Tuesday, November 6, 2012

GISHWHES 2012: The Aftermath

Even before the submission deadline loomed, I knew that I was going to blog about the experience, that I'd want to share the accomplishments and frustrations that came from participating in GISHWHES.  Now that the time has come, though, I find myself somewhat at a loss for words.  Not entirely, of course, but I find that, nearly 12 hours after the final submissions and closure of the challenge, there is a feeling inside that I can't fully articulate.  It's composed of elements of wonder and sadness, exhilaration and awareness, and some other things that I can't name, I can only feel.  I can tell already that blogging will never come anywhere near to living; it's a pale reflection of the experience.

So why blog about this here on my December giving related blogspace?  While it's not related to my annual December giving, it is connected to my choice for this year's December focus so here we are.

For those who haven't been in the loop on this weird artsy charitable thing, GISHWHES is an acronym for (the) Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (the) World Has Ever Seen.  Hosted by actor Misha Collins and a tribe of minions representing his non-profit, TheRandomAct.org, GISHWHES is not a typical scavenger hunt where teams run down a list and find miscellaneous items.  Instead, it takes that basic concept and then flambes it on the backyard barbecue.  GISHWHES is about imagination, breaking routine, creating random out of ordinary, letting go of regimentation and trying to make yourself and those around you see something different in their day.

We've been asked not to share our entries until scoring and a winner has been determined, though many teams seem to already be doing so on their blogs and across social media platforms.  My team doesn't want to risk being deducted points for sharing before we're supposed to, so I'll save those revelations for a second post once the contest is officially called.  In the meantime, though, on the "day after", I'm feeling a bit bereft and decided that doing a write-up of some thoughts and experiences will help the separation anxiety, provide some information for the curious, perhaps resonate with others who participated and who are feeling a little lost on this first day without GISHWHES.  And also, it's helping to keep me awake at my desk so that I can get through this workday because my brain is at a level of tired it hasn't experienced in years.

I first heard about GISHWHES in early September, when someone posted about it in a local online forum.  She was soliciting members for her team, and after reading about it (and despite being an introvert by nature and nervous because I had no idea who this girl was), I sent her a note asking how I can join up.  I love games and puzzles and crafting, and I can be competitive with those kinds of things.  Plus, the prize was a trip to stay in a haunted castle in Scotland, which is also entirely up my alley.  The girl never responded but I wanted to play badly enough that I decided to register anyway; I signed up as an individual participant.  A sliding scale registration fee funds the prize, with the remainder going to projects sponsored by TheRandomAct.org, and while participants had the option of finding and registering as a team of 15, teams absent members were to be combined and then filled in with the individual registrants so that, when the list was released and the game began, all teams would have 15 members.  I was really worried about this.  What if I got put into a team that had, say, 12 members that all knew each other already?  Would I feel alienated, excluded?  Would they think I, at age 38, am too old to do anything helpful when so many of the people who had been talking about it were in their teens and twenties?  My desire to participate was greater than my fear, but I was still concerned.  It brought up a lot of schoolyard feelings.

I was really lucky, though.  The team I was added to was a small one, three gals from Sweden who dubbed themselves Teenage Superhero Werewolf Marble Hunters in an attempt to squeeze in nods to all their various fandom participation and who called themselves TSWMH to make things a bit easier.  I found myself mentally referring to us as "Team Marble" for the rest of the competition.  Along with these three ladies, we were joined by other individual participants: two from Australia, one from India, four more from the United States (including a later substitution to replace someone who had mistakenly been placed on two different teams), one from Finland, two from the United Kingdom, and one from France who remained forever unknown to us.  She never replied to any of our messages, so we're not sure what happened.  We hope she's ok.  But the 13 of us (and eventually 14 when the replacement was established), along with a few unregistered but willing minions, quickly formed a private Facebook group, chattered about skills and connections that we might have that would be useful for the as-yet-unknown list, and hovered expectantly around the GISHWHES log in page, waiting for the countdown clock to reach zero.

What happened when it did, up until this morning, is a bit of a blur.  A mad rush of excitement and crushing disappointment and pats on the back and virtual high fives and weird mistakes and funny looks and global laughs and the experience of cementing 13 friendships with people I most likely would never have had an opportunity to meet otherwise.  Every one of them younger than me.  And none of them making me feel, even once, that I wasn't where I was meant to be.

So what have I gained from this experience?  What have I learned?  Again, I'm not sure I could articulate everything, but perhaps a short list is a start:

* Not having someone participating with me locally was a bit of a challenge, especially given that most of my local friends who would be able to help were away for the weekend at another event.  However, having a team with members all over the world was a HUGE plus; people were working on things 24 hours a day and had access to all kinds of connections.

* The importance of having team members who are really invested in getting things accomplished cannot be undervalued.

* There's only so long one can go with limited sleep and food before crashing, so it's probably a good thing that GISHWHES as an event is only for a certain time frame.  However, GISHWHES as an experience lingers even when the dash is over.  I feel internally changed.

* It's not just about finding what you're passionate about.  It's about investing passion into what you find.

As the adrenaline is fading, my quiet self finds that I'm actually looking forward to returning to a bit of normal this afternoon.  I'll begin working on the house chores that were completely neglected during this past week, tidying up that place we call a sanctuary from the world.  I'll return to my nighttime habit of reading an hour or so before bed, and writing/blogging book reviews.  I'll finally have a real dinner, one I make instead of buy ready-made or cobble together from whatever I can eat raw and one-handed from the fridge (I'm thinking baked lemon-pepper chicken and some roasted potatoes and zucchini in garlic and herbs).  I'll probably settle in on the couch with my kitties who have been putting up with my crazy for a week; maybe we'll turn on the news and watch a bit of the election results come in as I slowly tune myself back into reality.

But within my quiet self, creativity has been rekindled.  It was never a fire that fizzled entirely, but over the years of routine and taking care of "the business at hand", it became one of those things occasionally tapped into but mostly relegated into that "someday" pile that seems to do nothing but collect dust as time passes.  So tonight, while I'm snuggling with the kitties and watching normal TV in my normal living room, I suspect that keeping me company will be the coloring book and colored pencils I pull off the dusty bookshelf.  And I think some gardening is in order this weekend.  And perhaps, just perhaps, I'll bedazzle a flowerpot or two while I'm out there.

A lot can change in a year's passing; it's not known yet if there will be a GISHWHES 2013, and who knows what life circumstances may come along between now and then?  But if you've seen all this discussion about this thing called GISHWHES and wondered, if you've heard people talking and find yourself wanting to do it yourself, don't wait for an official event: make something, bake something, take something to someone who needs it more than you.  Offer to help a neighbor instead of waiting to be asked.  Approach the inevitable with more patience.  Give yourself permission to blur the lines between childhood and adulthood.  Better yet, contribute to exploding the myth that being a grown-up requires that you become boring and/or a lemming.  The world, the people in it, and the possibilities are so much more, so much larger, than any one person can explain.

And if you find yourself bubbling internally with the thought of participating in the actual scavenger hunt come 2013, start opening your eyes and your brain to the universe around you now, take it all in, let the anticipation grow.  When registration time returns, Team Marble may have a slot or two available.

Coming Soon: The visual evidence that is the Team TSWMH - GISHWHES 2012 experience.

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