That time I won a yearlong supply of Cap’n Crunch (yes it happened)

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Catchy headline right? Well, it’s all true though. I did, in fact, win a yearlong supply of Cap’n Crunch. Prepare for the craziest story you’ve ever heard in your life (not really).

Back in October, I was invited to participate in THE CRUNCH BOWL. It was a Cap’n Crunch themed cereal obstacle course much to the likes of American Gladiator, Ninja Warrior, and Wipeout. People were hand picked off of social media by the Cap’n himself. I find it funny that one of my biggest feelings of accomplishment in my life was the moment I got a direct message notification from the Cap’n. It might as well have been a message from Saturday Night Live. 

capncrunch

In the message, he invited me out to North Avenue beach with instructions. Prior to the event, I felt a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d be walking the plank or if at some point I’d plunge into the depths of Davey Jones locker. I just knew the time and the place.

When I arrived at the event, I made sure to introduce myself to the Cap’n who was standing around observing the beach. I walked right up and introduced myself, but he said nothing. He just stared at me and then put his hands together. I nodded and walked away. The Cap’n is a man of few words.

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At the beach, I was teamed  up with a random bystander who I thought kind of looked like Nick Jonas but not really. A bizarro Jonas from Earth-2. Each team was given a specific cereal name and there were 5-6 teams in total. My team was OOPS ALL BERRIES and I competed alongside teams like ORIGINAL CRUNCH, PEANUT BUTTER CRUNCH, SPRINKLED DONUTS, and CRUNCH BERRIES. The stakes? Whoever completed the course with the best time won an all-expenses paid trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  Queue the sound of a record scratch. That’s right. I said ALL EXPENSES PAID. Once I heard that it quickly went from a fun day playing at the beach to feeling like I was competing in the Olympics. The event was hosted by celebrity Adam Pally who prompted the competitors asking them, “who wants to go first?”

I remember having a strong air of self-confidence wash over me. I stepped forward and said, “We’ll do it!” I felt like we could set the bar. In my head I pictured us completing the course in record time. I visualized myself running to the finish line and diving into the Cap’n arms as him and I ran to the ship and sailed around the world in search of the treasures of the deep, In reality, going first turned out to be a grave mistake. Buckle yourselves in as I take you through the obstacle course.

Jousting the Pirate

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 : (Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap'n Crunch)

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 :
(Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap’n Crunch)

For the first obstacle, you had to stand in a large inflatable raft atop of pedestal and joust a guy in a huge Pirate costume gladiator-style. You had to stay on the pedestal for 30 seconds straight and throughout this whole bout, your competitors hurled foam cereal (but like hard foam that hurt if they threw it hard enough) at you. If you’re thinking to yourself, “it’s only 30 seconds” then you’ve never fought a man in a pirate costume before. Seriously, you don’t know what you’re talking about. When my partner asked who should do the activity, I jumped at the chance. I thought, “This will be easy.” For some context, I was a former Division I Big 10 college wrestler,  I figured that I would have a little bit of a leg up on the competition given my background and balance. Then, we got started. I started jostling back and forth with the guy swinging these pugil sticks quickly realizing whoever I was going up against wasn’t just some schlub in a suit. He was hammering me with these sticks in wave after wave as I felt like Apollo Creed fighting Drago. I stood there getting pummeled like a rag doll as spectators screamed “he’s killing him!” I remember thinking to myself, “Who the hell is under that thing? Lou Ferigno!?!” I got mad and threw my whole body into him knocking both him and I off the pedestal restarting the timer. I finally got through it and fell out of the inflatable raft dead/exhausted as I slapped my partners hand to go onto the next event.

Riding the shark

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 : (Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap'n Crunch)

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 :
(Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap’n Crunch)

For the second obstacle, my partner had to ride a mechanical shark while I recovered from my first ever UFC fight. All my partner had to do was ride this robot Jaws for 20 consecutive seconds and we’d go onto the next activity. I watched my partner hold on for dear life while a man in a left shark Superbowl costume danced with me. It was hilariously ridiculous.

Being a Mermaid

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 : (Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap'n Crunch)

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 :
(Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap’n Crunch)

For the third obstacle, I had to wear a mermaid tail and sit under a water balloon dunk tank It was the first time I’d ever worn a mermaid tail and quite frankly, I don’t look bad in it. I could pull it off and I think I might start making it a new fashion statement. I sat there while my partner attempted to throw a ball at a bullseye. Seems easy enough, but unfortunately, I didn’t have Kerry Wood as my partner because it took about 5-7 throws before he got it. I remember thinking to myself, “yep we’re done. We lost right here.” As the time clicked away throw after throw I could see my girlfriend in the distance shaking her head at the realization that the trip to Mexico was disappearing.

