There’s No Eucharist at the Rig

When I was working for an oilfield service company as a field engineer, I was assigned to various rigs, hopping on and off on weekly (sometimes daily) basis. There was barely any time for me to reflect on my life, let alone create a career plan. Mind was too much distracted by the ongoing job logistics and delivery and forgetting the real reason why I was there: to have a career.

Let me recount the why and how I joined that company.

I came back from The Netherlands in 2011 after graduating there to pursue a career in my home country. Everything started from a simple boastful remark from my fellow undergrads who had been hired by oil & gas companies. Back then, the oil & gas companies were on a hiring spree. The stereotype marring everyone joining those companies was ‘rich, bright future, and international travel’. Please imagine a sugar daddy shuffling cash here.

So, being a stubborn and ever-challenged person I was, I enrolled in the recruitment process and got hired as a 1% out of the 400-ish undergrads applied. Woohoo!

I remember opening a curtain that very morning in one room at Renaissance Hotel, near the Petronas Twin Tower, KL, during the onboarding session of new hires. I told myself: Sekar, this is the life you’ve always wanted. Young, bright, and a class A company. An oil & gas service company no less. 

A similar reaction was displayed by my circle of friends and family. There was no way my reputation would be tainted.

Soon, everything became a wake-up call that this was not the life I wanted. Life is like a parent trying to tell something to their child without ruining the fun. The child will enjoy and bask in the superficials until the reality struck. And life left me living from paycheck to paycheck — not in a negative economics way but more of a spiritual way — that my happiness only gets back to normal every 25th of the month looking at my paycheck. The rest of it? Zero energy.

  1. I could not enjoy the independence of time
  2. There is no Eucharist at the rig

I could not enjoy my independence of time

Sleeping, eating, living, and working at a client’s facility. Despite my current job is also demanding (heck, I’m working at an application which if it fails, it would impact the economics), it is way subpar from having to live on someone else’s schedule. At least, my day-to-day life is predictable. Waking up at 7am, working, can have a long day or overtime, can look like crap the next day because of lack of sleep, but I know and I can guarantee that I will regain my sense on weekends. Yes, weekend. A word never existed in my past life. Weekend was a philosophical concept, totally vague, for a field engineer. If the client wakes you up at 2am, you wake up. If Mr Company Man calls your crew for a safety meeting at 3.30am, feeling groggy you are, you conduct the safety meeting. There is no way to say No about the timetable, unless it is safety-related, such as arming or disarming of an explosive tool.

Having no independence of time pushes me toward my limit subconsciously. I indulge in negative behavior at my off days. Sleeping all day, ordering the most expensive items on the menu during vacation, pushing my Mom to accompany me to a vacation and getting angry if she didn’t cooperate, purchasing expensive skincare and make-ups, gosh, I feel so awful just by memorizing and writing this.

Living life was from one extreme to another extreme. There is no way in between. Working without limit and indulging emotional regardless someone else’s concern. Torturing my body to be awake >24hr (in the bull crap of ‘fatigue management’) and sleeping my ass off the next off day (not necessarily on weekends).

Tormenting physical body impacts emotional psyche. I was a kind of suppressing my emotional concern inside, not letting anyone know as I had to maintain composure in front of clients. In the daily life of my current job, I have to do that, too, but I know I can unwind after a long day by pampering myself a bit before bed, which is also mostly at a regular time.

I feel gross now, really.

I feel that all decisions made during that time was when I was not in the right mind. Evaluating them so far, I regret that one of life-changing decision was indeed made during that condition, without any proper time to pause and think, to stop and look back, to (if need be) retreat somewhere in a recluse and come back to life with a refreshed spirit. Yes, it was my marriage decision.

I’m not talking about this right now.

Next point,

There is no Eucharist at the rig

Even though the recruiting specialist had warned us in the beginning that this field life was not for everyone, I — for the sake of the mouthwatering salary and international experience — overlooked it. Yeah, I could withstand not having Christmas, yeah, I could withstand of not having holidays. And in my total of 3 years and 9 months, yeah, the vacation I planned could go awry because somehow I got called back to the rig the very day I booked for a leave, or yeah, I could not attend my Dad’s baptism because of I was too freaking afraid to renegotiate the roster.

I missed the special events of my life. I was completely oblivious that cousin A was having a wedding next month, or BFF-since-highschool was no longer in the loop. My life was full of jargons and abbreviations of oilfield life to the point I was not aware that startups started to gain awareness and market share in Indonesia.

But, the worst of all, I missed the body of Christ.

Eucharist is the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church, and as a part of the Church, I did not participate in it. I couldn’t attend the weekly Mass, much less partake in services, because my Saturdays and Sundays were spent in the rigs worshipping the crown blocks.

This religious routine issue is the most controversial part of joining the oilfield service life, that’s why I put it as the #2 in the blog section. It’s not because it is of less priority, but it’s the most controversial one. And according to the techniques in delivering data or business presentation, the topics should be delivered from the least to the most controversial one.

Considering how awful my life back then, I was so grateful that I finally had the chance to say goodbye to all those. New page, new chance. New lessons, new friends. New city, new life.

I’m thankful for all of the amazing people I met during my time then, and some of them are still friends till today. Friendship stays, but all the gloomy days of low motivation are long gone. The body of Christ and other liturgical expressions are my weekly routine now, and learning from my dark past, I never deprioritize the opportunity to partake in Holy Mass. For some people who never ‘lost’ the Eucharist, the body of Christ might be a regular sacred routine. But for people like me, the body of Christ is invaluable. Money, jobs, fame, and allegiance can never buy it.

I could have lost everything: my job, my confidence, my international opportunities. But I regain Christ, and that’s enough.


Until next time,