like it, but because it brings you happiness and personal creative fulfillment. Do something that makes you feel alive inside. Do something that makes you want to run out into the night and sing Disney songs at the top of your lungs just because you can. Give up. Do it right now.

Do you like the way it feels?

If you do, then GISHWHES is for you.