Parks and Recreation has fast become one of my favorite shows. I can re-watch episodes over and over, and that’s just in one day. When I’m having trouble falling asleep, I put an episode on and use it like a lullaby. That may or may not have happened this morning at five when I woke up from one too many tequila shots and not enough water in my room to fill the dehydrated void in my body. Like a grownup, I crawled to the edge of my bed, opened my computer, and loaded the most recent episode, which I’d already watched twice. This meant I would not force myself to stay awake in order to catch every joke. Perfection!
For all the laughs, this show really does have some strong, insightful characters—or at least some of their actions are pretty insightful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t dedicate the first post in this series of ‘Things I learned from…” to Leslie Knope, played by the wondrous Amy Poehler. Leslie is strong-willed, passionate, determined, caring, kind, loyal, frustrating, stubborn, goofy, nerdy, and all kinds of wonderful. Here’s to you, Leslie, and what you’ve taught me.
Be passionate about your job.
Though many people she works with do not have the same passion for Parks & Rec or even government in general (cough, Ron, cough), Leslie never lets her coworkers’ apathy or reluctance derail her. She never lets their lack of passion diminish hers. Instead she pushes on and often inspires them to help her better the town of Pawnee.
When love’s right, you’ll make sacrifices and take risks.
Earlier on in Parks, Leslie was dating a cop played by Louis C.K., and though he clearly loved her, it wasn’t the right relationship for Leslie in the end. When he asked her to move with him when he took a new job offer, Leslie couldn’t give up her job, her friends, or Pawnee. However, in the most recent episode, Leslie tells Ben that they can “Say screw it and do this thing for real.” The screw it is referring to the fact that she’s running for local government, and Ben is technically her boss, and their relationship could cause a scandal for her. However, the risk is worth it because having Ben in her life is so important.
Be honest about what you want, but don’t steamroll the people you love.
This coincides with #2, but in that same episode, Ben accuses Leslie of steamrolling him, only hearing what she wants to hear and doing what she wants even though it’s hurting him. However, at the end of the episode, Leslie realizes what she’s been doing and that she either has to let Ben go…or take a really big risk and tell him she still misses him, that she wants to try to be with him anyway. “I’m done steamrolling people. What do you want?” She asks Ben. To that he kisses her.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, the best kind of romance turns you into a flirty, goofy teenager again.
Watching Ben and Leslie during their courtship (and even in some recent episodes where they’ve been broken up but pining for each other) reminded me that it doesn’t matter if you’re fifteen, twenty, thirty or onward, you can still chase each other down a hallway, race each other somewhere, have silly handshakes, tease each other, get nervous when you see them, and so on. Love should turn you into a total, giggling, silly happy mess. It reminds me of all the times I’ve fallen hard for a guy, how the best relationships always started from complete goofiness and joy.
You get what you put out there in the world.
Leslie gets a lot of support from her friends, and that’s because she’s a constant source of support for them. She can be really intense, once giving Anne a month’s worth of reading to prepare for a job interview she scored for Anne…the next morning. But she did it because she loves Anne and knew it was an amazing job opportunity. Anne in return is always there for Leslie when she needs to be. Same goes for Ron. On his birthday, Leslie teased Ron by leading him to believe she was preparing a surprise party for him, which for Ron is The Worst Thing Ever. In the end, she gave him the best birthday ever—a quiet room, wine and steak. Ron is always there for Leslie and adores the crap out of her.
Stay tuned for the next installment, “Things I Learned from: Debra Morgan” from Dexter.