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The Road to Self-Actualization

Posted in audio, health, work on May 22nd, 2019 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on The Road to Self-Actualization

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“The key to Maslow’s writings is understanding that there are no quick routes to self-actualization: rather it is predicated on the individual having their lower deficiency needs met. Once a person has moved through feeling and believing that they are deficient, they naturally seek to grow into who they are, i.e. self-actualization. Elsewhere, however, Maslow (2011) and Carl Rogers (1980) both suggested necessary attitudes and/or attributes that need to be inside an individual as a pre-requisite for self-actualization. Among these are a real wish to be themselves, to be fully human, to fulfill themselves, and to be completely alive, as well as a willingness to risk being vulnerable and to uncover more “painful” aspects in order to learn about/grow through and integrate these parts of themselves (this has parallels with Jung’s slightly similar concept of individuation).” – from Self-actualization, Wikipedia

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

It is May 22nd. It has been cool, rainy, and silent except for the low drone of my computer fans and steady stream of passing cars outside. The breakneck pacing of the previous six months has come to a sudden halt with the end of MSP Springcon. I slept almost twelve hours Monday night. In between bursts of writing, I have been sluggishly counting books and unpacking merchandise in the solitude of my office. I have been gnawing on leftover steak.

My mind wanders to my parents often, this time of year. It was almost exactly three years ago that my estranged father committed suicide. He refused any help, and never recovered from my mother’s death. He entered a relationship with a woman two years my junior — a waitress at the restaurant where the three of us often ate before my mother became too sick and weak to go out. I disapproved, and that was the last straw that estranged us. She bounced between my father and her husband in/out of prison. She took advantage of my father. He spent nearly every penny he had trying to keep her happy, until he was in massive debt. He should have had a comfortable retirement. After his death, my siblings discovered that my father had rented an apartment in his name for her, her child, and her husband, because he did not want her to be homeless. For all my father’s faults, selfishness was never one of them.

Like my father, I sometimes try too hard to help those I should not.

Toward the end of 2018, due to some threats I no longer felt physically safe or secure at my day job. Out of an abundance of caution for both myself and my coworkers, I left my work as a custom picture framer which I had known and loved for twenty years, and sought to begin a new career. Based on my experience caring for my mother, I was quickly hired on at a facility as a Home Health Aide. It turned out to be a fairly serendipitous turn of events, as other than trouble with scheduling — I was not able to get any additional time off for convention season prep or Springcon, which meant a lot of shift-trading, over-time, and very, very long weeks — I enjoy the job, and leaving retail has been refreshing. The job has also, I feel, been very good for me — helping to pull me out of my own inner world to focus on others’ needs, learning to ask the right questions and use nonverbal cues to assess those needs, gaining a new perspective of what is really important in life, and exposing me to a wide variety of histories and experiences through my residents. I fancy joking that, “I wipe asses during the week, and sign autographs on the weekend!”

One evening, I was attempting to care for a late-stage dementia patient who is frequently combative, refuses medication, is resistant to his cares, is often violent, and largely non-verbal (the things he says make no sense or are not words). However, he is responsive to music. While attempting to assist him, I began singing O Danny Boy. He grew still, then silent, and by the close of the song was singing along with me. He then allowed me to admin his medication and help him. We shared a moment together. For him, it would be rapidly lost to the ravages of his disease — but for me, I will not soon forget.

My days are filled with hugs and small tender interludes — a warm “Hello!” to someone excited to hear their name, listening to proud tales of children and grandchildren, remembering how someone prefers their coffee, small favours not on my worksheet, the thankfulness whenever I can spare a few minutes to chat, appreciative families. Songs during showers, where no one cares if a melody is carried imperfectly or a voice cracks. Holding a hand. Offering words of comfort. Health and youth take so much for granted — even bending down to pick up an item from the floor can be life-threatening if a fall occurs.

Not to paint too rosy a picture, my days also frequently include mild physical or verbal assault or abuse, and casual racism. Sexual harassment and sexist abuse from male dementia patients seem to be extremely common. They do not really prepare you for this during the interviews and training classes.

