Existential Terror and Breakfast: 12

Epiphanies taste better with toast.

 

Was nostalgia all he had to look forward to now? Was looking back all he had ahead of him? The thought had not gone away. He had done his best to repress it, and considering his history with being overwhelmed by existential dread, had actually done a good job at it. Until now.

After his incredibly awkward interactions with the shady looking boy at the bus stop, Malcolm Steadman kept his cool and was able to collect himself before his interview. Though the thought had done its best to demand his attention, he was able to ignore it and excelled at his job interview. Malcolm seemed calm, personable, and most importantly: sane. He was able to answer every question with ease, even as he was playing a sort of whack-a-mole with the sentiment he was trying to ignore. Malcolm was at his best, and it had paid off, he walked away with the job. He walked away with a more secure future, he walked away with a guarantee that he could go on to enjoy the comforts he had become accustomed to. He should have walked away with a sense of success and pride, but the thought was like an infection, and it was spreading. Was nostalgia all he had to look forward to now?

Malcolm was on the bus again, this time on his return trip. The sordid and cold atmosphere of the bus burdened his mood and was only broken by the warm and brightly colored fast food container Malcolm had purchased for breakfast. It contained one solitary breakfast burrito and about a dozen hot sauce packets. This was a victory meal, his celebratory feast for accomplishing his goal for the day. It was as disappointing as it was non-perishable: infinitely so. It was even more disappointing that he was unable to eat it on the bus, he could feel it getting cold. It was succumbing to the sordid atmosphere of the bus, just like Malcolm’s mood.

After having left his phone at home, Malcolm had nothing to distract him. It was this exact situation that the thought needed to cultivate. Was looking back all he had ahead of him? He had no choice now but to consider it. His existential angst from earlier in the day had cropped up like an unwanted weed because of his unfulfilled life, and though it had reached its peak, it had sown the seed for the one that was growing now. Malcolm’s most reliable source of happiness was a comforting sense of nostalgia.

Malcolm realized now that nostalgia was a powerful force in his life. Aside from driving him to purchase the plastic dinosaur, it was likely the only reason he had seen any recent movie on the big screen. In fact, every movie he had seen in the past decade could be attributed to Nostalgia. Every single title he could think of was either a sequel, a reboot, or a property based off of something he had enjoyed from his childhood. Each movie had characters and plots from comic books he had read, or cartoons he used to watch. Malcolm chose to spend his free time, and his money, on something that he already knew. They were safe. Malcolm was actively shielding himself from something new.

Why not? The new and unknown could be frightening! They could be disappointing! It was just easier to wrap yourself up in a warm memory, one that you knew you could trust, than to let something knew have the chance to disappoint you. Nostalgia was a for sure win, the unknown is a gamble. Nostalgia was a cheap panacea that kept out anything different, and what scared Malcolm to his utmost core, was that he had willing, and repetitively, taken it.

With nothing new in his life, would Malcolm spend the rest of it with his head in his past? Nostalgia could be a comfort, but he realized now that it had slowly become a god in his life. It was something that he worshiped and begged for. Whenever he was sad or unsure in his life, it was nostalgia that he had turned to so that he could feel better. Had a bad day? Malcolm would unwind by watching a show he had already seen. Depressed about his lack of a love life? Malcolm would listen to the same cheerful songs he always did. Malcolm was inadvertently idolizing the past to avoid the discomforts of the present. Here was the crux of it: the past? It objectively sucked. The picturesque 1950’s that America so loved and that so many wanted to go back to was rampant with segregation laws. The lucrative and prosperous decade that was the 1980’s was really filled with an overwhelming fear of nuclear annihilation and an AIDS epidemic. The disenfranchised had less rights than they did now when Malcolm’s grandparents were his age. Hell, the disenfranchised had less rights than they did now in Malcolm’s short lifetime. Technology, medicine, and even the entertainment he felt so nostalgic for were worse. The only thing the past had over the future, and the only thing that made nostalgia such a powerful sedative was that it was a known. But was it worth the price of admission?

