This comic shows that your job doesn’t define you, but it’s okay to feel depressed when you feel like you’ve failed

Working hard is what Shing Yin Khor is good at. She has the words “work hard” tattooed on her forearm to remind her of that fact. In a comic she titled after this mantra, Shing explores how she’s found herself in a cycle that many of us can relate to. She’s established her self-worth in her productivity and often feels pangs of depression — a form of mental illness over 300 million people cope with, worldwide — arise as a result.

We talked to Shing about “Work Hard,” which admittedly, still does not have a happy ending.

The artist realizes that one is not only as good as their work, but like so many others, she has yet to find a way out of that mental rut.

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It’s Shing’s ability to put such strong emotion into simple words and illustrations that makes her art so potent. That — and the fact that she’s a woman of color expressing said emotions and creatively writing about topics such as mental health, gender identity, and sexuality — makes her a crusader for underrepresented voices in the art field.

In “Work Hard,” Shing ties her struggle with self-identity to the idea that the concept of hard work has been “coded” into her immigrant identity — another topic she often artistically explores.

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Shing began cartooning during junior high. Rather than falling in love with the medium as an art style, she instead realized its effectiveness for communication.

"I grew up reading a lot of memoir comics, so communicating that way actually just seemed like the path of least resistance," she told HelloGiggles. "Now, it feels like the most literal way to get an idea or feeling across, more so than either just words or pictures. I guess it’s been long enough that I don’t think about whether I love it or not; it is just a medium I can use when it is the best one for the job."

Shing is currently using this medium to explore the Paul Bunyan legend and how it connects to American logging history in a new graphic novel she’s working on.

“I acknowledge that I got a lot of my start writing contemporary race and identity autobio comics,” Shing explained, “but what I really love doing is walking into spaces generally considered (white) American and floating up the actual histories there, which have always included people of color and indigenous peoples.”

"It feels like the difference between trying to convince someone that I am an actual person with feelings, and...outright marching into their space and claiming that history on behalf of people who also have a rightful claim to these American stories," Shing added.

By reading Shing’s comics, she hopes the reader gets “all the feelings that I, an emotionally stoic person, am unlikely to express in any other way.”

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If you’d like to see more of Shing’s art — including her sculpture and installation pieces like her interactive piece, Salvage Station No. 8 — you can check out her website. Meanwhile, follow Shing’s Instagram to stay updated on all the new art she’s producing.

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