I have been told I am good at working with dementia patients for someone that has not being doing this sort of thing for very long. Perhaps it is because I can inhabit their worlds almost as easily as I can inhabit my own. Perhaps it is because they rely so heavily on body language to communicate, and mine is unusually exaggerated and expressive. Perhaps it is because I have in me a well of patience that I never fully recognized or knowingly tapped into. The repetitions and odd requests that irritate many of the other aides just do not really register with me. Maybe that will change months or years from now.

Anger is something of a last resort emotion for me. Before I become angry, I usually have to exhaust an ocean of excuses and rationalizations about why I should not be. The only part of my MMPI results that genuinely surprised me was my therapist’s recommendation for assertiveness training. I have never put much thought into the degree to which I learned to suppress my anger, desires, and needs growing up. I lived in a very much “my father’s way or the highway” household. I can see now how my inability to accept my anger as a valid emotion has undermined me. My relationship with Stephen is unique in that it is the first where I felt safe enough to “fight” — that is, we disagree, things might get a bit heated, then they are eventually resolved. My aversion to conflict has lead me into mostly-dominant or mostly-submissive roles.

During the process of getting divorced, I was briefly in a relationship where I allowed my budding confidence, enthusiasm, emerging identity, and sense of self-worth to be gradually ground into a pulp over months of controlling rules and demands, moving goalposts, being made to doubt myself constantly, and attempting to please the unpleasable. This is where the title of my new book, Queen of Assholes, originates from. When a new partner begins calling you an asshole after barely a month, any individual with a healthy self-esteem would be out the door. I did not have that, and did not do that. It has taken years of flopping around like a fish, trying to reconcile my admiration with personal experience, grasping to understand why I was treated that way and “fix” my mistakes, and conciously building relationships with secure and well-adjusted individuals who genuinely care about me to help me discover my own worth. My (mostly female) coworkers have been invaluable in this process of helping me learn what kind of treatment I should not accept. And I am under the care of an impartial and competent therapist to help me remain true to myself.

That relationship broke me in exactly the ways I needed to be broken.

More will come into focus as Queen of Assholes unfolds.

This weekend was the MCBA MSP Springcon comic convention. Since arriving in Saint Paul, the convention has not only helped to give my career its second wind, but in many ways, it and its volunteers have become the family I never felt I had. The fall before I came onto the scene, the main personality running the convention, Nick Postiglione, passed away unexpectedly. He was greatly loved by all accounts, and this left not only a gigantic hole in people’s hearts, but also in the leadership of the convention. Three volunteers were selected to take his place, and in the years following Nick’s death in 2014, everyone has developed their roles to move together as a team. I began volunteering in the spring of 2016, as soon as I learned about the volunteer activities. As time went on, I showed to participate in every volunteer activity where I was allowed, except during the convention itself. I am there when the tables and tablecloths go up. I am there until the last corner of the Grandstand is swept, and the doors are rolled closed on the loaded truck. Last summer, I obtained permission to start up an Instagram account for the convention, and with the help of friend-photographers, I work almost daily to promote fellow creators and engage with the convention’s audience across all of its social media.

I do these things because I choose, rather than to criticize the convention or its management, to be an active and positive force toward helping it not just grow, but thrive as the landscape changes moving forward. The convention does not exist to be a feather in my hat or “boost my ego,” I exist to serve it. The convention does not owe me anything more or less than the free T-shirt I am promised as a volunteer. If I am granted a featured artist placement, or a free table at which to sell my books, and meals to eat, that is a gift — and for what I am given, I will be grateful. There are more creators wishing to table than available spaces, it is run completely by volunteers, and this convention is the most generous I have ever seen. I am committed to its success.

(Fellow creators, feel free to reach out to me!)

Steve has been a volunteer for the convention for over twenty years, himself, and it feels like this is the first show where we have really gelled together as a team — between volunteer work, my booth, and his small comics and toys business. Comics and conventions are my life. Sharing that is important.

