gooseberry studios build yourself essayIn The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne (Batman) is thrown into a prison deemed impossible to escape. His back is broken, he’s immobilized and left to watch his beloved city of Gotham get destroyed (bear with me, I have a point, I swear).

Little by little, Wayne’s back heals and he starts exercising aggressively to regain his strength. One of his fellow prisoners asks, “Why do you build yourself?” After all, their surroundings are insurmountable.

Wayne replies, “I’m not going to die in here.”

And what happens?

…well, it is a superhero movie. He vanquishes all odds, breaks free and returns to Gotham just in the nick of time to face his enemies and save the world. Obviously.

Superhero surrealism aside, I’ve been thinking about that line, “Why build yourself?” quite a bit during self-isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Blame it on all the movies I’ve been watching or my lifelong adoration of fiction for inspiration.

THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT

The world is in chaos at the moment. Devastating, tragic chaos. There is very little that I, as an individual, can do for the situation right now other than follow the instructions of our health officials, stay home and hope. And believe that we’ll get through this.

Will life go back to “normal?” Nobody can say for certain. But life will go on. If any horrific event in human history has taught us anything it’s that life will continue. Even when the occurrence was unprecedented for the times, life continued. Jobs may have changed, society may have changed, people may have changed, but life as a general collective concept morphed and continued. I choose to focus on that.

(“Life finds a way.” Jurassic Park. Another impeccable movie.)

WHO I AM AT HEART

I consider myself a builder at heart. Professionally, I don’t work in construction, I don’t shape policy, I’m not even particularly crafty, but I do build. I architect concepts to life; my materials are ideas and imagination glued together by strategy and woven with creativity. I forge brands and businesses so they can, I like to think, have a positive effect in their own ways.

I build in my personal life as well — home projects, self improvement, always working towards something while being grateful for where I am and what I have. It’s a mindset I carry with me always.

For as long as I can remember building has been a great source of comfort for me. I was raised to feel (insert tricky situation of choice here) and then pick myself up and DO something. No matter what, there is always something productive that can be done. There is always a way to build forward, while being accepting of the present and accepting of the things we cannot change.

BUILDING AS A PHILOSOPHY

Building is now almost a philosophy to me; it’s what I turn to when times are beyond difficult, it’s what I’ve done through heart-piercing loss, it’s how I celebrate new chapters, it’s even often how I unwind and de-stress. I find comfort in creating something new. Creating something new forces you to adapt to change and forces you to focus on something positive rather than succumbing to panic over things beyond your control.

During this time of isolation, of uncertainty, of haunting surrealism that feels like we’re living in the opening scenes of a movie ourselves, whenever I find myself overwhelmed, scared, anxious or outraged (and I do), I feel it and then I say out loud:

Build yourself.

Even now.
Especially now.

“How?” you may ask.

REMEMBER THAT BUILDING IS A MINDSET

Learning something new is building knowledge.
Practicing a skill is building ability.
Working out is building your body.
Taking time to rest is building resilience.
Reflecting about life is building wisdom.
Connecting with others is building community.
Developing new projects is building livelihood.
Pausing to breathe is building gratitude.
Helping others is building hope.
Taking things day by day is rebuilding in process.

Building doesn’t look the same for everyone and can be accomplished in an almost endless number of ways. I’m not a guru. I’m not an expert. I don’t pretend to be either. I’m not saying this is the “right way” or the “only way” to be right now. This is simply my personal approach to the coming weeks and months. I’m sharing in case it helps somebody out there. If you disagree, fair enough.

BUILDING IS A CHOICE

I choose to build myself dynamically, so that I may be stronger than I am now in every facet of my being, so that I have the strength and endurance to help others through this time or what may come, and so that I can hopefully nurture a realistic positive outlook for the future.

And I hope this goes without saying, but if you are a builder like me, let’s build at home so that we keep others safe and flatten the curve of this horrible virus.

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{IN ADDITION}

By writing this piece it is not my intent to gloss over the horrific health conditions or death toll that has been striking all over the world as a result of coronavirus. The reports are tragedies. I am deeply aware that my position at the moment penning this, as a Canadian, is privileged – I’m in the comfort of my own home, with my loved ones, with enough to eat, with heat and amenities. I am doing all any non-health professional individual can do at the moment – staying home, washing my hands, supporting vulnerable community members however I can.

I refuse to call what is happening in the world right now a “blessing” or “a fortunate opportunity to finally have time to work on passion projects.” That is not the intention or message of this piece. People – are – dying. In some countries there are a thousand deaths a day. We cannot be oblivious to this or ignore the facts.

This piece is about sharing my personal mindset and my building mentality for my personal situation that I believe to be productive and helpful in trying times at an individual level given my current circumstances.