G is for Gophers

G is also for gays, great, goodness, good-will, and God, but as we all probably know, all of those are–can you guess it?–givens. (Did you see what I did there?) I could easily speak of all of these, and I’ve already spoken of the first and perhaps the second and third as well, and good-will is easily covered and God is a topic always burning with new ground to cover (better question: did you see what I did there?), but today, I’d rather speak of something more important and more pertinent than any one of these: Gophers.

A bit of background is in order, and the beginning of background comes in the form of frogs, which is not a g-word unless there’s only one and it’s hopping backward, at which point you can call it a gorf. In any case, I happily admit that I happily knit, and in the knitting community, the technical term for unraveling a knitted piece of fabric is called “frogging,” because you “rip it, rip it.”

(True story: That incredibly punny pun is not of my own crafting, no pun intended.)

There’s a few other animals that also need some mentioning here: There’s wolves when we choke down dinner, there’s bears when we have things to carry, and there’s always donkeys when we do thing half-assed (don’t disagree with me, I’m positive that’s where the term comes from, and since the human body is electrically neutral, you can be sure that means I’m certain).

We deal with many other animals on a daily basis as well, although unfortunately we don’t usually wish to remember them: We all have a sad tendency of being involved with too many pigs, snakes, and female dogs, don’t we, even when we wish to leave the petting zoo and come home at last, not to mention the occasional chicken, rat, or cougar that we cross paths with. It happens. We’re only human.

But there’s one more animal often neglected, and it’s this animal I’ll be speaking of today.

Like many words (and like many animals I’ve mentioned already) a gopher can be more than one thing, and neither of them necessarily imply a lack of being human. The first I’ll address is the verb “gopher,” then later I’ll address the noun, but my transition may be unclear in the spur of things, so just keep this in mind if you will. And if you don’t think gopher’s a verb, let me remind you that we wolf down dinner, we bear burdens, and we bitch around sometimes: These animals are indeed verbs. So is “gopher.” The question then becomes this: What does it mean to gopher?

I don’t think it’s standard English, at least not yet anyway. It’s possible even that I’ve coined it myself; I can’t be certain, but I’ve yet to hear another person use the term, so it is possible. No matter: When I say gopher it, I literally mean GO FOR IT! I mean stop planning, stop trying, and just do it. Go for it. Gopher it.

It’s a little lame, but when I’m holding myself back, I think of these little guys, think to myself “gopher it,” and then I go for it. It’s a little silly, most def, but it’s a method to a means to an end, and at least for me, it works.

I think in general people need to gopher things a lot more often than they do. We fill roles to fill our lives with meaning, but that meaning often lacks definition. We need to dig deeper and we need to find what we need to fulfill ourselves. Then we have to gopher it. We have to stand up, take guard, and go to action. There’s no holding back. The future will not wait for us, so why do we allow ourselves to wait for the future?

This weekend has been especially packed with gophers for me. On Friday I gophered hypnosis, and on Saturday I gophered at least twice in front of large crowds, many of whom I did not know.

The first occasion was in the early afternoon when people were giving announcements at the second general session (if any of you missed my last post, this weekend was the Phi Theta Kappa Regional Convention). I was a little (read: a lot) nervous to go up and announce, but after a bit of encouragement from a good friend, I gophered it.

I went up in front of the crowd and I briefly spoke about SB 106, the anti-LGBT bill proposed to the NC Senate to amend our state constitution to explicitly prohibit all legal recognition of same-sex couples in North Carolina. As it stands, these relationships have no legal recognition already, so to rewrite our constitution to prevent that from changing any time soon is simply an act of unadulterated hatred, fear, and discrimination, and if you find some of the quotes from the proponents of the bill, you’d have no doubt in your mind that this is the case.

“As honor students,” I said, “we all know the importance of equality.” My statement was so well-received I had to stop speaking until the applause settled down. Then I made my proposal: Anyone in opposition of the amendment could sign a postcard I’ve received from Equality NC (please follow that link or go directly to EqualityNC.org to find out how you can help) to help gain support by contacting our legislators, and for those two minutes I spent speaking, I got sixteen people to sign from all over North Carolina and five more from South Carolina who said they’d sign if they lived in NC. That’s twenty-one people I touched in 120 seconds.

It took only six seconds to move one person into action. If we gopher our goals more often, can you imagine how far we could go?