All that being said, I had an excellent show this year. My table remained busy nearly the entire weekend, and we sold between 30-40 books plus a healthy amount of merchandise. My lovely assistant Jessica decided she would rather take original artwork and books in lieu of what I usually pay for the weekend, so my net for the show was about the same even though I sent some of my business upstairs to the Charity Art Auction. And my auctioned piece received the third highest bid, raising $225 to be split between the Hero Initiative and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I donated to the Garage Sale myself.

This week I am taking a bit of personal time for rest, and inking the Deadwood piece I started. After that I will be shifting into comics production. I would like to have a Have Tablet, Will Scribble book ready for this fall, and the intro issue of Queen of Assholes ready for next spring. Both of those will be primarily new material, but now that I am getting proper help, I believe I can do it.

[AUDIO BLOG] Tough Love

Posted in audio, health on September 7th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on [AUDIO BLOG] Tough Love

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Today I want to talk to you about self-acceptance and self-loathing. Now, I’m not an expert by any means, and I can only relate my personal experience as an able-bodied person. But this is still something I think will ring true for a lot of people — and you may find helpful. I understand that everyone has their own mental and physical capabilities. I dug myself out from a very dark place, and I want to share how I did it with you. I believe the crucial combination of self-acceptance, truthful self-awareness — on your own or with a therapist — and regularly, purposefully pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is the key to unlocking your potential. Speak gently, but practice tough love.

My mother started reading storybooks to me almost as soon as I was born, so I basically taught myself to read and write before I even started school. Great, right? Well kind of. My parents’ expectations were so high for me that I was often severely punished for falling short of them, in many ways that my younger two siblings never were. Verbal debasement, screaming, and harsh “whippings” taught me to fear my parents’ judgement, silence my opinions, and that love is something you have to earn — like a trophy. Be smarter, be more talented, be thinner, be prettier. Whoa now, honey, we expect only the best from you, but don’t think too highly of yourself either! That’s not healthy attachment, and the older I got, those learned attitudes began to influence my budding adult relationships. At one point, I spent months of my freshmen year of high school grounded for getting Cs in a geometry class. Instead of figuring out the reason I was getting bad grades and addressing that, I was isolated from the few friends I had, and withdrew into my dark internal world even further. Later I figured out on my own that one reason I was struggling in class and having trouble concentrating, was because at the time I needed glasses. But a childhood of incidents like that, and the damage was done.

Most of my life, I have lived with an undercurrent of self-loathing and never feeling good enough. I was always the weird kid — neither popular or bullied, existing in a category no one really knew how to deal with. Sometimes picked on, but mostly avoided. It’s that weird girl. She draws stuff. In sixth grade, mini proto-Jin was already hustling to sell my hand-drawn bookmarks to my classmates. Growing up, my primary source of self-loathing was my body. My whole family struggled with food, weight, and emotional eating. Self-hating fat parents frequently reminding their self-hating fat daughter that she is, in fact, fat. My lack of self-esteem caused me to hurt other people by staying in friendships and relationships that weren’t right for me, some actively harmful, because I was afraid of being alone and doing the HARD WORK on myself to build empathy and forge true connections with other people. The failure of bad relationships caused me to hate myself even MORE, until I eventually ate my way to almost 180lbs and imminent health problems because eating was how I learned to cope with negative emotions. I ate because I felt bad, and I felt worse because I ate. It is a vicious, self-defeating, and self-destructive cycle, true of alcohol, drugs, food, and other vices. I also wasted years of my young life binge watching television, playing video games like Minecraft, and basically doing everything I could to avoid my buried feelings and reality.

It was not until I stripped away all the layers of self-loathing and started to accept and love myself, including my flaws and mistakes, that the rest of my life started to improve. You can’t build a house on a rotten foundation.

