I’ve been creating a game. As you would expect, that has made me think about poetry. Obviously.
One of my favorite poems is I Have Not Lingered in European Monasteries by Leonard Cohen. It’s not my favorite poem. My favorite poem is The Cremation of Sam McGee, but that’s not what I’m writing about right now. I think that the first time I read I Have Not Lingered in European Monasteries I was either in high school, or maybe I was in the first year of university. Whenever it was, the poem stuck with me. It did what the best poems do. It wrapped up complex and often conflicting feelings, and delivered them in a few well chosen words ready to be unpacked.
I found myself thinking about that poem a few days ago, as I often do when I am feeling particularly down on myself. I Have Not Lingered in European Monasteries is, for my money, the best description of imposter syndrome ever written. Every facet of the complex emotional state of knowing yourself to be both competent and hopelessly in over your head, recognising your accomplishments while still waiting to be exposed as a rube. It’s the feeling that you haven’t earned what you’ve done in the right and proper ways, but you are still doing it. All the while the poem is an indictment of the very notion that there is a right and proper way. It also laments the loss of a right and proper way and a life lived superficially. Poems man, just packed right full of stuff.
Anyway, I really wrote this so that any time I, or anyone else searches for imposter syndrome, they have a slight chance of also finding, what I think is one of Leonard Cohen’s best poems. If you go searching for the reason why, the more you accomplish the more you feel like a fraud, you might find I Have Not Lingered in European Monasteries. Seems a fair trade.