4 min read

An open letter to my non-FIFO friends

An open letter to my non-FIFO friends

I’m sorry I cannot be there, I miss events, birthdays, engagements, child births and housewarmings.

You say I’m adventurous, and say I’m courageous. But this is my life and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Sometimes we must break the bonds of common and break down all that we know and perceive about ourselves to truly find ourselves. This involves moving away from our common, and stripping it back to the basics to start afresh. One cannot truly grow around normality, we must break-down to break through by facing challenges, and feeling utter isolation.

Yes we make lots of cash, but a good portion of it goes to the tax man. Don’t be critical in thinking that I am rolling in cash – because in all honesty I’m not. The extra pay check is nice and definitely a bonus, but we work fucking hard for it…
Its easy enough to say lets go visit every days off. And I suppose six days off is better than only a weekend when you work the usual 9 – 5 Monday to Friday roster, but you honestly require your R&R. Long hours, in hot dusty work environments, isolated from society with a bunch of (in the beginning) strangers that become your family. Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat! I can’t even respond to messages, or begin to comprehend anything legible until I am home again in Perth.

I am tired on days off and need to recoup. Although it well known that there is an association between the Mining and Resources Industry and increased rates of mental health issues, the formalised physical support network still isn’t always there. I feel drained by the normality of home in Victoria, and am subsequently drained when I come home to visit. They are short and fleeting visits, but I always try and cram in as much as possible – like I do in my work and home life in WA. I can’t give the time I need to the people I should, and honestly sometimes I just need to be alone to diffuse.

Dealing with people is stressful, especially when you deal with people who each have set views and ideologies and defend them equally as strong as I defend my own. People are draining, and you see sets of new faces daily. Generally nice, some not so much. We as humans are not meant to deal with that many people in our lifetimes let alone during a year on a mine site – communication becomes vital.

Alcoholism and depression are prevalent within mine workers, and in the industry itself. Maybe its only because the people don’t know what else to turn to. Blow off the steam they say, go to the wetty, 10 before 10 – she’ll be right! It’s a different life, and they’re hungry. Sometimes the drinking and social aspect can be good, building a community and a degree of togetherness – but people just need to observe their actions and realise if it is just socialising or depression.

It is draining being in a predominately male workforce. We swear, we belch, we fart, basically we are filthy – from the dirt under my nails, to my Pilbara tan and even to the smut that now dribbles from my mouth. In reality you adapt to survive, but I would rather be real with my workmates than get on my hands and knees to get anywhere. Some women use their feministic attributes to advantage in less than ideal ways. In the beginning I thought I had to act like a man, or ‘think like men’ to be able to progress anywhere but in reality I just needed to be myself, and do a lot of self-work.
I was and still am always prepared to work hard, have a thick skin, pick my battles and definitely don’t shit where I sleep (do not have sexual relationships with colleagues).

I cannot begin to describe what it feels like to have two life’s, but all FIFO workers do. Sometimes I feel like its actually three, as I try to live vicariously through friends and family still at home. I have two of all the important items for daily hygiene – dual toothpaste, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, deodorant, clothes and runners. It makes you feel spread out a little too thin at times – like someone who hates vegemite spreading it sparsely across toast

I don’t need the inundations of all the petty little troubles, the latest gossip from home bores me, and I can’t deal with the minor details of the life I am missing out on – as that is no longer me. As you grow wiser and mature, you learn to transcend all of the bullshit that you held so important as a teenager. But unfortunately some never outgrow the drama and are kept in a cycle of who did that, what did they say and who went where?

Why do I always need to be the one to make the move? I need to visit home more often? Well how about you visit me? Come see the life I’ve made for myself and not the one I left behind. See how much I have changed, and subsequently how our relationship has changed? Maybe we aren’t so close anymore… and for that I am sorry!

We all change and our relationships are dynamic too, maybe we were the best of friends but aren’t now. And maybe you annoyed me then, but I have all the time for you now. Some of my closest friendships from Victoria have hurt me during the time that I have been away. It sucks, and its glum, but that’s life, we cant wallow… we get what we put in. Even my current friendships and relationships are tested by FIFO. We must prioritise work when we are there, and the tiredness and sleepless nights do eventually catch up, and we snap.

FIFO is not a long-term viable option for those who are in relationships and those who value friendship, but it does have its perks – and for now that is the life I have chosen and the bed I have made for myself.