Sliding into a giant bowl of cereal

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For the next event, we had to climb up an inflatable pirate ship and then hop down a slide into a bowl of cereal. Now, when I say bowl of cereal I literally mean a giant bowl of cereal. It was filled with what looked like milk and those huge foam pieces of Cap’n Crunch that people were hurling at me only minutes earlier. I went down the slide face first like a buffoon and thought I was going to drown. Once you got out of the bowl soaking wet, you had to run through a tireyard (tires painted like sprinkled donuts) on your way to a rock wall.

Scaling the Wall

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 : (Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap'n Crunch)

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 :
(Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap’n Crunch)

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Literally this thing was the biggest rock-wall I’ve ever seen and was terrifying. At the top of it, a giant red spoon dangled. After I retrieved he spoon I kicked off of the wall propelling myself out only to forget that a thing called physics and momentum exists. I slammed back into the wall as the host and audience gasped. I threw my arms up Weekend at Bernies style to let the crowd know I survived.

Buried Treasure

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 : (Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap'n Crunch)

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 :
(Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap’n Crunch)

With the giant spoons in hand, we now had to use them to dig up a buried treasure. On the sandy beach there were huge mounds of sand where an X marked the spot. As I dug and dug as hard as I could with a giant flimsy plastic spoon, I thought to myself, “this is how I’m going to die.” Finally, we uncovered a buried treasure chest which we needed to open to find the treasure. Unfortunately, the thing had been buried in wet sand or something and was basically locked shut. I pulled and yanked on the latch of the chest while jokingly yelling, “it’s rigged!” The crowd just stared at me. Eventually (30 seconds to an hour later) we got it open to reveal that it was full of delicious Cap’n Crunch. We dumped it into a bowl to complete the event.

crunchchest

CHICAGO, IL, OCTOBER 20, 2015 :
(Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Cap’n Crunch)

I then watched as team after team made their way through the course. Some doing better and some worse. In the end, I took 3rd place. No trip to Mexico. All hope was lost until suddenly the sneaky Cap’n had a surprise in store. The host informed all of the competitors that we were all going to win a yearlong supply of Cap’n Crunch for competing. I threw my arms into the air as the National Anthem played in my mind. When we were checking out I got a glimpse of the guy in the pirate costume to see that while it wasn’t actually Lou Ferigno, it was a guy who was jacked to the max. He shook my hand which crunched into dust and grabbed a shirt as a memento for the road.

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All in all, it was an amazing experience and so much fun. It was physically taxing yet fulfilling. Like that sense of accomplishment people feel when they’ve completed a triathlon or the Crossfit Games or the Olympics. That’s how I felt finishing the Crunch Bowl. That’s comparable right?

A few months later I received the first half of the yearlong supply. It was right around the holidays. I had received two giant boxes that contained 20 individual boxes of Cap’n Crunch (some Original, some Crunchberries – all delicious).

capncrunch

Friends, family, co-workers, and even my landlord came out of the woodwork trying to get their sugar fix. Honestly, you would have thought I’d won the lottery. They treated the news of me winning a yearlong supply of cereal like I’d acquired a small collection of gold bullion from Fort Knox. Daily, people were saying”got any Crunchberry” and “don’t try to run from me!” My landlord asked for multiple boxes and misinformed the other tenants that I’d won a lifetime supply.

Word traveled about the Crunch Bowl online and I even became a meme. There’s one lifelong goal I can check off the bucket list.

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Instagram: turntfortom

On Christmas, I  made a spectacle of it all and wrapped up an enormous box filled with the individual cereal boxes for the family get together. I got everyone’s attention and said, “Alright everybody. Here we go. The big one.” All the kids were so excited whispering among themselves, “what could it be?” and “do you think it’s a game?” Needless to say, expectations were sky high. I quickly tore away the paper and pulled out all of the cereal watching the joy and happiness wash away from the kid’s faces. What once was a look of excitement now remained a dead-eyed stare with a slack jaw. I maniacally laughed as I held the boxes in my hand while people stood around with puzzled faces simply saying, “WHAT?” The kids looked at me like I was the worst person in the world. It was a fantastic moment that I’ll cherish forever.

I’m currently waiting for the second half of the loot that I plundered and pillaged the beach for that day. We’ll see what I do with that next. As for what I have left from the first treasure. Well, let’s just say I’ve eaten a lot of cereal and given out a lot of cereal gifts.

 

 

The Awkward Phase

 

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My friends Claire Linic and Tyler Gillespie compiled a book of “uplifting tales of those weird kids you went to high school with” and one of my stories made it into the book! I am so honored to be included and share the pages of this book with so many incredibly talented individuals.

If you’d like to read my story as well as others, you can pick up a copy of The Awkward Phase on Amazon today.

