general

Hello 2019

Posted in general on December 29th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Hello 2019

Today is a peaceful and sleepy Saturday; a welcome day of solitude. Outside, the air is cold and the less-travelled streets are iced over. Inside, I am sitting here savouring the odd and awkward lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I spent Christmas Day with Stephen and his wonderful family. They have always gone out of their way to make sure I feel welcomed and included, and are some of the warmest and most hospitable people I have ever met. After eating and catching up, they invariably cajole me into playing some variety of table-top game, which I protest for show, but always enjoy. Telestrations was the latest selection, which I claimed was a little too much like work! However, I love that they focus on activities and conversations that build relationships, unlike my family, which blasted television through every dinner then gathered immediately around it afterward. The television, which I have come to loathe, was the inescapable centerpiece of every function and holiday with my family. Bog forbid we do anything substantive to connect to each other intellectually as human beings. Best you stare at the flickering screen, and try not to make too much direct eye contact or engage anyone beyond trivialities.

“Staring at a screen together” also describes the gist of my marriage.

I am beginning 2019 with a new day job that I hope will reinvigorate me and my energy levels. After twenty years in my current industry, there is not much left for me to learn or anywhere to go. I made the decision before Christmas to push myself out of my final remaining comfort zone, and reboot my career path. I view my self-employed and employee lives like the two parallel rails of a train track — both necessary to propel me forward with maximum stability. I will be keeping my current job for a while, working two jobs until I have paid off all debts and replenished my emergency funds. It will be rough, but I have done it before. My new position will also include another pay cut, but it offers more opportunity for both professional and personal growth in the long-term. It also offers a way to give back to the community. Over the past three years, as I have endeavoured to live a minimalist life and shunned more and more of consumerism, I have grown weary of working in sales-related fields. Stuff, especially mass-produced, purposeless, transient, plastic stuff, drains the life out of me. I can only see its eventual destination in a landfill.

But seriously, I had a lovely Christmas.

This was not meant to be a depressing monologue about entropy.

I went to the doctor last week, and I am quite healthy, if you happened to be concerned about that. Though I need to see a dentist. My blood panels were superb, and my blood pressure is always in the low 100s/60-70s range. I am looking at possibly moving soon to save money. My expenses have increased steadily this year, and my current situation is not sustainable much longer. My gym membership is the only luxury I have left to cut, and I really do not want to do that. Right now everything is in the “exploring options” phase.

Despite all this, I feel fairly optimistic about the coming year, and I have finally escaped the artistic slump that has been weighing on me for a while now. My birthday will be here before long, and being almost forty is not too bad so far. I have a lot of life left in me, yet. And it is time to get back to work.

Goodbye 2018

Posted in general, love on December 20th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Goodbye 2018

So far, I have managed to avoid the winter blues. Vitamin D, kids.

2018 has been a period of dramatic transition and progress. At the beginning of the year, I stepped down from management, and took a pay and hours cut to focus more on my art and comics. I finished FLIGHT, two new music videos, my colouring book, and I officially began Queen of Assholes. I completed more than fifty new pieces of original artwork, including the colouring book pages, Patreon requests, and a commission. Plus thirty or forty sketch cards. Also, I produced two Jin’s Kitchen videos, the Pumpkin Spice video, and launched my video blog. And some podcasts, blah blah blah. It is easy to forget how much one has accomplished, in an environment that demands fresh content almost daily, but this was my most productive year since leaving “retirement”.

I think I rebuilt my Art and Photo websites, too? It is all a blur.

After years of struggle, I seem to have at last gained control over my anxiety, insecurities, and obsessive and catastrophic thought patterns. Though I still suffer some physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, these last few months I have felt much less burdened. Maybe I am too tired. Maybe I have contracted a terminal case of give no fucks. I have things to do. A great many things. And life is short. One lesson that has really sunk in this year, is to keep away from people who are too eager to see the worst in themselves and others. Cynical and negative people. They cannot be lifted, except by their own actions. They will only drag you down. That was an exceptionally hard pill to swallow.

Sometimes, what feels like an act of kindness on the surface is actually being an asshole. And the thing that feels, superficially, like being an asshole, is the real act of kindness. These are the themes I am exploring in my new book. I am fundamentally a kind-hearted and honest person who has made mistakes while fighting my way through anxiety, depression, and the circumstances of my life. I woke up one day in 2014, stared in the mirror, and said, “I need to change.” I have been going through that clumsy process ever since.

