Goodbye, Leslie Knope: What Parks and Rec Has Taught Me

Last spring semester, after I finished binge-watching The Office for the fourth time, I had a mockumentary-sized hole in my heart. My mom recommended I watch Parks and Recreation, another mockumentary that followed the life of Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Pawnee, Indiana. I binge-watched the entire series (that Netflix offered) within a week. I was hooked. The love story of Leslie and Ann, the best friends brought together by a small town government project, made me smile. The love story of April and Andy, the couple that proved marrying someone after a month of dating could end well, made me giggle. And the banter between the cast and Larry/Jerry/Terry/Gary made me laugh so hard, I cried a few times.

Leslie Knope inspired me. She's a strong woman who, despite having all the odds stacked against her, has succeeded and never let her courage fall short. When Leslie ran for city council and won, she was on top of the world. When she was voted out, she picked herself back up and continued to do work for the city she loved. On top of balancing her work, she was an amazing best friend to Ann, an amazing wife to Ben and an amazing co-worker to everyone in her department. 

The show ends tonight and since I'm not in the US, I probably won't be able to watch it until it goes up on Netflix. I can't stress enough just how emotional I am; part of me is hoping that this is a cruel joke NBC is playing on me and a new season will be back this fall. So, to express my gratitude toward Amy Poehler, NBC, and the rest of the show's amazing cast, here are the things that the show has taught me over the years.

1. Waffles and breakfast food are the best

I've always been a huge fan of breakfast food. Sometimes, I judge a restaurant based off how long they have their breakfast menu available. Watching Leslie eat tons of waffles with whipped cream, or watching Ron consume an entire breakfast platter in 8 minutes, made me so happy. Finally, we had characters that understood how amazing breakfast food is! Why would anybody eat anything else ever? 

2. Calzones are also the best

After seeing Ben's obsession with calzones/portable pizzas, I decided to try one. After one bite, I completely understood why Ben loved them--they are SO good. Granted, my picky eating prevented me from eating the crazy calzones--I've only had cheese and tomato sauce--but I'm sure the crazier concoctions are even better. Seriously. Please go eat a calzone today, for Ben and I. You won't regret it.

3. How to give a proper speech

In the first season, when Leslie's mother is honored for her work in the school board, Ron gives a speech about her. Not being a fan of Marlene Griggs-Knope, Ron's speech consists of straight facts. Genius. Thank you, Ron Swanson, for teaching me how to toast/roast everyone. 

4. How to make wedding rings on a tight schedule

When Leslie and Ben decide to speed up their wedding three months, their friends scatter to make sure their night is completely perfect. Ron, a master woodworker and welder, uses a sconce from Ann's bedroom to make their rings. The process seems long and complicated but the one-minute montage is probably more helpful than an E-how page. 

5. Your hometown might suck sometimes, but you will always love it

Even when Leslie was voted out of office, even when her opposers mocked her in a city-wide parade, she stayed strong and stayed in Pawnee. When she was offered a job with the National Parks Service, she took it, yet relocated the position from Chicago to the third floor of Pawnee's City Hall. Even when I get annoyed with people from my hometown, and even though there are times I dread going back, I remember everything it's given me and I get annoyingly nostalgic. Leslie stays positive even in the worst situations, which inspired me to swallow my pride and love my hometown, faults and all.

6. True love does exist, even for normal people

Leslie Knope and April Ludgate-Dwyer seem to have nothing in common, but they do--they both found their soulmate. When April and Andy got married after a month of dating, Leslie felt that April was making a big mistake. A few years later, Leslie and Ben sped up their wedding because they couldn't stand not being married already. The two couples have showed us that you don't have to be a princess to find your happily ever after; it could be just around the corner!

7. We don't have clocks in America

This is my favorite quote by Ron Swanson. Living in London, I see Big Ben pretty often and no matter how many times I've seen it, Ron's passive-aggressive comment comes to mind. Actually, no matter where I go in London I'm thinking about Parks and Rec and the department's trip across the pond.

8. Ovaries before brovaries, uteruses before duderuses

Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins have the best friendship ever. Between their holidays like Talk Like a Pittsburgh Pirate Day to their long-distance phone calls about Jennifer Anniston, these two are inseparable. When Ann began dating Leslie's crush Mark, Leslie put her friendship's happiness first and was super-supportive the entire time. Leslie and Ann know that nothing is more powerful than their friendship, so they always put each other first. 

9. Joe Biden is a total stud

I'm sure we knew this well before Parks and Rec aired, but let's face it: Leslie's borderline obsession with the VP sparked ours, too. If I were to meet Joe Biden, I would probably do everything Leslie did--including awkwardly going in for a kiss. Vice President Biden deserves it, he deserves everything, he's precious cargo and I hope nothing bad ever happens to him. (I also want him and Leslie to run for office - #KnopeBiden2k16).

10. Love yourself first

Time and time again, Leslie has been beaten down by her adversaries. But, no matter what, she picks herself up, dusts herself off, and shows people that she's a force to be reckoned with. She takes pride her work and has complete faith in herself. No matter what happens, Leslie Knope stays positive and believes she can accomplish anything and everything.

To me, Leslie Knope has been an inspiration. She loves her family, her friends, and her city and she does everything she can to ensure people are loved and cared for. She fights for what she believes in and when one door closes in her face, three more open up. She combats opponents with a smile on her face. Leslie Knope is a powerful character and she will be dearly missed. I could go on and on about what the show and characters have taught me, but that list would well exceed 10 points. So, thank you to the writers, producers, and cast who did everything they could to make "Parks and Rec" and complete success. Thank you, Amy Poehler, for portraying such a powerful character and making her perfectly imperfect (but still so, so perfect). Thank you to the rest of the cast (especially Harris Wittels, RIP) for being so amazingly hilarious and so lovable, even through the bad times. And lastly, thank you Leslie Knope, for inspiring me and women everywhere to accomplish anything and everything. I'll miss you. 

Bonus: here's a photo of me outside Pasadena (Pawnee) City Hall, where a lot of the outside shots were taken for the show. I'm going to miss this show so much. 

Image credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Gabriella Salazar is a junior at American University studying Public Communication and Marketing. She hails from sunny, sunny Los Angeles, California and her proudest moment is meeting Ryan Gosling at the Gangster Squad Premier in January 2013. She's a lover of ballet, wheat thins, food, music and cats; a hater of all things dumb and annoying--like traffic.

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