Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite shows on tv, ever. When I’m sad or sick, I’ll re-watch episodes. Sometimes the same season over and over. It never fails to make me laugh and feel better about my life and the world. (Although season 1 starts slow. Give it time to bloom into season 2. It won’t take long.) Yes it’s a good comedy and yes the actors are pretty fantastic, but why I love it with my whole heart, is the characters evolve. They have life experiences, they learn lessons, and they grow from them. Leslie Knope is a leading lady who has really stepped into her power, and changed a lot in her 5 seasons on tv. I adore that. I get so sick of characters that stay stagnant, or do the same self-destructive thing every season. If they were my friends in real life, I’d get bored with them. (What? Not everyone pretends the characters on shows they watch are their friends? Interesting.) So in honor of her soon-to-be wedding to her soul-mate Ben, I’ve compiled seven of my favorite life and love lessons I’ve learned from Leslie Knope. Because if she were my friend, I’d be damn happy for her.
Leslie created Galentines Day, the day before Valentines Day, February 13th, to celebrate her lady friends. I LOVE this. Because I love making up my own rules and traditions, but I also love the idea of a dedicated day to celebrate your girlfriends. Weather you’re in a relationship or not, lady friends are pillars of support in our lives. If you’re a dude, celebrate your bromances. Or whomever else is that person, or people that you rely on to get you through all the other days of the year.
Don’t abandon your entire life because a guy asks you to.
Early in the show, Leslie was a bit of a (loveable, sometimes) wackadoo. She started a relationship with a police officer in her town (Louie CK, being adorable) and it seemed pretty good. They were starting to grow their relationship and he got transferred accross the country. He invited her with him, but her entire life was there. A job she loved, dear friends, and a fervor to see her hometown develop. She knew she could never be as happy without all those things even if she was with this guy she really liked. So she stayed, and the relationship ended. Stay true to who you are. Know yourself. Be brave enough to keep looking for someone who can work with the entire package. If you do follow someone across the country, make sure you’re good and clear what you’re giving up, and what you expect to gain in return.
Love where you’re from, you only get one hometown.
Leslie is a fanatic for her hometown of Pawnee Indiana. In the words of her boss Ron Swanson, ‘you only get one hometown.’ Now, some of you might have moved around a lot, making that bond tenuous. Some of you might have really negative associations with your hometown. That’s fine. I think the sentiment here is invest in your community. If that’s where you’re from, great. If it’s where you are now, even better. As someone who for a long while had a fraught and frustrated relationship with her hometown, I know that these things can evolve.
Waffles first. Then friends, then work. As long as work is last.
Good food, good friends, interesting work. You really get that in Leslie’s world, the work is important, but it means a ton less then the people she spends her life with. It’s important to know what makes you happy – in Leslie’s case it’s waffles – it could be tea, morning coffee, that amazing salad from the cafe down the block, whatever it is, love it. Love that part of yourself that loves some strange culinary thing more than you think you should. Love your friends, because they make the journey interesting and worth it. And then work, because it’s helpful to make money, and so much the better if it can be something that you’re really on fire about. But work is never first, because it can’t be. Work to live, don’t live to work. Have questions about this one? Hit me up for a free conversation to talk it out.
Show up & stand up for your friends.
At it’s heart, that’s what this show is about. Friends showing up for each other, going the distance and standing up for one another. It’s great to see that on TV in a way that makes that ok. So many shows it seems pit friends against each other, or create rivalries. While it can make for great drama, it’s also nice to see people being kind to one another, and going out of their ways to make each others days better. Friends are rad! Good friends are rarer than they should be. Show up for the ones you’ve got.
Ask for what you want. Admit when you’re wrong.
As Leslie’s relationship with her new man Ben evolved, she had to get really good at asking for what she wanted. “I really want to be with you, how do you feel?” Direct, to the point, honest. It’s hard, but you’re guaranteed to not get it if you don’t even ask. So ask. And don’t let other people make you feel bad for asking. Admitting when you’re wrong is an equally important skill that we’ve got to see Leslie practice over the years. Generally quick, sometimes emotional, she takes responsibility for her actions and explains a bit more where she was coming from. Let people know where you’re coming from, take responsibility for your feelings, and for gosh sake, make eye contact while you do it.
Crazy plans sometimes work. Go for your dreams.
Leslie is a woman who rarely takes no for an answer. When up against a wall, she’ll hatch a scheme to circumvent the problem and get the results she wants. Whether that’s relocating gay penguins across the state or throwing a last minute gala ball to fund-raise for a long held dream of a city park, she’s not afraid to go all in to achieve her dreams.
It’s all about who you’re with and where you can go when you’re powered by friendship. Leslie is a lady who really advocates making your own road, following your dreams, and often enlisting your friends to help. I think this is a beautiful, community based approach to changing the world. Throw out the old map, create what might be.
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