Isolation is a Relative Term, writes Timmy Whiteley
A few years ago I was lucky enough to go on a Group Study exchange to Turkey with some other
young people from across NSW. It was an amazing opportunity. Part of this program involved going
around to Rotary clubs in Turkey giving presentations about our particular industries and what it was
I’m from a mixed family farm from Warren in the NSW central west where we run a typical mix of wheat, chickpeas, cattle, sheep, cotton. I gave a powerpoint show on the day-to-day activities of our operation. After the presentation we fielded questions and just as we were set to conclude a Turkish man stood up and gave a rousing speech to the gathering, pointing and giving particular focus to me. I was confused until our interpreter explained that ‘he was very impressed with the obvious efficiencies in labour and productivity of Australian agriculture and it should be something the Turkish Agriculture industry should strive for’.
Over the next few hours after the formal part of the evening I spent a lot of time with my newfound friend going into more detail, drinking Raki the national drink (around 45% alcohol!), dancing, drinking more Raki and having a fantastic experience. When the night concluded and I was trying to crawl back to our accommodation, albeit with my chest pumped out with pride and tyres fully inflated I can remember my new best mate coming up to me and saying thank you for the presentation and that he was simply amazed that my father and I could milk that many sheep everyday. For those unaware we traditionally have not milked merino sheep at Warren, preferring them for their wool and meat production.
By this stage the Raki had taken its full effect and I was unableto talk let alone explain this to my wonderful host. The experience taught me that you shouldn’t assume people’s knowledge, and words can mean different things to different people.
The world has become a crazy place in recent times with the explosion of the covid 19 pandemic. The word thrown around as a result of the restrictions and regulations is ‘isolation’. Again this word can mean different things to different people. I’m often told that, being male, living in a small rural community, spending long days often working on my own that I am ‘isolated’ and ‘at risk’ of anxiety and related mental health issues. To be perfectly honest, I prefer this way of life and often get anxiety in opposite situations (in large crowds and gatherings with people I’m not familiar with). Other friends I know long for the trip to town, the beer at the pub or the sense of ‘community’ at a local rugby game. Again, ‘community’ can mean different things to different people.
I get how the city worker with close colleagues in a closed-office environment who suddenly loses that ‘community’ and sense of identity can feel isolated. Or the mother who drops kids at school but no longer has the social interaction with fellow parents. Or being isolated from children who are away for schooling. But what should we do when things don’t go to plan? The milestone birthday or the planned dream wedding?
If ‘isolation’ means different things to different people what can we do to conquer it or feel a sense of worth?
When the parts can’t arrive because of freight problems for the tractor we needed to work yesterday, does it feel better to start throwing the spanners?
When Betty and Brian Smith from Victoria pull up to get petrol at the servo in their caravan do we feel better when we spray them with Glen20 and shout about building a wall on the Mexican border?
Are my neighbours going to call DOCS because of the extra screaming and yelling going on in my home (owing to the extra quality time we are spending together with home-schooling and reduction in community sport)?
We are all going through something because of this Pandemic; but it melts into insignificance compared to the heartbreak for the families and friends who have been infected and lost loved ones.
Look out for each other. Keep communicating with your mates because you just don’t know how they are feeling and being affected. That’s the best advice a sheep milker from Warren can give you, anyhow.