Tonight marks the end of an era, my friends. At 8pm EST on NBC, we’ll say farewell to Parks and Recreation after seven seasons.
This is a difficult goodbye for me as I’ve faithfully watched the show since the (admittedly rocky) first season aired in 2009. Slowly but surely, I fell in love with each member of an eclectic band of misfit characters, all of whom are so over-the-top and caricatured and yet inexplicably complex and real.
At the helm stood Leslie Knope. I’ve never met a character quite like Ms. Knope. She is a perfectionist. She is passionate-to-a-fault. She is uncompromising, anxious, neurotic, and sometimes a little irritating. Unlike other uptight heroines we see in the media, who are often portrayed as unhappy women in need of a man’s love to make them appreciate the finer things in life (see: The Proposal, Two Weeks Notice, The Wedding Date, everything Katherine Heigl has ever done), Leslie doesn’t need or want to be fixed. She is unapologetically herself.
As ridiculous as it may seem to take life advice from a fictional character, Leslie Knope has taught me many important lessons over the years. Here are my favorite:
Lesson #1: Prioritize your life
Leslie: “We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.”
Take a few minutes to figure out what truly matters to you. It’s easy for priorities to get out of whack when you get busy or caught up in a daily routine. Remind yourself often about what is important and regularly make time for those things. You’ll be happier for it.
Lesson #2: Be opinionated
Ben: “Honey, you have never been neutral about anything in your life. You have an opinion on pockets!”
Leslie: “Yes, I think they should all be bigger!”
Society likes to tell women that they need to be “cool” and “agreeable” in order to be likeable, feminine, or attractive. While Leslie would still generally encourage you to be a nice person, it is okay to disagree and it is okay to speak out when things are not the way you want them to be. Own your opinions and openly voice them like the powerful, noble land-mermaid you are.
Lesson #3: Things will be hard and you will fail.
Leslie: “I don’t want to be overdramatic, but today felt like a hundred years in hell and the absolute worst day of my life.”
Everybody with ambition will eventually know failure in one form or another. You will have bad days, hard days, days where you feel you aren’t getting anywhere. Things will go wrong, and yes, it will usually be Jerry’s fault. Like Leslie, you are strong enough to get back up on your feet. You can do hard things.
Lesson #4: Be confident in your abilities
Leslie: “Winning is every girl’s dream. But it is my destiny. And my dream.”
You are capable of so much more than you think you are. Find that confidence and own it. Don’t be afraid to celebrate yourself when you accomplish something, big or small, because you worked for that victory. You deserve it.
Lesson #5: When in doubt, waffles.
I mean, I feel as though this is self explanatory.
Lesson #6: Don’t settle for “Mr. Good Enough.”
Leslie: “I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is right now.”
Ben Wyatt loves Leslie Knope. More than that, he respects and understands her. He unfailingly supports each and every one of her personal and professional ambitions and has never once tried to change her. She has never tried to be anyone but herself around him. You deserve absolutely nothing less.
Lesson #7: Don’t Forget About Your Friends
Leslie: “You know my code. Hoes before bros. Ovaries before brovaries. Uteruses before duderuses.”
One of things I love so much about Ben and Leslie’s relationship is that, even while madly in love, they both still managed to maintain healthy and beautiful relationships with their friends. Pay attention to the friends you love and keep those bonds strong and thriving. If you stay thoughtful and enthusiastic about your friendships, your brain can always remain a “steel trap of friendship nuggets.”
Lesson #8: Be exactly who and what you are.
Because what you are is awesome. Leslie Knope certainly thinks so.