general

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.

Happy Happy Rats

Posted in general, work on March 13th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Happy Happy Rats

Another four days off this week. The fogginess is clearing away from my head and it feels like I can breathe again. Stephen has been giving me much more space, and my productivity is increasing proportionally. Yesterday I went back to the gym for the first time since before the holidays. I am starting out with a trainer to learn how to correctly use the free weights. The plan is to come up with a three-times-per-week workout aimed at building strength that will be the most efficient use of my limited time. My weight loss is also starting to plateau around 120lbs. I have been holding off on the gym in anticipation of that. The addition of hard cardio and starting weight training should hopefully help shed the last 10lbs to my target. Once I am the size I want to be, focus will shift to health and strength, rather than the number on the scale.

Losing more weight has aged me somewhat as my face has thinned out, but I have found that I actually like it. Whatever has been happening to me over the past year, and even moreso in the past few months, I feel much older. In a good way. Perhaps saying I feel more mature might be a preferable way to phrase it. Not that I don’t enjoy a good fart joke, but overcoming my anxiety and self-control issues came with an indescribable aura of adultness.

This poor painting, languishing for two years in the background of most of my in-office videos, is finally finished. Happy Happy Rat No. 0007 is the next in a series of no-two-exactly-alike Happy Rat paintings, none of which since 0001 will have prints made. Starting later this summer, I plan to begin producing at least one per week, and have them displayed at local Twin Cities venues to the general public (coffee shops, antique/resale shops, galleries, etc). There are also several comic stores soon to be carrying my mini-comics.

Happy Happy Rat No 0007

There is also a Happy Happy Rats colouring book in the works, planned to be ready-to-ship by the end of April. Visitors to my Instagram will have seen the pages as I am drawing them. The originals are for sale fairly inexpensively in my Etsy shop. I might do a colouring book pre-order with the T-shirts.

Am I happy? Honestly, I do not know. Sometimes I am. Even often. But other times I am overtaken by a sense of nebulous loss, and of restlessness. I am coming to the conclusion that it is not in the creative nature to be happy or content for very long. Creativity and stagnation are antithetic to each other. I believe it is stagnation that is at the root of my depression — in myself, and when exposed to it too much in the people around me. It is not my place to judge other’s life choices or priorities, but time is so very precious. Right now I have managed to surround myself with dynamic and growth-minded people. I need to challenge myself, and I need to be challenged by my environment. I am not the same person that I was only two years ago, and in another two years, I will be different still. I want to live to my fullest potential, and be the best version of myself that I can. Let nothing be squandered. I have goals, and an actionable, realistic plan to achieve them. For the first time in my life, I have patience. Keep working on myself, and let things happen naturally.

Blood and Ink

Posted in general on March 3rd, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Blood and Ink

The fleece-lined jeans that I bought, deliberately too small, at the beginning of January are now starting to slide down on my hips. I will need a belt soon. I stand over the kitchen counter, attacking a roasted chicken from the grocery store directly with a fork, mindless of the juice and stray bits of pepper on my face. There are no need for formalities or plates here. Sugar is sloth. Sugar is weakness. I am satisfied by the bitterness of the darkest chocolate and black coffee. I am hungry, but it is not a hunger for food. We are beyond that now. This week I had part of my signature tattooed on the knuckles of my drawing hand, as a reminder and a symbol of the commitment to my goals. It burned. It felt good. As I eat, I become acutely aware of the feeling of my teeth.

Every day is a step closer to death. I am alive.

XVII

I have reached another breaking point, and feel strongly that my time is now. I am attempting to have one or two of my team members promoted, so that I can gracefully bow out of my current employment with little disruption. Myself, I am negotiating for a position where I would work three 9-10 hour days per week, as close to my current rate of pay as possible, so that I would net only about a one-quarter to one-third loss in reliable income. This would leave me with one day per week to dedicate to administrative and social activities, and three full days to achieve a good workflow producing artwork and comics.