The gym has been good for me. Focusing in on the physical body — becoming consciously aware of the muscles and their movements — creates a feeling of clarity and groundedness. My friend Damian, who is an exceptionally-talented artist himself — trains me. While working out, and frequently hanging around the gym afterward, we often have conversations about life, growth, learning, relationships — those kind of things. I have come to really treasure that.

Which brings me to my relationship with Stephen.

My relationship with Stephen is so entirely different from every other intimate relationship I have had, that it has literally changed my perspective of what a healthy relationship even is. I know from my own research that I formed an anxious-attachment style growing up. Most of my relationships have been a combination of emotional unavailability, on one or both sides, and some form of co-dependency. After two-and-a-half years together, Stephen is probably the first person I have been able to form an intimate, secure attachment to. I might even cast doubts on my ability to love another person at all before this point. (The ex-husband accused me of being a robot, although I was strongly attached to and emotional about my pet rats.) Even during the brief times we have split up, we have both unconditionally supported each other. No matter what, I have always felt safe, loved, and accepted by him. His complete and total unselfconciousness has helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin. I finally know what it feels like to be loved in a positive and supportive way. He has a tightly-knit, very loving family. I am sure that is no coincidence.

Stephen is not without his own troubles. He left shortly after the beginning of our relationship for issues he needed to resolve with his ex-girlfriend. It was a huge step forward for me at the time to experience that loss without anger or bitterness. Ultimately our attraction and bond pulled us back together. The rest of our conflict has mostly been rooted in finances. He lost the job he had held for about ten years shortly after we first got together, and has struggled to get back on his feet since, as older men often do in this economy. I am not able to support two people, when I can barely remain in the black month-to-month and feed myself. I have a small emergency fund, and when it is gone, there is nothing left. All of my parents and grandparents are deceased. I am on my own. I am constantly stressed by the delicate juggling act between my personal business and my day job. Still, I try to help others when I can.

Stephen is working again now, and we are doing much better.

When I began this journey in early 2015, after deciding to leave my marriage, I said I wanted the kind of relationship where both people are just as crazy about each other after ten years, as they were on the day they met. I cannot know what the future holds for Stephen and me. I do know that even after everything we have been through, growing individually, and together, we still lay around staring into each others’ eyes from time to time. I still think about how handsome he looks when I see him dressed in a button-up shirt and tie. In his arms is still my favourite place to be. It feels like home. Every challenge that has pushed up apart initially, has only brought us closer together, after we cleared it. And the man cooks the best steak I have ever eaten.

Sometimes messy, imperfect reality turns out to be better than a dream.

Merry Christmas to you all, and Happy New Year.

Memories

Posted in general on December 11th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Memories

No video again this week — I am still battling a runny nose, and weak. Eating has continued to be a problem. My appetite and sense of taste are ruined. I went from about 113.5lbs when I first fell ill two weeks ago, and weighed in at 107.9lbs yesterday. That is the lowest weight I have ever documented as an adult. (I may have been as small as 105lbs in 2003.) I was forced to miss a week of the gym and, coupled with not eating, have lost some of my hard-fought gains. I have been attempting to wean myself off Nyquil to sleep, and dealing with horrible insomnia. Years ago I became dependent on Benedryl to sleep, and it is like I never stopped. Sunday night I gave in, took the Nyquil, and slept for twelve hours straight. I need my energy and strength; there is too much to do! I am hoping to be back to normal by next weekend, because I wrote a little Christmas song, and I will be sad if I do not get to sing it.

Recently I was reminded, by my customer, of a five-year-old commission I had completely forgotten about, which is awful and embarrassing. It was from prior to my move to Minnesota, required an intimidating amount of skill, and I kept putting it off until I forgot about it — more than once. My organization leaves much to be desired, and as I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently sorting out three years of book-keeping. I refunded his money immediately. In the event that there is someone else I have forgotten, please email me all the relevant details. Please do not message me anything important or time-sensitive via Facebook. I receive hundreds of messages per week, and they are difficult to keep track of. I will do my best to make you whole as quickly as possible. Generally, I do not accept commissions, with few exceptions. Going forward, there will be no exceptions. I will only accept requests I like, with the option to buy the finished work before it is offered to the general audience. I decline 5-10 commission requests per week, and I have a substantial waiting list from the beginning of this year that I have not been able to touch. There are simply not enough hours between my day job and personal business to squeeze in additional work. And I prefer the monotony and stability of a day job over forcing myself to create art that I am not excited about.

I also now route all my sales transactions through Etsy, which makes it much harder for orders and shipping information to be misplaced or forgotten.

