I am a pig farmer and dairy farmer who – after exploring various byways – became a journalist. I grew up in south Auckland on a cream supply dairy farm. Cream supply meant surplus skim milk was produced, and that meant we had a sideline operation to fatten pigs.
The farm was not large (87 acres) and had to support my parents and nine children. Perhaps that was why dad showed signs of stress at times? Mum was the calm one.
In her later years my mum apologised to me for her and dad keeping me on the farm after I left school, instead of pushing me off to university. What I didn't tell her then was that when I was young, and particularly about that age, I was most unhappy.
By the time I was 22 I had helped my parents turned a larger farm north of Auckland from a sheep operation into a dairy farm. But despite my dad's gifts, he and I did not work well as a team, and I left to join the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
After four years there I was well qualified in my work but had a feeling of having reached a plateau. So I sold radio advertising, then became a probation officer.
Social work led me to becoming a supervisor with Catholic Social Services in Wellington, managing up to 30 unemployed people on a work creation programme.
After living with secular flatmates â€" and experiencing in that a mixture of friendship and shallowness â€" I made a blessed move out. Through that change I ended up in a great circle of young Catholics around St Mary of the Angels inner city church, whose love and friendship, even though most of them never knew it, helped me deal with inner issues I had carried for a long time.
In my work with Catholic Social Services, the people I supervised also had issues â€" poverty, dysfunctional families, dabbling in drugs, work shyness, and some association with gangs. But they had a straight-up and-down approach to relationships. Driving some of them into the city one evening, in heavy traffic in narrow lanes, the wing mirror of the van clipped the mirror of a parked car. The traffic meant I couldn't stop there and then.
A day or two later I had occasion to correct several of them over some matter, and they immediately said, "What about you, hitting the car and not stopping?"
Fortunately, I'd later returned to the "scene of the crime" from the opposite direction, got the other vehicle's registration number and contacted the owner. I realised that for those young people the way I behaved was important. It was a good lesson.
Eventually I applied to go to university – and to journalism school. Wellington Polytech Journalism School responded first, and I was one of 50 selected out of 350 applicants for the 1980 journalism class.
After several years on a daily newspaper, I moved to a position as chief sub on the Levin Chronicle. That was so I could join the Good Shepherd Catholic Charismatic Community in Paraparaumu, a few kilometres down the road. That community was radical in the sense that we followed the Acts of the Apostles by owning everything in common. I sold my almost-mortgage-free house in Wellington and put the proceeds into the community.
When I subsequently married, my wife, Jenny, and I left the community, although with quite a bit less than I had put into the community. On the other hand, belonging to the community for five or six years had grown me a great deal as a person.
I have since done a university communication diploma, married, had two terrific children (22 and 20 now), been a government department communications manager, farming editor on a daily paper, chief sub on another daily, editor of a community newspaper, a journalist, a newspaper graphic designer/layout person and, finally, editor of NZ Catholic.
Having a wife and children has taught me a lot. Jenny and I are pre-marriage facilitators with the Catholic Church's programme in Auckland diocese, and sometimes I tell engaged couples that I think I truly started to grow up when I was about 50!
The best thing of all – growing older has meant accepting all that has happened and being happy with the many gifts I have been given.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html