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Rachel Kirkham chats about being kind to yourself, house plants, and being a UK soccer fan in Canada

Our hangout with Rachel was full of laughs, talks about soccer and plants, being kind to yourself, and why she loves being an advocate for her patients.

You’re originally from England! How did you end up in Victoria?

I moved from England in 2009 and came straight to Victoria! My aunt (my mum’s sister) lives here and it’s where we would always come on holidays. We never did the European adventure thing! Moving here, it was nice to know what we were coming into and that we had family support.

My clearest, earliest memory of Victoria is probably from when I was 11 or 12 (even though we had visited before). My eldest brother John came on holiday with us and we went to Thetis Lake with our cousins. He was in a canoe with my cousin Paul. My other cousin, Helen and I were in the water and we tipped their canoe over! For whatever reason, that memory really sticks in my mind: they did not want to get wet and we made sure they did. We always had a good time visiting.

We ended up moving to Canada when I was just about 16. We landed the day before my 16th birthday! 

Rachel Kirkham poses in front of an expansive coastal BC vista of ocean and mountains while wearing a grey sweatshirt, sunglasses, and black leggings.

Is there anything you miss about England?

Soccer (football to me)! I can’t play to save my life but I am a huge fan. I really don’t like having to get up at four AM to watch the games though, that’s for sure! We are a big football family, which is all my Dad’s fault. Everton, in the Premier League, is our team. He’s been a fan his whole life. He started taking me to games when I was around seven years old. Even today when I’m up at four AM watching a game, we’ll still message each other during it. I say it is all my Dad’s fault that I became such a big fan, but really I was born blue!

Looking back, I have really fond memories of going to football games with my dad. We’d spend the whole day together. I have great relationships with both my parents, actually: I get a little bit of my tomboy side from my Dad and a girly streak from my Mum. I like to think I am a great mix of both. 

Rachel Kirkham gives two thumbs up while wearing a football jersey in front of the Everton Football stadium entrance.

What’s it like to be a soccer fan in Canada?

It’s strange being somewhere where it really isn’t that popular. It was a crazy World Cup this year and I wanted to get the Arbutus team involved! We did an office pool and picked a name out of a hat, and then when the final came, two of the practitioners here played against each other and they split the pot. I kept track of all the scores and it was really fun to get everyone involved and excited about it.

What do you do to stay active?

Outside of work, I like to go for walks. I used to be a competitive swimmer when I was younger. And I love to do yoga, it’s the best! I’ve been practicing for about ten years now. 

What I like about yoga specifically though, is that it’s always a practice and it’s less about perfection and more about listening to your body. One day you might be able to do a pose and the next day maybe it doesn’t work. It’s about being ok with your body with where it’s at that day.

Rachel Kirkham smiles at the camera, wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and black-framed glasses, with her long blonde hair tucked around the left side of her head, while enjoying a cocktail on a bricked patio.

How does the concept of ‘practice over perfection’ work out in other areas of your life?

So many ways! Lots of people struggle with their mental health, especially in the last few years: me included! It’s nice to remember to be kinder to yourself. It’s ok if it’s not your day today. Instead of New Year’s resolutions this year, my best friend and I decided to set goals. One of mine was to be kinder to myself. I find I can be quite harsh on myself sometimes, so I’m trying to use my yoga mind to be kinder to my brain and body.

Something I think about is that we live with ourselves more than we live with anyone else, so why are we mean to ourselves? Why do we do that? Saying I’ll be nicer to myself is really easy to talk about and harder to actually “do” but hopefully, I’ll achieve my goal this year! 

Have you ever needed physio?

Yes, I actually got hit by a car on my way to work last year! It was the first of February and the person hadn’t defrosted their windshield so they didn’t see me. They weren’t going very fast and it wasn’t a hard hit (I didn’t go flying). I didn’t break anything, so I was really lucky. It was good timing that I was on my way to work at a physiotherapy clinic! I received a lot of manual therapy from Emily, which was so helpful. She gave me a lot of great exercises. I also had some dry needling sessions with Connor and that seemed to help release my muscles, so I could go a long time in between sessions without pain. I recently had some dry needling sessions with Thomas as well, due to a strain from the gym. I’m really lucky to work where I work. 

How has your own injury experience helped you with patient care?

I’m advocating for our clients every day and it’s very energy intensive, but what I’m learning is how powerful it is to help someone shoulder that responsibility. Our clients will tell us they are so thankful we’re able to take care of the complicated claims work so they can focus on their own healing. When it comes to health, I have a real soft spot for people, especially when I see them making progress toward their goals. If I can try to take the hassle off of my clients so they don’t give up on their own care, all the better.

We’re here to help people get better. It’s the best! I remember on my first day, someone came in on crutches and a month later, they were skipping out of there! We told them, “Make sure people see you skipping out of here!” It’s nice for us at the front to get to be involved with that. When they’re in the waiting room, we get to know them and build a connection. It warms my heart.

Outside of work and yoga, what do you love?

I do love my houseplants. I have…lots. We have about 45 houseplants in our condo! My boyfriend and I moved in together in January 2021 and we became plant people after that. I didn’t think he was a plant person and now he wants more!

Every single one of our plants has a name! A lot of them are named after football players but also characters we love from TV shows and of course some family members. It’s like they’re people. We know, it’s ridiculous!

Rachel Kirkham's plant collection on a sunny afternoon in her living room.

You used to work for a major rental car company. Why did you make the move to Arbutus?

It was reading the reviews [about Arbutus] and feeling the energy of the place that made it feel like the right place to be. I was so excited when I got the job!

And as a woman, I feel so supported here. Part of what makes that work here is trust. There’s the trust that I’m capable of making the right decision, but also knowing that I have a team of people supporting my decisions, that’s huge. I didn’t have that as much before. Now, I come home with a smile on my face every day!