In recent times we have started to see a lot on the Internet about self-care. Self-care is important, but it isn’t all comfort foods, bubble baths, and Netflix. Self-care has to come from a place of self-love, and sometimes that self-love needs to be TOUGH LOVE. I want to encourage you to challenge yourself. If, like me, you struggle with something as simple as keeping your apartment clean, make a resolve to clean five minutes a day. Then ten. Then fifteen. The thing you want to build here is momentum! Write it on your calendar. Slap a smiley-face sticker on there! Put it in a form that enables you to visually see your progress, and motivates you to not break the pattern. Allow yourself to take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small. Over time, those tiny accomplishments add up to the ability to do bigger things. The important part is being proud of what you’ve done, but always pushing yourself a little more. Small changes — adding up — are how we change our world.

Love your body. Big, small, tall, short, tight, lumpy, it’s yours. And it’s the only one you’ve got. Loving your body also means TOUGH LOVE. Find exercise you enjoy, whether that’s biking, running, lifting weights, swimming, or even just dancing in your chair if that’s all you can do. Get yourself moving! It’s good for your body, your heart, your brain, and your soul. Again, momentum is key here. Those first steps on the walking trail or into the gym, are the hardest. Celebrate your milestones and let them propel you forward.

I’m not asking you to become a goal-fueled obsessive like I am — I know my brain was broken in a weird way that allows me to hyperfocus on things. But I am asking you to start loving yourself, and to let go of the distractions and negativity and self-loathing that may be holding you back from growth. Live your best life. Accept yourself as a flawed human, as are we all, then commit to becoming the best version of yourself you can be. Find your passions and cultivate the things that grow your confidence and your self-esteem. Do not just consume, create something! Life is too short to waste away in the dark places. Seek professional help if needed, and move at the pace that is right for you. Just — for fuck’s sake — move. Do things because they are hard.

In short, I am asking you to stop fuckin’ around.

[AUDIO BLOG] Down to Business

Posted in audio, work on October 17th, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on [AUDIO BLOG] Down to Business

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Progress, progress, progress! After chipping away at the work all summer, my arts and crafts website is back up and available. I am still gradually adding in images, titles, and information. I upgraded the content management system behind the site, and at the same time, updated my photos website because it uses the same scripts. The newest version of the scripts required a rebuild of my whole custom theme from the ground up, something I learned when I accidentally broke my photos website earlier this year, rendering it unusable. I also had to finish some incomplete graphics. Currently I am working on my comics websites, setting up the pages for my new projects, and tweaking the old ones so they have a consistent look and layout. My To Do list for back-end maintenance is miles long, so I am segmenting it into manageable chunks.

About one year ago, I recorded the first two episodes of my podcast project, JIN ABOUT TOWN. I envisioned it as a fun way to unite many of my passions, such as autobiography, real-life stories, exploration, education, photography, food, and travel. It was also intended as a way to collaborate with my friends that is accessible to anyone, regardless of experience or professional status, so that I can share my little corner of the Internet spotlight with them.

I struggled with the audio editing, and eventually I moved on to other things. After setting this aside for so many months, something finally “clicked” and I was able to edit both of these pieces with ease. I am especially proud of the second episode, because I condensed roughly three hours of conversations into 45-minutes mostly on-topic. So I must pat myself on the back, just a little bit, for finishing what I started for once, and doing a pretty okay job.

Since these two outings I have purchased appropriate equipment, so quality should improve on future recordings. Getting back to this and knocking it out is a big personal acheivement for me! I feel much more confident in the ability to continue coming back to unfinished work, and tie up the loose ends.

My other podcast, COMIC BROS, has suffered from the difficulties coordinating three overworked, busy schedules. Now that I am more comfortable working with audio, I am looking forward to some “extended family” episodes with my MSP compatriots. (With the blessing of my original co-hosts, of course!)



The first of my two latest videos, QUEEN OF ASSHOLES, was created to tie in with my newest project of the same name — a chronological, tell-all graphic novel biography of the colourful, often dramatic, and sometimes questionable life that I have lived. The video is about my journey to the city of Saint Paul, where I have finally accepted and “found” myself, and a place to call home. It is about the freedom of embracing imperfection, and the joys of being true to yourself. It is also a love letter to some of my favourite places in Saint Paul.



