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By Jocie Ferron

I was struggling to write something for this column. I was tossing and turning ideas over in my head, mulling on topics and feeling like I was missing some creative juices in my brain which these days seem to be full of nursing theories, acid-base imbalances and respiratory disorders (yes I'm still studying!).

So I found myself lamenting to my wonderful Aussie friend here, whose life revolves around the mining industry and the subsequent struggles that are associated with a FIFO husband. She reminded me that when you are far from home, who becomes your family? Friends.

Who do you rely on when things crumble, or the stress gets to you, or to celebrate with and share special occasions? Friends.

Your friends essentially become a makeshift family! 

Family will always be there, but when you are far from home in another city or country – following the job, living with a FIFO partner or being the FIFO worker – it is the friends you make and the friendships you cultivate, work at and maintain that help keep life balanced, and sane.

Friendships are an important part of our lives. The United Nations Determinants of Health list friendships and social support networks as an integral part of a healthy person. A simple internet search will inundate you with friendship quotes, like:

"A good friend is hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget."

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend."

"Sometimes me think 'what is friend?' then me say, 'friend is someone to share the last cookie with!' (Cookie monster)

"Some people make your laugh a little louder, your smile a little brighter, and your life a little better."

And just to quote Winnie the Pooh, who is a great example of a fine friend:

"I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen!"

Having moved around a lot (something I am sure many in the mining industry can relate to) I have had the opportunity to meet and keep some wonderful friends along the way.

Friends that have shared Christmases and birthdays, camping trips and fireside s’mores and have laughed and cried with. Friends who seem to ‘get’ me from the first moment we meet, and others that you know will be wonderful friends but it takes a little bit longer to break through those invisible barriers that sometimes we put up to protect ourselves.

If I am being honest, those barriers have cropped up over the years with the thinking of 'well, we are not going to be here long so I don’t want to become friends just to say goodbye again'… until I realised that was a silly notion. Friendship is sometimes to be enjoyed for a season and sometimes for life, and I was missing out on getting to know some wonderful people because I wouldn’t let myself.

For me, the loneliest time was when we moved with my husband’s job to a small French mining town. I had no friends, didn’t speak the language, and had no idea how to even meet people in that environment. The first few months felt hard, but then I decided to get off my sad sack butt and try to meet some people. I had the name of a lady who spoke English, who had kids about the same age, so I decided one day to just call her.

I can tell you, I found that hard to do, basically ringing and saying 'Hi, wanna be my friend?' (OK, maybe in not so few words but the sentiment was there). It was the best thing I did, and she turned out to be a wonderful friend and one who I miss regularly since moving away.

Good friendships take constant care and maintenance. I thought I would share a couple of friendship truths that I have taken on board when it comes to maintaining good friendships (and I still feel like I have a long way to go):

  • Friends need to be in contact and feel connected. It doesn’t always have to be a deep and meaningful two-hour discussion. A quick text, an email, or a phone call can be all you need to keep in touch. Maybe meeting for a coffee or an ice-cream date. Make the effort! Life happens, and we have all felt like there is no time for anything, but sometimes forget about the dishes or the laundry and make the time to spend with your friends. It might be that 30-minute coffee that brightens your day… or your friend's day.
  • Friendships need to be equal. It gets tiring when only one person organises everything, is always doing the calling, and creating the contact. Friendships that are unequal tend to fizzle out and if you’re the one always making the contact, it can be hard on the emotions.
  • It’s the little things! A bunch of flowers, paying for a coffee or a movie. Show your friend they are appreciated.
  • Treat your friend how you would like to be treated! It’s as simple as that.

And having said all that, I'd better make time and contact some friends …

More articles from the joyful Jocie Ferron:

Australian nurse Jocie Ferron was volunteering in Mongolia when she met her French-Canadian husband, who was working in the mining industry. After a few years living in Australia they decided to settle in Canada with their two young children. They enjoyed a few years in a north Quebec mining town (where Jocie had daily adventures navigating life in French) and they've now settled in New Brunswick.