Tricia and I first met as members of a York Ghana Community Link on which we are both members of the Health Section, fostering partnership links between the health communities of York and Fanteakwa in eastern Ghana. Tricia is far more qualified than I am to play such a role. She is a qualified scientist and has nurtured relationships with communities in other countries over a number of years. She is active in the twinning organisation with Munster, York’s sister town in Germany, and also spent a year doing Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Cambodia.
The bulk of Tricia’s professional life was spent in Education, a profession she left in 2005. Her educational career culminated in York College where she was an Assistant Principal and where she spent 15 years. Tricia continues an active life connected to the world of education, as she is Chair of not just one but two secondary schools in York. “I still feel I get my skills recognised”, she tells me over coffee in one of our favourite cafes, “and this hasn’t changed just because I don’t do paid work any more. But now I am more aware of myself and the contribution I make. Self recognition is important.”
I ask Tricia about the timing of her leaving York College and why she chose to leave when she did. “I took slightly early retirement”, she tells me,”partly because Andy, my partner, had already retired twice and we planned to have a life which is ecologically based. We really want to make the world a better place environmentally, and we started at home, literally, by making our house an Eco house”. Tricia and Andy went on to win an award for having the most environmentally-friendly house in York. As well as the usual energy saving devices, the two of them have turned their garden into a small holding, with an abundance of vegetables, as well as chickens and bees. “Altogether this takes up 30% of my time,” she says, “and as I get older the gardening takes a little longer as I have less energy than I used to. But I have a sleep in the afternoons, and overall I feel fitter and healthier than I’ve ever done before.”
Tricia is also very open about their income. They live on one third of what they used to, and Tricia tells me this isn’t a problem for either of them. “We have no mortgage, we use little energy, have very low car usage and grow our own veg”, she says.
It’s not just the environment that gives Tricia meaning in her life. She also believes passionately in developing communities. “We all need a sense of responsibility in the world, and you get so much back from adding to the world”. It was these values that led Tricia to spend a year in Cambodia, a year after she left College. She was able to combine her educational expertise with her interest in wider global matters and undertake a project supporting the development of the curriculum and teachers in Cambodia. “There’s so much to learn about the rest of the world”, she tells me passionately. Doing Voluntary Service Overseas is something Tricia and Andy planned for, and whilst it was Tricia who had the main role out there, Andy supported her with his data analytical skills – and also his ability to ride the motorbike, Tricia’s main form of transport in the rural areas, as her legs were too short!
Tricia and Andy stay in touch with their community in Cambodia. Their definitions of community embrace all sorts of tight and loose groups of real and virtual family. They recently returned to Cambodia to take part in a “family wedding”, where their role as as honorary parents to the groom meant taking part in days of elaborate celebrations.
Back in York they are both foster grandparents to two children and have just added to their grand-parenting roles after their daughter gave birth to Iris Skye in Edinburgh. “I still have a strong work ethic”, Tricia tells me, “And I can feel a little bit guilty if I catch myself reading during the day. I have a voice inside me which says I shouldn’t waste time, and I really don’t want to waste a single day. But I am more assured of my own views now, and I take the time to do the things that are meaningful to me.”
Tricia’s Prime Time Tips are:
- Choose to leave or step into something else when you are ready – don’t be pushed
- Mark your change in a big way. Be symbolic and celebrate your ending and your new life
- Carry on learning about your world and the big world around you
- Help develop all the communities you are part of
- Spend time on the things which are part of your philosophy, that give you meaning in life