There are a lot quotes in the world. Most are used as pick me ups on social media, myself included in this. Then, there are the rare quotes that stay with you for a long time. The quote stays with you for so long that you can’t imagine your life without it. Today’s article is dedicated to this latter type of quote.
I first became acquainted with T.S. Eliot’s “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” while in high school. When I read it the first time, I had no idea what T.S. Eliot was trying to convey to me, and I was quickly bored. Of course as a teenager, I let my teacher know this probably. She probably smiled her little knowing smile, her light blue twinkling at her thoughts, and thinking “Just you wait, Kid. This poem will hit your soul one day.”
Right she was, the poem would eventually hit its target. As an adult it haunts me. It is a constant reminder poking at my brain at my own mortality and shortcomings in life. It is strange to have an acute realization that you are almost transforming into a role. Slowly, but surely Eliot’s world morphs into mine. During my Master’s program, I found myself whispering to myself “I am not Prince Hamlet” and trying to figure out how to measure my life out in coffee spoons. This quote reminds me of all of it. A constant reminder of that dark period of my life. But none of this haunts me as much as “
And I have seen The Eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker, and in short I was afraid.” Who is the “Eternal Footman?” I don’t know but he looms over my thoughts sometimes. How could a fictional character do that? I don’t know. I think I might have named my self-doubt, my imposter syndrome thoughts, the Eternal Footman, who will spend eternity judging me for everything I’ve done. While I am writing, I could hear that snicker in my mind, holding my coat, and urging me to hurry to leave. In his eyes, would be that gleam, I’ve seen it in many eyes. The look of superiority. I’ve balked at the look and ignored it in their eyes, but reflected back at me by another is haunting.
A few years ago, I wrote this quote down on a magnetic pad and hung it in a classroom I was long term substitute teaching for. One of the students read it everyday, one day he turned to me and said “and in short I was afraid.” Yes, my dear, in short I’m afraid too. Yet, this quote after all of these years is one my top favorite quotes. In times of trouble, I dig for my magnetic pad, and reread the quote like a mantra before a big battle. Then, I hurry off unaware of the looming figure behind me that takes my coat and snickers.