Most of my custom work comes via the sketch requests on my Patreon, which I enjoy, because they leave me free to follow my inspiration and choose the media, size, and style of the resulting work. No one is under any obligation to purchase the original work, and I have produced some really beautiful pieces (in my opinion) this year based on prompts. Check it out, if interested.

Christmas Socks
Socks for Steve and myself from our friend Lance.

Aside from being sick, I have had a pleasant holiday season so far. Steve and I exchanged presents with our friend Lance on Sunday, and Lance gifted me with my favourite thing — plain, tall socks. I also received the softest sweater ever and a ceramic Christmas tree from my wishlist. I know ceramic trees are the thing right now, but I have wanted one since they started cropping up in stores at least two or three years ago. This was closest in appearance to the one my mother had, in my memory, when I was a child. I loved to turn it on in an otherwise dark room — taking in the colour of the little plastic bulbs, and how the light reflected off the tree’s contours and glossy ceramic glaze. Hers was most likely broken or sold in a garage sale, eventually. I cried a bit when I pulled the new one from the box and plugged it in. I will never know what became of the mishmash of unmatched, heirloom, and handmade ornaments we used when I was small, but this opened a glowing window to the past.

Vintage-Style Ceramic Tree

At the beginning of November, I got to visit my friend Taya’s new baby, who is now about two months old. I have held babies before — but only a handful of times — and never long enough for one to fall asleep on me. Holding that tiny human in my arms was one of the best feelings ever, and I cannot wait until I am well enough to see them again. I will have Christmas cookies in tow!

The end of the year, of course, is always a time for self-reflection, and I have more to write about the lessons I learned and personal growth I achieved in 2018. That deserves its own post, though, so expect it later this week.

In Sickness and In Health

Posted in general on December 3rd, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on In Sickness and In Health

No video this week — I am still under the weather, and feeling precisely the opposite of photogenic. Last week I was drained of energy, but I assumed it was over-work. By Saturday I could tell I was coming down with a cold. In my video last Sunday you can hear I am hoarse. Sunday night it hit me hard, and by Monday my throat was so ragged from coughing fits that I began to cough up blood. This has never happened to me before, so I became quite alarmed. I saw a doctor to rule out strep throat, and anything that might worsen into bronchitis or pneumonia, but thankfully it is only a cold. For two days I mostly slept, and while I still have a mild cough and some congestion, by the end of the week I was able to work an 11.5 hour shift at my job and get back to the gym. I finished the week about 3lbs lighter than I started it. Eating has been a challenge, generally. I am still up a pound, to about 111lbs. I am frustrated with my upper body, but I have seen a noticeable increase of strength in my legs and core. I am starting to feel more solid, even if it is psychosomatic.

Stephen and I are back together, again, and working on our relationship. He is taking more seriously the promises he made to me, giving me more space to be creative, and doing more to address his issues that predate us getting together. For my part, I am making a conscious and concentrated effort to be more accommodating, understanding of differences, supportive, and less in need of strictly controlling all aspects of my environment. When you grow up alone and lonely, lacking reassurance and physical affection, genuine intimacy and sharing a living space can feel quite suffocating. The instinctive reaction to this discomfort is to tend toward self-defeat and self-destruction. Like the Ghost of Christmas Future, I have seen glimpses of the bitter and isolated life that awaits me, if I did not — and I do not continue to — learn to become emotionally available, and connect with other people in more than superficial and self-serving ways. I am brave, intelligent, secure, and self-aware enough to recognize my mistakes, and push myself in the directions I need to grow and escape my patterns. As I have been doing, since 2015. I am blessed to have a wonderful adoptive family of friends and coworkers, and I am actively seeking out mutually beneficial relationships with fellow artists and creatives to find the fulfillment and collaboration I crave in that area as well.

Baby Cal
My friend Taya’s baby boy.

The Christmas tree has accumulated a small collection of gifts, and it pleases me greatly. I have been through multiple real and artificial trees since arriving in Saint Paul, none of which felt “right” to me, but this one is perfect. It is a colourful explosion of vintage-inspired tackiness. Most of the ornaments were chosen as symbols of the important relationships and passions in my life, and some of the decorations were given to me by friends. Speaking of gifts, thank you for the items from my wishlist I recently received. I have been wearing the base layers daily, and with my new coat, this winter has been much more comfortable so far. I have lost a lot of body mass, and I am always cold.

