My Life as a Gopher

January 8, 2015

Because life likes to kick us when we’re down, I’ve been fighting a nasty sinus infection for over a week now. It got so bad that my mom insisted that I go see a doctor. Well, as it just so happens, we are literally surrounded by doctors. Woo hoo for small victories, right?

Anyway, I got a battery of drugs to take, and lucky for me, I happened to bring my eight-compartment travel pill case. Now, I’m not actually on any regular meds. I just like to be prepared. This means that previously, I only had acetaminophen and ibuprofen to put in the case, leaving it neatly organized, but woefully empty. So you can only imagine how happy this made me:


No, seriously, you really have to imagine it. I was amazed at how excited I was to see this full pill case, to the point where I had to step back and ponder, “Why the hell is this making me so giddy?!?”

And then it dawned on me….

You see, I’m kind of anal retentive when it comes to organizing. (Upon reading that last sentence, I’m sure some of you are going, “ummmm… DUH.”) I’m a prioritized-checklists-with-color-coded-tasks kind of guy. I’m a you-never-know-what-meds-you-might-need-so-you’d-better-be-prepared type of dude. Well, all that has gone by the wayside during this trip. My mom has been overwhelmed with all the business she has to take care of, so I’m pretty much here for her, not my dad. (Well… my dad, too, but there’s only so much you can do for a semi-comatose person lying in a hospital bed.)

Basically, I’m her gopher. I don’t even qualify as a personal assistant, because the stuff I help her with is on the level of fetching copies or showing her how to use her Taiwanese iPhone.

Of course, this brings up the question, why don’t I take over some of the important tasks? Well, the problem is, I’m not fluent enough in Taiwanese society. My conversational Taiwanese is barely tolerable, my spoken Mandarin is effectively non-existent (they speak both Mandarin and Taiwanese here), and I am totally illiterate when it comes to the written language (well, aside from a handful of characters like “big,” “small,” and “beef noodle soup”). There’s simply no way I could be the one to, say, talk to the doctors and nurses, or fill out an insurance claim form. (Unless the insurance claim form was for beef noodle soup overdose — then I might have a chance of filling it out successfully.)

I even asked about hiring a translator, so that I could help more, but that was met with a, “I can handle it. We don’t need to spend the money on a translator.”

So… yeah, mostly I sit around trying to piece together what everyone is saying, and then I take care of whatever tasks I can when my mom asks me to. And she is definitely not a prioritized-checklists-with-color-coded-tasks type of person. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty exhausting for me to live like this, especially because I have little to no idea what’s going on at any given moment.

Which brings me back to the pill case….

I realize now that the pill case brought me unbelievable joy because it was one thing that I could control in my life right now. It may have been trivial, but it was something I could organize and control in the way that like to organize and control.

I think there’s actually kind of an important life lesson in all this:

When life gets too chaotic, we have to find order where we can, and we have to cling to it like a Leonardo DiCaprio popsicle to Kate Winslett.

Or maybe that’s just me. I hear some people like living in chaos….


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