I cannot tolerate my lack of artistic productivity any longer. Please support my Patreon if you enjoy my work, or care about me on a personal level at all.

Escape Velocity

Posted in general on February 24th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Escape Velocity
We passed upon the stair. We spoke of was and when.
Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend.
Which came as some surprise. I spoke into his eyes,
“I thought you died alone, a long long time ago.”

The heavy malaise that settled itself over me at the beginning of the holiday season has slowly grown, alongside the snow weighing down tree branches outside my office window. My friends keep suggesting that it is seasonal, but I am skeptical. The symptoms are noticeably proportional to how productive I am, and both quality and quantity of sleep I am getting. My sleep has been poor for many months due to a combination of external factors. In a nutshell, inadequate art and creative time combined with sleep deprivation makes Jen literally feel like dying. The needs of managing the equivalent of two full-time jobs continue to edge out room for anything else, gradually turning me into a goal-fueled meat robot unable to focus on anything but milestones and To Do lists. To further remove anything resembling joy from my life, on January 6th I began a strict ketogenic diet to lose the last 25 lbs that I stalled out on back in 2016. I have not imbibed a drop of alcohol since late July, and now I have almost completely cut carbs and added/refined sugars. I feel very clean.

Oh no, not me, I never lost control.
You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.

The new diet, along with a schedule of self-selected supplements (ketogenic-specific multivitamin, collagen, biotin, potassium, and vitamin D), has had an incredible effect on my mental focus and energy levels. Please note that I am not a doctor, nor am I recommending that anyone follow down the path of my insanity. My understanding is that the blood sugar levels are maintained with more stability as the body breaks down fat in place of carbohydrates, which prevents both highs and crashes. I am able to fast for hours or even a day if needed with little negative effect or feelings of hunger. I have lost over 10 lbs so far, and expect to hit my ultimate goal by the middle or end of April. I know that at almost forty years old, I am going to have to remain forever-diligent about my diet to stay the size I desire to be. I do plan on re-introducing good carbs like whole grains, but kicking sugar has been life-changing for me. The days of stuffing my face with donuts to avoid emotional problems are over.

The depression is another matter. It is a simple task to update my website or crank out Sharpie artworks while moderately distracted, but my schedule and environment are just not conducive to the periods of quiet and solitude that I need to work on a 20-24 hour per page long-form comic project. One of my colleagues and friends suggested that I go a simpler route, but that is not compatible with my vision, and I do not believe I would be happier with that than doing nothing at all. Something, however, has to give soon and I do not know for certain what that will look like. I am being nudged toward the edge of a cliff where, at some point, I have to have enough faith in myself to make the final leap. Right now, I am sewing up the parachute to soften my landing. The sooner that I am able to step down to part-time work, the less toll there will be on my mental health. As I stated on a recent podcast, I will torch the rest of my life to the ground, if that is what it takes, to reach my goals.

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home.
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed.
I gazed a gazeless stare at all the millions here —
We must have died alone, a long long time ago.

Not the familiar and well-trod numbness of depression, but acute feelings of grief and sadness linger like ghosts in my heart — in spite of everything — for both personal reasons, and the general state of the world. Grieving things that have happened? Grieving things that have yet to happen? David Bowie appeared to me in a dream last year and spoke, and I still have to illustrate that. Perhaps my greatest accomplishment of the last three years has been not the disassembly and reassembly of myself, or resurrection of my career, but gaining the ability to smile and continue dancing through pain, loss, and the things that would have utterly destroyed me not so long ago.

Who knows? Not me. We never lost control.
You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.

Right now my focus is on Instagram and my Facebook page, so please follow me there if you are not already. I received some lovely artwork from friends and readers for my birthday this month. There is a Happy Rats colouring book planned for release in April, T-shirt pre-order in March for the second printing of Stop Fuckin’ Around and the Queen of Assholes playing card logo, possibly a Dollar Late mini-comic by May? Lots of good stuff. Stay tuned.

David Bowie, “The Man Who Sold the World”