Illustration by Anastasiia Zubareva

But You Had Good Intentions

Intentions, however, only get you so far.

Nov 26, 2016

Imagine that you are angry. Or, at the very least, mildly upset. At the same time you are stranded in some sort of unreality where your only escape consists of Ethernet cables and illegal downloads. Keep in mind that everyone is watching you. Keep in mind that nowadays, inaction is a crime punishable by death and a lack of empathy will get you as far as a nickel on a MetroCard. Keep that in mind.
Also keep in mind your intentions: They are good. You are trying your best. We are all trying our best. You are kind and you are moral and you are observant. You notice when a fork is askew, or when the seat next to you has been empty for the past four classes, or when someone’s concerns are brushed aside because as long as they can do their job, it doesn’t matter that their feet hurt. You notice all of this. You notice it not because you think that you should, but because you always do. You are sensitive and you are observant. You really do want to help.
But you are also busy. Oh, you are so busy. You run around campus so often that you can do it with your eyes closed and ears plugged. You’re so busy that you’re skimming this article, a skill you inherited from the ever rising hills and mountains of reading material that you carry with you – your personal hydra. So, with all these things in your mind and in your bag, it’s no surprise that things fall to the wayside. You forget that you dropped something, and you forget that you were supposed to pick it up after you dropped it.
You continue to notice things, but now you archive them. You forget to follow up on meetings, you forget to check up on people. Of course you know that these people are as dynamic and whole as you are. But you also know that every day brings you closer to the things you secretly fear: unemployment, disappointment, rejection. So you keep yourself busy and you work hard, because no matter what anyone else tries to tell you, fear is the most important motivator of all.
You go on Facebook. You read the news. You feel sad. You used to, at least. Now your reaction is not so much emotional as it is rational, an acknowledgment of your current state, a box that you can tick off your never-ending checklist: I am sad. Check. Moving on.
You work and you work and you promise yourself that once you’ve worked hard enough, you will help. And you will help harder than you have ever worked before. But everyone has been telling you that you move too fast, that you should take it one day at a time, and so you do. You help yourself first, with the full intention of helping others later on. You have such good intentions.
Intentions, however, only get you so far. You know this, just like you know the gross domestic product per capita of your country and the correct application of the Pythagorean theorem. You plan to act, but you have so many other plans that are so much more urgent.
I wish I could blame you. I wish I could get angry at your inaction, at the Facebook comments you post and the posts that you like that don’t really lead to anything.
But I can’t, because I am the same.
Gaby Flores is a contributing writer. Email her at
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