By actively worshiping the past, by letting nostalgia be his security blanket, Malcolm was ensuring that his best days were the ones behind him. He had let the sense of wonderment and adventure about the future be replaced by dread because it was an unknown, and with it he had replaced hope with nostalgia. The bleak and terrible ocean of Wednesdays that he had seen before him in a previous epiphany was suddenly more horrifying as he easily saw himself spending them looking back into the past. Nothing new would happen. Nothing would change, and it was Malcolm’s own fault.

His epiphany did not have the same sort of paralyzing effect that the others had. Malcolm did not feel like the earth beneath him had vanished and that he was free-falling helplessly into a vast void of existential terror. No, this time was different. There was an opportunity here. As the bus crept to a stop Malcolm stood and descended off of it with a new sense of guilt for his actions, and he embraced it. He had every reason to feel guilty about letting nostalgia replace hope in his life. It was not existential terror he felt, it was a sense of disappointment that he had so easily given in to fear. He had time to change course, he could embrace the future and make it so that the best days were once again those that were ahead of him. Was nostalgia all he had to look forward to now? Was looking back all he had ahead of him? No. Not if he had his way.

Malcolm ate his burrito when he got home. It was the kind he always ordered. It would be the same kind he ordered the next day.

…and the day after that.

<<-Start at the Beginning<- Existential Terror and Breakfast: Perceptions Part 2Existential Terror and Breakfast: Tree ->
Rev. Fitz
Michael Fitzgerald (Rev. Fitz) is a writer, illustrator, and amateur Electrical Engineer who lives in Seattle.

5 Comments

  1. I agree so much on the nostalgia topic. I had conflicting views on Star Wars episode VII, as it was such a blatant self-plagiarism. But it works with everything. Probably this decade will be remembered as the 80s part 2. Same with the radio stations (at least in Europe). If you think about it, it will soon be 40 years of playing the same songs over and over. I was born in the early 80s and I cannot imagine listening constantly for 40 years to the 40s or 50s music. I actually imagine that all of this 80s revival is because we are no longer as spontaneous as back then. We now do not dare wearing those shoulder pads or getting our hair done in unusual ways. We now love “the standard”. We conform and if we don’t, we dissent in the standard way, conforming again to what we are supposed to do. And all of this, due to lack of self-reflection. Something only Philosophy can give you.

    1. Every decade we are looking 30 years back. There is a market in selling a middle aged person going through a crisis their youth back to them, this has been a normal cycle for a long time now. What is new, and frightening, however, is that politically we are now feeling nostalgic for less progressive times. I hope that this is just growing pains.

  2. Aww Malcolm. *sigh* GET A NEW BURRITO!! LIVE LIFE!!! >XD

    This is a thing people are often conflicted about in society no matter what age, I think. I have to agree with Moreno on some of it. People aren’t as creative and willing to try new things-(except maybe new sex positions or stupid bullshit like that. Which in itself isn’t NEW at all.)- I won’t say for sure that that’s 99% of people now as that would just be a flawed and narrow-minded perspective, seeing as there’s peeps like you and me, and those others on deviantart who branch out and create new things to share. But carrying on before I go into a cycle and knot myself.

    Its good for the most part to experience new things, it gives life enrichment. But being stable or nostalgic isn’t bad in itself. More like the two outta be balanced, too much of the NEW can be overwhelming and too much of the PAST can be boring and stagnant. It’d be sad to forget the past, completely disregarding what others left behind as warnings/expressions/lessons/stories and such, but on the hand its rather bleak that all we have left to look at are things mimicking the past of great successors like let’s say Edgar Allen Poe or Frank Sinatra or old westerns or old cartoons– and yes I’m only going to talk about entertainment since I don’t know much about what other things are stuck with this crutch. People comment all the time that things aren’t made the way they used to, but yet are stuck in the same loop of reused/recycled concepts. There are still some new things thankfully, but the fact so much I see in movies and music nowadays aren’t at all that different from each other really disappoints me. Its okay that people love the old stuff but for god’s sake don’t mimic those poor souls. The most they are doing is making their work a cliche.
    I’m probably sounding super critical but I tend to get carried away on this topic. AND god dang it Revfitz, you made me go down the thinking-real-deep-vortex again!! \(^o^)/

    1. I agree! There definitely needs to be a balance there. I do not think that nostalgia is inherently bad, but worshiping the past does no one any favors.

      You were not sounding super critical at all, I appreciate the in depth response! ALWAYS feel free to do that 😀

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