Weekend Thoughts #1

So, the Big Thing is done. After five years, it’s… extremely strange to actually walk into Officeworks with a USB stick and walk out with a bag full of seven hundred and twenty three pages of thesis. (Disclaimer, in the interests of full disclosure: 3 copies × 241 pages each.)

Honestly, my head is not doing a great job of processing what it means to have finally knocked the ol’ PhD off. For half a decade, the knowledge that I needed to Get The Thing Done has been wedged firmly in the back of my mind. My particular style of procrastination, however, is to attempt to avoid doing something in exact proportion to how huge and important it is. This has led to a fairly persistent feeling of:

a) an intense desire not to do the only thing I really needed to be doing

b) an intense feeling of guilt whenever I wasn’t doing the Thing

A couple of years in, it became nearly impossible for me to even remember what it was like not to be continuously grappling with this kind of all-encompassing procrasto-guilt. The fact that, over the past few years, I’ve met so many people who’ve never known me before I started working on the Thing makes it even stranger to have it finished. Anyway, I guess, if I had to try to put my finger on it, the feeling I’m searching for to describe how I’m feeling is Extremely Relieved. I’d almost forgotten what that felt like.

Obviously, the first thing to do when the weight of procrasto-guilt is lifted is to binge-watch Netflix. Stranger Things has spurred such a profusion of think pieces that I’m not sure there’s anything original left to say.

Just one stray thought, though: it would be fascinating to see a visualisation of how many films and novels published at any particular time are set in earlier decades — i.e., how many books written in the 1990s are set in the ’40s, or how many films produced in the first decade of the 2000s are set in the ‘70s?

There are so many theories about the cyclicality of nostalgia, probably the most common being that the peculiarities of any decade tend to grow most obvious only twenty or thirty years later — usually, when those who consumed a decade’s pop culture as children end up in the position of creating new cultural artifacts.

Still, it feels as though some decades are more conducive to these kinds of nostalgia trips than others? Filmmakers and television producers in the ’70s seemed to have had a penchant for the ’50s (American Graffiti, Grease, Happy Days, M*A*S*H) that wasn’t really followed by an overwhelming ’80s cinematic obsession with the ’60s. There are some good arguments that the prolonged ‘50s kick was driven by a desire to forget Vietnam, but part of it, surely, was the fact that cultural mores had shifted so quickly during the ’60s that the 1950s felt simultaneously recent and long-ago… which seems to be the perfect combination for those looking to sentimentalise the past.

The ’80s feels much like the ’50s: both close and distant. Much of this must come from the ’80s being the decade before the web — in almost every regard, from music to film itself, the last truly analogue decade. No matter how much time has passed, it’s hard to imagine the ’90s having the same nostalgic pull as the ’80s. It’s interesting, too, how much of the ’50s was still present in ’80s popular culture —after all, one of the films Stranger Things references most strongly is Stand By Me, which was released in 1986… but set in 1959.