The second time was in the mid-afternoon when I found myself facing a hot tub without a bathing suit. So I took the mile walk to the local Goodwill store and found two brand-new bathing suits that fit perfectly. For eight dollars, not only did I support a good cause, I updated my wardrobe and got to spend half an hour immersed in warm water that cleared my skin, cleansed my body, and soothed–even if only briefly–the pain I’ve had in my lower-back since December. It was worth it. I gophered it and got it.

The third time of the day was at the social dance that evening. I’m typically reserved and serious, and even though I’m becoming more pronounced and outspoken, an unintentional pun but a perfect coupling, I’m still often uptight (if more aptly often nervous and uncomfortable in certain socially-intense situations) and because of this, I’m unable to open up and let loose, both necessary in the healthy management of stress, anxiety, and emotional stability.

I also love to dance. I don’t dance often (since I don’t suppose I dance well), but I went onto that dance floor the very first song and I stayed there almost the entire night. The morning after I was told I’ve got a wild side (which I suppose is true, even if I doubt how well they said I dance–I was simply following the music and the motions of those around me, how can that be good?), but it’s worth letting out sometimes. It moves my muscles in a way they need moving every once in a while, if not more often than that, and the expressiveness and closeness of dancing that fosters life-long fellowship can truly change a guy for the better. Perhaps I hope none of those moments end up on Youtube (more for the sake of embarrassment than inappropriateness, of course), but I have no regrets gophering it.

I gophered it and I got it. Get it?

Gophering isn’t just about taking action. We all may wish to be the definition of victory, but we are not Nike. We can’t “Just Do It” as much as we want and get everything done. To this end, we must turn our eyes downward, not in shame, not in self-doubt, not in dismissal, but in depth-perception. When I say we need to turn our eyes down, I mean turn our eyes down and stare into the ground–into the burrows that gophers give us when they gopher it like honest gophers do.

Gophers, of the family Geomyidae, build towns that can span large parts of fields and entire prairies. Their communities can number in the thousands. They work together and they live together and they act in the benefit of each other. Gophers stand outside the tunnels with their eyes to the horizons, and if danger approaches, they whistle and call for their families to return to town. They quite literally stand up for each other. They protect the people and the places they live in and love. There are predators out there, just waiting to devour them, but they don’t submit. They stand up and take charge and take action. They do what has to be done for the better good and they stick to it.

We should all do the same sometimes. My greatest motivation in life–often my greatest motivation to live–has been my love for and my commitment to my closest friends and family. Even in my darkest, most trying times, I could always count on their memory drawing me from the edge and letting me lay down that softly glistening knife. Even now, when thankfully I’ve lived past those shadows into a realm of greater light, my fuels, my passion, have remained steadfast. All my friends, I fight for you. For my family, you are the forge that has shaped my sword and fashioned my shield. And for my love, that greatest gift I still wonder if I’m worthy of and how I’ve come to deserve him, for this future I lend my present to crafting.

And trust me, girls and boys, I’m not gonna rip it this time. I shall bear this happily, I shall wolf down this challenge and devour my fears, will not dare to make a donkey of myself as I plow forward, will not be chicken and won’t be a rat, but will stand tall and noble and ensure that my future is secured. I have family. I have friends. I will not forsake them.

Neither should you. You all have connections (it’s what humans do) and you all have goals and dreams and aspirations (humans do those too). Don’t hold yourself back. Stand up. Get out there. Be brave. It takes six seconds to affect one person. It takes one person to start a landslide. It takes one moment to change the entire world.

So all my fellow monsters, all us tamed souls with wild sides underneath, all of us academics or adventurers or apathetic politicians and preemptors, let us set down what we’ve come to be defined as and come to redefine ourselves. Don’t let another man’s dream become your own nightmare. Stand up and speak out and strive for something greater.

And if you do just one thing, I urge you with all of my heart to do this.

Gopher it.

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3 thoughts on “G is for Gophers

  1. <3

    I've seen other people use 'gopher' in the sense of 'go for', BTW. 's a rather fun soundspelling, even if the grammar of using 'gopher' in the past tense hurts my head.

  2. Since you mention it, the Irish phrasing “Slap my ass and call me Sally.” also refers to a donkey (from a tale of a Sally that wouldn’t budge), since otherwise the regional spelling and phonetics would make it “arse.”

    You can always count on me to never run out of trivial things to say.

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