Project Upgrade: 7 ways to reinvent yourself

Sometimes you just need an all-around life change. This is a change that applies to all aspects of your current situation such as your career, health, relationships, finances, etc. Like a snowball effect, one affects the other and eventually you’re looking at a whole new you.  While you’ll obviously always be YOU, I like to think of it as the NEW edition. The platinum upgraded version if you will. Literally to drive this metaphor home and because I’m a superhero fanatic, picture yourself in a workshop building a suit of armor (like Iron Man or Batman or Wonder Woman) and replacing the damaged war-torn pieces for brand new polished ones. Each damaged piece a former version of yourself, insecurity, or area of your life you’d like to improve upon and fix.

In the past year, I’ve gone through a drastic change regarding various areas of my life. I found a new job, focused on my health, took action in making my life as well as the lives of others better, explored the avenues of creativity I’d been neglecting (like writing and designing), and removed people or left negative situations where I felt like I was being brought down or judged. In short, I’ve got a whole new suit of armor. I’ve learned a lot of things and the most important is not to be fearful of change, to embrace creativity, and to work tirelessly at what you want. With that, here are 7 ways to reinvent yourself and become a brand new upgraded YOU.

Quit your job and find a better one

If you feel stifled or you’ve got a boss who doesn’t respect or appreciate your work, then go somewhere else. Whatever or whoever it may be that’s making you unhappy, leave and go somewhere where you will enjoy coming into work everyday. You’re not tied to your job and at no point are you stuck forever. You can change your situation at any time. Follow your gut when it comes to those questionable “should I leave” moments. Like the time you got kicked out of your annual review. Remember that? No? Just me? Okay great, moving on.

The best course of action for this life change is to have your options lined up prior to parting ways with your current employer. In fact, act like a super-secret undercover agent or a ninja secretly talking to recruiters and going on interviews afterhours or during your lunch break. Ask friends or co-workers for references for ‘future opportunities’ should they come up. Just don’t parade around the office telling everyone you’re looking elsewhere or your leisurely job pursuit will become a forced one really quick. For me, I quit my old job with a soul sucking micromanager to go to a new company that appreciates me, encourages me to be myself, and celebrates me for my talents and abilities. If that wasn’t enough, they are a company that’s making a difference towards the climate change crisis the world is currently dealing with. They focus on renewable energy resources (solar energy), so knowing that I’m working for a company that is making a difference in the world completely redefines how I view my job and its importance.

Pump it up

Start a new workout routine or…just start working out altogether. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re happy with the way you look physically and, more importantly, how you feel mentally. Working out is a great stress reducer. It does WONDERS for a pain in the ass stressful day.  If the stressors of the day have you up in arms, you might as well have dumbbells in your hands. You’re going to feel better once you start a routine where you’re regularly going to the gym.

If you need workout inspiration, there are a plethora of resources online for free from fitness videos, exercise tutorials, routines, supplement guides, to workout playlists available. You can find a video for every body part you want to work on. Just don’t watch the ‘how to tone your butt’ videos while you’re sitting at work. Sometimes watching a video of somebody in peak physical shape is all the motivation you need to get your arm out of the chips bag.

Furthermore, as time goes by and you see the progress you’ve made with your own two eyes, it’s going to be a very rewarding experience. If you don’t have a gym membership yet, go in and start comparing rates at local gyms. Focus on what you want and need vs what the gym is trying to sell you. Too often gyms will try to sign you up for every amenity under the sun and then you end up paying for incentives you didn’t even want in the first place. Write down what you want and be honest and realistic. For example, “I’d like to lose 5lbs within the next 2 months” vs “I need to lose 20lbs by tomorrow.”

Eat right or…better

How do you feel? Groggy? Tired? Change the way you’ve been eating and the garbage you’ve been shoveling into your mouth at 2:30am like a slumlord. Climb down from your pizza castle and have a salad. Trade in the poptarts for oatmeal. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Shop organic and start to replace the chips and dips for fruits and vegetables. Ditch the soda and pour yourself a glass of water. Honestly, smoothies are great and if you’re not drinking them you’re missing out big time. You don’t need to go nuts and dive head first into a strict no carb no calories diet (if that even exists), but instead a conscious effort to eat a little better.

Give yourself a cheat day or cheat meal here and there as a physical and mental reward for your hard work each week. It would be overwhelming to think you can’t have the foods you love so don’t eliminate them completely. Instead, start to manage them and think about the fact you’ve had pizza three times this week. Ugh, pizza is go good. If you are going to indulge then make sure you’re making up for it in the gym.

F*&k the haters

If you have people in your life that you constantly get into it with or you feel like they talk down to you, get rid of them. That sounds harsh, but we’re talking about your personal wellbeing and happiness here. At no point should you feel like you’re stuck with people that keep you down or compete with you. Their gripes with you are all in the effort to make themselves feel better. If separating yourself from them completely doesn’t feel like the best option than perhaps a conversation with them informing them of your issues and concerns might be the better route. However, the majority of the time, if those people were a pain in the ass to deal with before, you can bet they’re going to be even bigger pain in the ass defending themselves later. There’s no time for any of this nonsense. Don’t try to convince them to like you or force your way into their hearts. Just move on and surround yourself with people who do enjoy your company.