The second video showcases highlights from MSP Fall ComiCon last weekend, with video footage generously and skillfully recorded by my friend Jon Heller. It was created to promote my convention appearances, especially the FREE 60-second sketch cards I debuted at this show. They were a smash hit with those who came to my booth! Feel free to share this video when requesting me at your local comic convention or event! I am dedicated to engaging and entertaining attendees at all of my exhibitions. Hey, umbrella twirling!



I feel very strongly, in the depths of whatever passes for my soul, that I am beginning the work that I was born to do. What, exactly, is art? What defines a comic, and what is the difference? Who is the arbiter, the judge, the jury drawing delineation between the realm of prestigious museums, and more ephemeral pop-culture? Are not all expressions of art the same end product of the basic human need to speak out, be heard, and be understood? Labels are completely artificial, limiting constructs and completely subjective. Is the crude street graffiti and pottery of ancient civilization not of equally profound value as the works of Picasso and Van Gogh? We might sit in awe at the skill of a hyper-realist, but it is the mad scribblings of a schizophrenic that offer us unique insight into the human psyche. I believe that all human expressions have intrinsic value and lessons to teach through shared perspective. David Bowie — a pop-culture figure — artist, actor, musician, and revolutionary that caused many to re-examine ourselves. We are saddled with a President that has broken down the walls between fictional “reality” television and blurred the boundaries of objective fact itself. Comedians and cartoonists carry the torch once wielded by journalists. With advancements in artificial intelligence, consciousness and the nature of life itself will soon come into question.

What am I? I could not exactly answer that, but I can tell you that it does not matter, not moreso than the process of actually being. All my adult life I have worn men’s clothing almost exclusively, and in many ways I am acutely aware of my femininity as a performative act. Yet I have never identified as anything but a straight woman. We are all the sum of expectations that our societies place upon us, and experiences that carve out the shape of our lives like a river through rock. The uniqueness of each path and voice is fascinating, and to be celebrated. I would only have you consider — are you going to discover and grow your headwaters, or simply drift? I choose to master myself.

I have been in a good head-space lately. Life is never perfect, of course, but I have received many excellent reviews at my day job, and I am getting much, much better at handling stress. The day after Fall ComiCon I came down with the nastiest cold I have had since moving to Minnesota — aches, chills, runny nose, cough, sore throat. My computer, after weeks of developing odd quirks and deteriorating performance, chose that day to finally stop working at all. I spent two days troubleshooting with a new video card, replaced the power-supply which was beginning to fail, and finally, I resolved critical overheating by successfully removing and replacing the CPU’s heatsink. I have assembled my own computers for years, but this is the first time I have had to solve a hardware problem without physical help. And I have always been intimidated by working with the processor chip. So to remove the heatsink, clean off the dried thermal paste, and reinstall the chip and heatsink without any damage was a big deal. I danced a happy jig in my office, and I am fairly certain the aftermarket heatsink runs cooler than the original build. Someone is donating a used computer for backup, as well, so I will not have my work interrupted in the future. I managed to eke out almost a full work week while sick.

This is my life — five days per week, I spend about nine and a half hours on my day job including my commute. Most days I have dinner and some quality time with Stephen. And then I devote the other two to four hours that I am awake to my projects. Artwork, comics, photos, writing, websites. Whatever strikes my fancy at that moment in time. I read a little bit, but I do not really watch television or movies. I spend money on almost nothing but necessities, project supplies, and business expenses. I do my best to visit a friend about once per week. There is almost no fat left to trim, my days are very full, but I do not feel anxiety about it. I feel a sense of calm, and intensity of focus, and resolve. I do it because I need to. I do it because I have to. I do it because it is who I am. I do it because I love it. I have turned my work into a meditative experience. Now I have to execute the transition to full-time artist again.

My inner fire will outlast all those who have tried to smother it.