I. In Which I Find a New Obsession (Summer 2014)
Last summer, I started watching Parks and Recreation because I was bored. A lot of my friends were tweeting about it and constantly giving it rave reviews, so I decided to see for myself whether or not this would be something I could get into. The first season was a little choppy, and I wasn’t used to the whole “breaking the fourth wall” aspect of it. Plus, the main character was a little kooky, and not in a good way. As many know, it’s hard to kick off a show – especially one that is modeled after The Office.
That being said, I remember thinking to myself, “Huh. So this is what my friends were talking about.” I recognized Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy (one of my favorite Marvel movies), so he sort of kept me glued to my computer screen. I even started falling in love with Leslie more and more – amen, amen I say to you, Mike Schur and Greg Daniels – thank you for your fantastic character development skills. I started seeing a little bit (more like a lot) of myself in her: we are both organized/detail-oriented, a little too lovey, weird as hell, love waffles, and are incredibly ambitious. Needless to say, I fell in love with the character of Leslie Knope.
Once I reached the first episode of Season Two, I couldn’t stop. I started watching. Two episodes a day turned into five, and five turned into ten (I had an excuse. It was summer break, hello?). I managed to finish all six seasons of Parks in about two or three weeks (I even asked my friend if I could use her Hulu account to watch Season Six, as it wasn’t on Netflix at the time). Well, crap.
I fell in love with Pawnee, I fell in love with every single character on the show – the show’s every little nuance, and all of its beautiful continuity. Most of all, Leslie Knope became one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. I am a little speechless right now. Never before has a character really resonated with me.
II. Thank You, Leslie Knope
Tonight, I watched the finale with one of my roommates and my best friend Ali (who called in on Skype). To be honest, I wasn’t ready. All day I was thinking to myself – is it really ending? The other day, I got extremely emotional finding out that Glee had finished filming (strangely, I am behind on the show and any news about it, so – wow), so clearly I was in denial that Parks was ending too–way before its time.
Unlike Leslie, I’m pretty flexible when it comes to change. If it’s good change, okay, then so be it! If it’s not – then, well, screw it, it’s not happening (or so I demand). Either way, I accept change in the end. Whether it is moving to another country, changing plans, making split decisions – I accept it all. However, pop culture is a little bit different for me.
Like Leslie, I am very sentimental. My life is always sent into a tizzy when something leaves/ends/changes. Everything changed when Harry Potter ended – many peoples’ lives changed as it was the story of my generation, when Cory Monteith passed away almost two years ago – changing my perception of life a little and how to live it; also questioning many choices I made my freshman year of college. I even felt a little twinge of sadness when my friends told me that Naruto ended even though I hadn’t read it since high school. All of these elements were a part of me growing up and changed me in some way, and they were all gone. I didn’t like it at all. I still go back and read old (quality questionable) fanfiction I wrote and revisit old social media accounts to laugh about how dumb I was at the age of 12. The things I loved losing their pop-culture relevancy in life — I mean, they’re still very prominent, yet not there anymore, you know — was a little scary. It showed that I was growing up, that the passage of time was faster than I thought. I eventually accepted that these things were slowly fading in the world, but would always be a part of me.
Parks and Recreation came to me at a time where I was questioning everything I did. I was doubting myself a lot – I just finished with my second year in college and I didn’t feel like whatever I was doing was enough, felt under-appreciated, and always stressed. I felt that I wasn’t, well, good enough for anything or anyone. It’s all a bit daunting when you’re alone with your thoughts for months on end (and boy, was my summer really f**king long) without being able to articulate them properly.
Leslie Knope showed me that despite all of my flaws, it is okay to brave them and be yourself. I’m not going to deny it – Leslie is a flawed character and that’s what makes her seem so real to viewers. She makes rash and bold decisions, and sometimes doesn’t listen when people try to give her advice. However, she makes up for these minimal “flaws” by being positive and being dedicated to making change happen in a town that didn’t really respond to her kindness very well. Despite the ignorant dweebs in her public forums, the bureaucratic mishaps, the patriarchy stomping on her – she proved that she could hold her own against the Mighty Boys Club Of Government. She was organized, paid strict attention to detail, and planned out her every move. Her self-assurance as a feminist, a woman searching for equality in this messed-up world, made me fall more in love with myself and pursue my goals.
She showed me that it’s okay to fall down because you can totally get up again. It’s okay to have a hectic, busy schedule because once you check off everything on your to-do list, everything will be so much better. It’s okay to be a woman with ambition in a world that doesn’t seem to play the right cards for you. Winning is the only option, unless you lose – so come up with a contingency plan. It’s okay to care a little too much, because who will? Eventually, everything will be okay.
Naturally, it was hard to say goodbye to Leslie Knope and all of the colorful characters of Pawnee. Watching the final episode and seeing all of the characters’ futures inspired me: work hard, play hard – in the end, everything will be okay. Nothing is ever calm and normal. The show proves that people, despite their differences can work together to make things happen. I only hope that my future holds something as colorful and inspiring.
After all, I’m ready.
Good things always come to an end, but they’re never really gone. Eventually I will accept this. In the meantime, there is always Netflix.
Parks and Rec, thanks for being my constant. Thank you for bringing me so much joy. I will love you and I will like you forever.