Growing up, I remember my mother always standing at the door at curfew, ready to catch me if I was a few minutes late. I used to get so frustrated, believing she didn’t trust me, she found weird joy in making me feel guilty, or she just assumed I would be disrespectful and not come home at a reasonable hour.
Mom, I’m sorry about that. I mean, unless any of my assumptions were true, in which case: Geez.
Now that I’m a parent, or, probably more accurately, now that I’m a little less of a teen hell-bent on only seeing things from my perspective, I recognize my mom, likely, was worried. It’s hard to send off a loved one to live their life while also worrying about their well-being. You want to keep them safe, you don’t want them to get hurt, you want to be in control.
And unless you want to stifle your loved one’s development by smashing down their dreams with your insecurities, you have to let them go, because you can’t control what’s going to happen.
I bring this up because a viral story showed up on my social media today – a story about a guy, Jonathan Kubben Quiñonez, who took his mom’s advice to follow his dreams, which he did (with gusto). However, he also had the compassion in his heart to also realize that by encouraging him to go after what he wanted, his mom was putting herself in a vulnerable, scary place. You can find millions of stories on the internet about people traveling the world. Hell, I’ve met more who have done just that than I ever expected to meet. However, there are very few who have drawn attention to the mental health of others while doing so as he has. Jonathan has consistently shared the message “Mom, I’m Fine” in the majority of his pictures.
I love this. He is living his life, fulfilling his personal dreams, and doing so in a way that credits his mom for trusting him. He’s amassed a following of over 300K people on Instagram where he shares pictures of his adventures. He is also honoring her feelings, and that is so beautiful.
Anxiety is a beast. In my experience, your brain tells you that you and your loved ones are safe as long as you’re in charge. And in life, nobody is in charge. Life is inherent risk. And yes, it’s also inherent reward, but, anxiety usually hides the potential reward under lots of really suffocating, really gross mildew-riddled blankets.
To be honest, Jonathan’s a cool guy, but the real role model, in my opinion, is his mom. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess he'd probably agree with me. She encouraged him to go for it despite her reservations. This is a huge piece of it, too – she told him about her anxiety. She told him to do it, but she honored her own feelings and expressed her fear.
She obviously did an incredibly beautiful job, seeing how successful and presumably happy he is. He has turned his adventures into her achievements. Each time he snaps a picture with “Mom, I’m Fine” in it, she gets the reassurance that she did the right thing by encouraging him to follow dreams.
She didn’t let stigma win.
I can’t imagine that telling her son to go off and do all these things was easy. I doubt it’s easy for anyone to let their loved one follow a path we didn’t specifically design ourselves. But, she did it, and his response and gratitude displayed over and over is so beautiful.
To those of you living with anxiety, encouraging dreams to be fulfilled despite the inner voice suggesting the exact opposite, I applaud you with so much enthusiasm. To those of you who take the time to understand anxiety even if you don’t live with it and support your loved ones without judgment, I am so grateful for your compassion, too.
We’re all in this together.