Dear Leslie… a love letter to Parks and Recreation.
This is hard for me to admit: my first encounter with Parks and Recreation left me underwhelmed. Flipping through the channels with my high school boyfriend, we landed on an episode of P & R and he said, “This show is actually pretty funny.” I gave it a few minutes before switching to something else. It felt like I was watching an inside joke, and I wasn’t interested.
Fast forward a few years. Scrolling on my phone, I came across a quote on Pinterest, “Hobbies: jammin’ on my planner” and as someone similarly infatuated with her planner, I was tickled. Thus, I gave the show another chance. A real chance. Our first date went well, and was shortly followed by more. In less than a week, we were the quintessential annoying couple. I was constantly talking about P & R, telling people the funny things it said or being “reminded” of certain situations from the show, no matter how irrelevant. It was clear to those close to me that I had fallen head over heels. Over the course of the past two years, I have watched the show in its entirety 15 times. (Just to defend myself briefly: the total runtime of the show is just under 48 hours. So relax.) I have not grown tired of the jokes, the characters or the story. I am still charmed by Leslie Knope’s tenacity and Andy’s stupid, lovable heart. I still swoon when Ben and Leslie first kiss and I still get teary when Ann moves away. But perhaps my favorite thing about the show is the journey of Lot 48.
We spend a lot of time focused on our dreams. I think dreams, especially childhood dreams, are a beautiful thing and my wish for every person is that their dreams may come true. But think about it… when was the last time you took inventory of your dreams? Or, when have you achieved a dream and realized that your dream wasn’t really your dream? Leslie spends most of the first two seasons focused on The Pit, to the point that critics thought the Pit would be the focus of the entire show. So the writers filled it in. Progress. Then, we move away from Lot 48, while checking in on it periodically. It is always in the back of Leslie’s mind as an ultimate goal, one that even might encourage Ann to stay in Pawnee. Fans of the show know that Lot 48 eventually does see a park, though it is short lived and quickly replaced by a hotel. To me, there is so much beauty in this. The story of Lot 48 is kind of sad when we look at it this way. But imagine if Leslie truly had spent all of her energy focused on the Pit and building a park, at the risk of neglecting her other projects. If you know Leslie, you know if she were fully committed to the park, it would have been up in no time, with an award for the country’s best park not far behind.
The park isn’t all a bummer. It brought Leslie and Ann together. It served its purpose.
She never sits down to re-evaluate her goals, but she naturally works hard and prioritizes, and the beauty of it is that she isn’t blindsided by her desire for the park. By putting the park on the back burner, Leslie is able to accomplish so much more.
It can be difficult to apply this to our own lives, but it’s really important that we do. Even though it was sort of a writer’s response to critics, it made the show more realistic. And if Leslie Knope can let go of something, so can you. Heck, the park on Sullivan street isn’t even the only thing Leslie has to let go of. Who can forget the meeting with Jennifer Barclay when Leslie laments the loss of her seat on city council. “It’s my dream,” Leslie tells Jennifer. “Dream bigger,” Jennifer replies.
Happy Galentine’s Day. Party hard with your ladies celebrating ladies, and then get to work. Make Leslie proud.