Give back to others

Volunteer. Start doing for others more than for yourself. If you’ve got some spare change in your pocket than give it to someone in need. If you see someone sitting there who doesn’t have shoes and you’ve got the money in your account to help them out than go ahead and buy them a pair of shoes. Imagine being in their situation. You don’t know their story nor do you probably want to know their story, but you can help the current chapter their living get a whole hell of a lot better. Raid your wardrobe and get rid of the clothes you don’t wear by donating them to goodwill. Also, don’t tell anybody you’re doing these things because that’s not why you’re doing it. It’s not about getting a pat on the back or for someone to say, “Hey you’re really nice.” People who brag about how they donated or volunteered aren’t doing those things for others but instead for recognition.

Do things because in this little world, we’re all in this together and we need to help one another. If you were in an unfortunate situation or down on your luck, you would want people to help you if they could. Do the same for others without the expectation of anything in return.

Take a break

If you’ve been really pursuing a hobby or passion full force and you start to feel like that thing you love doing (painting or singing or dancing or comedy or YOU FILL IN THE BLANK) is becoming like a job than take a break. Don’t force yourself into doing an activity or being a part of something that makes you upset or stressed. If you start to feel like you’re going through the motions than you need to step back and take a little vacation. These vacations allow you to come back revitalized and refreshed. They allow you to come back excited because the time off reminds you what you loved about doing that thing in the first place. Even more so, it may help you to explore other areas of your life that haven’t been looking into. For example, I took a break from performing improv  to fully focus on areas I’d been neglecting and that interest me such as writing. In the time since my break, I’ve written over 10+ satirical articles for Second City (3 for the Redeye) and 4 articles for TimeOut Chicago.

Take as much time as you need to. If you need a week or a month or a year, take it. The only person who can decide how much time is the correct amount is you.

Quality time

Spend quality time with your loved ones. Not just hanging out, but actually being there, talking, and listening to them. This is the decision to make a conscious effort to help and listen to them with their problems or issues should they have any. Just BE with someone. Put your phone away and have a conversation where you’re actively listening and you’re not distracted. Look into their eyes and engage with them. Life is short and sometimes you don’t really know how much time you have with people. Today, we tend to focus on our social networks and online presence more so than real relationships. Make an effort to go and see family multiple times a month if they’re local or a year if they’re a little farther away. Even then, you can always pick up the phone and call them.

Down the road, you’ll remember those moments more so than you will remember scrolling through your newsfeed like a zombie. Although, pug pictures on Instagram are a national treasure.

Voyage out to the unexplored

Travel to places you’ve never been before. Look up the top 10 surrounding states or cities, best areas to visit, or just beautiful places to go and schedule time to visit them. Hell, go on a hike or go camping with some friends. Go out and connect with nature and see the marvelous world that we live in. Whatever it is, just go out and go on an adventure to new land with your loved ones. Take your girlfriend or boyfriend to a beautiful place that you didn’t even know existed. Then watch the ridiculous amount of geese in that area hiss at them while you laugh hysterically. These are the spontaneous moments that you’ll remember forever.

Visualize your dreams coming true 

When it comes down to it all, it’s important to actively visualize what you want in life in great detail. Picture it in your head and see it coming to fruition. If you want to be an astronaut than think of yourself flying through space or landing on the moon and dancing. That might have been a ridiculous example, but you know what I mean. If you want to be a famous singer, close your eyes and see yourself on a stage belting it out in front of thousands. If you want to be an actor (like I do), picture yourself at the Academy Awards giving your acceptance speech thanking your family and friends. Whatever it is, envision it coming to life. Dream it then do it. These visualizations help you to make the changes and adjustments necessary to making your dreams become a reality.  Also, picturing yourself accomplishing your goal is also going to take you down the road of training relentlessly to get there. That training or preparation can then become a reality as soon as you open your eyes.

In addition, write it down and be specific. Buy a whiteboard or use a note taking app on your phone and update it every day with short-term and long-term goals you’d like to accomplish for the day, week, month or year. Personally, I use OneNote to track my notes, goals, ideas, and pretty much everything (Christmas list) and it syncs continuously between my phone and computers. Write what you want here (I want to be an actor in film and television) and look at it every single day.

Just remember, no matter what your goal is, if you put it out into the universe, the universe will work with you to make it happen. When it comes down to it, look at your life and decide whether it’s time for an upgrade or personal reinvention. Are you ready to shed the old armor and upgrade to the new or have you hung up the mantle and it’s now collecting dust? It all starts with the decision to change and the courage to go through with it.