On Thursday, something terrible happened.

I was packaging four hundred pounds of Cherry Pineapple Parfait into four-pound bags at my job in the salad manufacturing business when Katy Perry’s song, “Firework,” came on the radio, and I actually understood what she was talking about.

For the first time since the song’s debut in 2010, Katy Perry asked me:

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
drifting through the wind
wanting to start again?

And I did.

I really did.

A few minutes before, I was in a corner of the breakroom listening to a voicemail in which I received another rejection for a job that actually requires the college degree I invested so much time and money in.

And, as I’m generally a pretty mellow person on the exterior, I put my phone away, washed my hands, and pulled the stainless steel bin of Cherry Pineapple Parfait out of the walk-in cooler.

My mind, however, can be a bit dramatic, and I was a tangle of thoughts and emotions. I was having one of those moments when I wanted to quit life. Only, quitting life is hard to envision. Quitting a job is much more tangible. So I imagined myself ripping my apron off, throwing it into the Cherry Pineapple Parfait, and screaming I’M DONE.

The only problem is that I’ve thought this scenario through (several times), and I know life won’t hit the pause button for me to catch up to everyone else my age, and there’s a voice in my head that whispers student loans.

So I scoop the Cherry Pineapple Parfait, listen to Katy Perry, and wonder if any of my effort will ever make any difference or if I’ll always be as powerless and obsolete as a plastic bag drifting through the wind.

And then I want someone to slap me because, well, I’m being a bit overdramatic and that’s basically the eighth deadly sin.

I’ve been told I have “a tendency toward depression”[1] and sometimes, even when I’m telling myself that something is okay and not a big deal and that everything will work out, my mind doesn’t listen.

And so Thursday afternoon when I got out of work and realized that my mind was in a downward spiral, I needed to do something. So I laced up my old Nikes and drove to the beach.

A storm with 50mph winds hit West Michigan the night before, and I sat in the parking lot of Holland State Park with the wind rocking my car, and I watched 20-foot waves swallow the piers.

I meant to stay in the safe haven provided by my windshield and locked doors, but then I watched the sand blowing across the pavement, and I thought about Katy Perry’s damn plastic bag, and I figured that if I couldn’t control the metaphorical winds of life, I could at least fight the physical ones, so I got out of the car and framed myself, head-on-against-the-wind, and started walking.

One step forward.

One giant gust of wind.

Sand blasting face. Three steps back.

NOT A PLASTIC BAG. SUCH DUMB LYRICS. CAN’T BELIEVE I INTERNALIZED THAT SONG.

Another step forward.

I’m not a firework.

I’m just a girl with worn-thin Nikes.

But for now, that’s good enough.

 

[1] Psychologists say the darndest things

Cassie Westrate

Cassie Westrate (’14) graduated with a double major in writing and international development studies. She currently lives in West Michigan, where she works as a writer, hangs out with her pet bird, and fights crime by night. Just kidding about the crime.

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