Christmas Tree

This has been a watershed year for me. I crossed several long-term goals off my list, and have had some serious breakthroughs. I am excited to move on to the next phase of my life and career, finishing Lunch Break and proceeding with Queen of Assholes. I finally subscribed to Quickbooks and TurboTax, and I am almost finished correcting three years of slipshod book-keeping, with my PayPal and Etsy store synced up and automated going forward. This was the last major area of my life that needed attention, and it is going to save me so much time and energy, it is almost as good as hiring a personal assistant.

Looking forward to a nice Christmas and strong start to 2019.

Three Years

Posted in general, health on July 23rd, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Three Years

Three years.

Almost three years ago, I packed up my entire life, and moved to Minnesota. I chose to sacrifice never having to work a “day job” again, financial security, food and housing security, medical security, the American Dream middle-class lifestyle, and almost everything else I knew. I chose to sacrifice these things because, after years of depression and accomplishing nothing, I woke up one morning and no longer recognized myself in the mirror. I had to act.

Three years later, I have lost almost 70lbs and am finally happy with my body. I have a healthier relationship with food, having mostly eliminated emotional, procrastination, and boredom-fueled eating. I eat more vegetables, little junk food, and sweets very sparingly. I do not consume alcohol, and I try to drink at least 1L of plain water per day. I stay active, and I enjoy exercise. I am in the process of starting to weight train, because maintaining muscle mass and keeping bones strong is one of the few proven methods to delay the effects of aging. And I want to be active, healthy, productive, and strong for as long as possible, so I can accomplish all of the things that I wish to do.

Three years later, I have learned so much about myself. I have sorted out the things I enjoy for myself from the things I participated in or pretended to like to fit in with others. I loathe television, and have very little interest in movies, and most passive media. I have rediscovered the pleasures of reading. I feel like a giant sponge, ready to absorb all the information and new experiences that I can. I am getting outdoors and experiencing nature regularly. Watching and learning about sports! I am educating myself about the history of comics and the comic book industry. Art, comics, dance, music, photography, cooking, writing, podcasts, videos, fashion — I have so many outlets to be creative in whatever way suits me in any given moment. Not enough time in this life.

Three years later, I am confident, and secure. I recognize the patterns of my old relationships, and where my failings and shortcomings have existed, in an objective and self-accepting way. I do my best to break the cycle when I feel myself retreating into damaging behaviours or coping mechanisms. My eyes are open to my weaknesses, and what I still need to work on, but I am also healthy enough to see where my issues end, and other people’s begin. I will not allow other people to define me. I do not need to blame or beat myself up for everything. I know how my life experiences have affected me and how to avoid the pitfalls and traps I have fallen into previously.

Three years later, I have learned how much I live for the hustle. Embrace the struggle. I thrive on challenge, and if I do not have challenge, I need to find it. The struggle is character. The struggle is growth. I do not like being too comfortable. Comfort is stagnation is death. Comfortable is an adjective best applied to beds and chairs, and not much else. If I have a problem, solve it. If I can’t do something, figure out how. If it’s not good enough, try harder next time. Practice mindfulness in the moment, but push my limits going forward. I like feeling a little hungry. I like feeling a little sore. I like feeling a little raw. I like feeling alive. If it doesn’t add to my quality of life significantly, if it doesn’t further my dream, if it’s holding me back, if it’s dragging me down, if it’s not helping me grow as a person — I probably don’t want it.

I watched my mom die of cancer at 59. I was her daytime care-giver for the last few months of her life. Only my father and her doctors knew her decline and slow death more intimately than I did. The agony, the madness, and the suffering as she slowly wasted away. I looked into her eyes as she pleaded with me for her life, days before the end, in the hospital, begging to go back home; terrified, her twisted and emaciated body barely able to sustain life. I looked into her eyes — and I saw myself. Growing up, she would sometimes wistfully tell me how much she loved to draw as a little girl. She gave it up as she got older, she said. I don’t know how much, or if, she regretted that.

My father killed himself a few years after my mother’s death. He never really learned to live without my mother, never sought out any kind of counseling or professional help, and allowed his relationship with a woman younger than me to ruin what remained of his life. My belief is the combination of financial devastation and grief is what ultimately led him to suicide. He was an honest, good, and hard-working, but angry and repressed man. Some of my earliest memories are of being chased and screamed at by him, a huge hulking mass of red face and muscles, towering over this three- or four-year-old girl. Being held down, being whipped across my bare back and legs with a large leather belt. I learned to please. I learned to hide myself. I learned to fear.

Thirty-eight years to find my anger. Thirty-eight years to find my spine.

Three years to find myself. Three years to learn my own strength.

I have made so many sacrifices for this.

No regrets.