“There has to be some string of words that, put together, would get her to like me. From where I am, to her entranced with who I am,” – I thought, as I stared at the silent blankness of the reply box on my phone, – “I know what I want; whether I get there depends only on whether I type in the right symbols in the right order. What a trivial difference, what a huge impact”.

I was walking from the subway station to my college campus, trying to impress a lady I fancied. Balancing on the fine line between a “good” message and a “bad” message felt so belittling, on one hand. On the other hand, I intuitively understood the depth of the difference; how widespread the struggle was – that symbols aren’t just symbols.

“How do I start this? ‘Hello’… No, that’s too formal, I want to be close to her, so I should start with something more casual. ‘Hi, Molly!’… Man, I’m lame, I need to be cooler. ‘Sup?’… She’s not a bro, Alexey. ‘Hey! How are you?’…”, – this game of type, doubt, erase, type, doubt, erase – I can play it for hours. Finding the perfect message that will change the world in the way I like, put me on track to the sort of experience I want to have.

This training to produce the right output given a goal and constraints can be poetic, and beautiful – or perhaps a bit dehumanizing, when viewed in that light. Maybe what I’m really learning to do is express intentions; what I’m really checking is whether my message, to the best of my knowledge, expresses my intentions.

And then I can’t change the words such that the world aligns itself around my goals. I am a prisoner of my intentions. Perhaps that’s what other people really see – a step further, a step deeper, past the words. Words can shroud intentions, and it’s wise to learn to lift the shroud, but ultimately I’ll never arrange them correctly if what I’m expressing comes from the wrong place.

What really allows me to change reality – is my intention. If instead of words, I go deeper, learn to select my intentions, be a different person, such that what I aim for comes my way – then I will have truly mastered the art of being human.

But perhaps there is a next step. Maybe choosing the right intentions gets me no closer to where I want to be than choosing the right words. If words come from intentions, where do intentions come from? Just as I’ll never choose the right words if they don’t come from the right place, perhaps I’ll never have the proper intentions without some insight that is deeper still.

And what I intend seems to be who I am. It quickly becomes nonsense; I’ll never get the girl, unless I’m the right kind of person. And the right kind of person can maybe then translate their personaltiy into intent, and maybe the intent becomes words, and finally she likes me.

What does being the right kind of person even mean?

I think it means understanding other people; being able to tell right from wrong. Understanding your place in society, in the world. Working to contribute, working hard. Approaching problems with presence of mind; not sparing your energy for what you believe in.

How did it get so deep? I just wanted a girl to like me. I’m just trying to say “hi”, and invite her to go hang out, other guys do this without getting lost in a philosophical black hole. Jesus christ.

Just let go. Breathe deep, it’s okay; the words don’t matter. The intentions don’t matter. You don’t have to be a different person. Just let who you are flow out, then separately – observe it; react, correct, re-observe, re-correct. Try, reflect, adapt, try harder next time. Failure is okay: you did your best. That’s good enough.