This year, Gateway Bank President James Christensen will be sharing occasional reflections about life, business, and what’s on his mind. Read on for the first edition of Mindful Mondays with James, as he shares a candid story about how he overcame mental health struggles and has been inspired to show the world his — and Gateway’s — authenticity.

Whenever I sit to write an article, class notes or even poetry, it never ceases to amaze me what comes out on paper rarely resembles what I originally intended. Writing is therapeutic, informational and hopefully interesting or inspiring. I am inspired by truth and authenticity, and I love history and brainstorming about the future.

I just finished reading No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox and started The Boys by Ron and Clint Howard. I so appreciate their honesty and know it takes a lot of guts to share your personal journey since none are perfect. Usually all we get to see is what everyone wants us to see.

As many of you know, I struggled with mental health issues and sought treatment during the first part of 2020. I have been blessed to have a lot of people help, lead and teach me through the last few years. I thought I would start sharing parts of my journey.

As I have peeled back the hard shell and grown closer to my authentic self, I must say that through all of the trials and tribulations of the last few years, I am stronger than ever. I love my wife, friends and work so much more. The support my friends and family have shown is incredible. My marriage is the best it has ever been. My thoughts on retiring early have changed, as I am enjoying being a banker and helping people.

As I am stronger, Gateway Bank has done even better. This is certainly due to having the best team in banking and is magnified by having a healthy and happy CEO. The bank has grown to levels I never dreamed, and now we are making plans for the next ten years. I have always known that relationship mattered, but developing them on an even more personal level strengthens that bond. If you have banked with Gateway for some time, you know that we are always here for our customers. Your success and happiness is important to us.

I am not your typical banker (or “NYTB” for short). I have had a goatee since 1990 — long before you were supposed to have facial hair in banking. I love almost all genres of music and try to quote movies like Tony Dinozzo. I even added some tattoos (under my golf shirt) in 2020 and 2021. They mean a lot to me and are a daily reminder.

James Christensen's Tattoo - Be Authentic and Semicolon for Mental HealthMy first tattoo was “be authentic,” which has been a common theme in my return to a position of healthy strength. My daughter’s boyfriend designed the perfect size and font. I think my cool level jumped in her mind, which was a neat side benefit.

The next tattoo is a semicolon with a heartbeat. The semicolon is a symbol that reminds those of us who have gone through mental health struggles that there is more to our story. I could very easily not be here anymore and would have missed so much in life — joy and pain. Do bad things still happen? Absolutely. But how I deal with them is different. There is so much good and beauty in the world that I was not able to see before.

In the coming year, I and my team will be sharing more of our true selves with you. We’re not your typical bankers, and Gateway is not your typical bank. We look forward to showing how you can be real, have fun and still be focused on strong service, growth and earnings.

Grateful, authentic, mindful and present,