Best of 2015: Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Parks and Recreation

If you’re still jonesing for more Amy and Tina after the epic SNL this weekend, go see Sisters. Or you can look back and read one of our favorite posts from our 5,000 Candles in the Wind series dedicated to Parks and Recreation before we said goodbye to it forever. Amy and the rest of the crew taught us a lot about life through the show, and we’ll be forever grateful.

We’ve come a long way since the pit. From Lil Sebastian to Champion, Rent A Swag to Entertainment 720, waffles to bacon, 2009 to 2017, there was a lot to love about Parks and Recreation. And tonight, we’ll say a goodbye that’s more sad than the Lil Sebastian farewell concert or Ann’s move to Michigan. Parks had a lot going for it: the best actors and writers in comedy, critical acclaim and a loyal fan base. But above all, it had more heart than any other sitcom on the air. The show’s outlook was overwhelmingly positive, and its protagonist was a hard worker with total loyalty to her town, her career and her friends. We learned more from Parks and Recreation than we have from any show since Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers. Dare we say? Everything we need to know we learned from Parks and Recreation.

Friends, Waffles, Work

Or waffles, friends work. No matter. In other words: priorities. Even Leslie, career-driven as she is, knows that work takes a back seat to the big things in life – your friends. And waffles, which in a broader sense you could interpret as something like “taking the time to enjoy life.” Except that I think she really does mean waffles.

Ovaries Before Brovaries

Again, file under: priorities. Parks is about the relationships between a wide net of coworkers, friends, and significant others. If Ben came along and it was The Leslie And Ben Show from that point on, there wouldn’t be much reason to watch. Leslie’s not the sort to get into a relationship and write off her friends. So, the “uteruses before duderuses” approach can be broadened into “don’t forget about your friends just because of relationship stuff.”

There’s also the great way Leslie is supportive of her lady friends, even when it’s tough. It wasn’t easy to accept Ann moving away, but Leslie encouraged her to do what was best for her family. And rather than get jealous that April was moving up in her career, Leslie helped facilitate the move. Leslie knows one of the greatest secrets in life – which is also one of our lessons from Parks and Recreation: when the members of your “team” succeed – whether it’s your friends, family, or coworkers – then that’s your success, too.

Treat Yo Self

You could say that Tom and Donna are a couple of silly geese, but no. They both work hard and play hard. The key to Treat Yo Self: it’s a once a year occurence. You don’t rack up credit card debt because you “deserve” good things, but every once in a while it’s good to enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Like Tom and Donna, it’s always nice to have a friend to back you up, so when you rationalize that you don’t really need those fine leather goods, a still small voice whispers “treat yo self.”

Say Thank You

I have a philosophy about the “sorry epidemic,” that is, the way people start or end sentences with “sorry” when they haven’t done anything wrong. My theory is that in most cases, what the person really means is either please or thank you. Rather than apologizing for being an inconvenience in advance, what they really mean to do is ask for something. And rather than apologizing for being an inconvenience in retrospect, what they mean to do is say thank you: thank you for accommodating me, or understanding, or going out of your way, or being supportive. People apologize for existing when they really want to thank other people for making their existence easier.

No show does “thank you ” better than Parks. Whether it’s the final moments before Ann leaves Pawnee, or April’s tear-inducing speech in D.C., these folks know how to thank the people who make their lives better. Next time you feel compelled to apologize when you haven’t really done something you shouldn’t, look deeper. Do you really want to say please or thank you instead?

Don’t Write The Concession Speech

In one of my classrooms growing up, there was a poster that said “Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail.” But I also say that “Planning To Fail Is Planning To Fail.” School decor aside, it’s important to not behave as though the worst is going to happen. Ben doesn’t write a concession speech, because he doesn’t think that losing is a possible outcome.

Or maybe the better lesson is this: surround yourself with people who will think that you won’t need the concession speech. Maybe Leslie wouldn’t have won if her circle was full of people who assumed she wouldn’t succeed. Fill your life with the Bens to your Leslie: people who expect you to win, even more than you do yourself.

I Love You And I Like You

The phrase that Leslie and Ben often tell each other is quite endearing and sums up a perfect relationship. But the writers didn’t come up with it – Rashida Jones’ dad did. I believe Amy wrote the episode it first appeared in, and she revealed in an interview that when she was in Monte Carlo with Quincy Jones (as you do), he grabbed her face in his hands and said to her, “I love you and I like you.” Whether it be a significant other, family member a friend, or your daughter’s comedy wife, it’s important to not only let them know how you feel, but actually truly mean what you say. Anyone can say ‘love ya’ as a throwaway, but to add the ‘I like you’ part implies you enjoy them as a human being, enjoy their company, enjoy everything they have to offer.

Know Where Your Money Goes

Okay, on one hand, definitely treat yo self. On the other hand, don’t blow your budget on Harry Potter fantasy camp.

Of course, I would say that, I’m a Ravenclaw.

When You Love Something, You Fight For It

This speech from Leslie’s final statement as she vies for city council is the best summarization of Leslie Knope. “If you love something, you don’t threaten it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first… If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on strong, it’s because I feel strongly.” Leslie Knope is one of the strongest, if not THE strongest female character ever on TV because she doesn’t back down. She fights for what she believes in, and she stands up not only for herself, but for those around her. It doesn’t just apply to her career, it applies to her friendships. From making unnecessary holidays to going to all costs to help a friend propose, Leslie will do anything in her power to see things get done. When it came to her relationship with Ben, she was willing to give up her career just to be with him. She said, ‘Let’s just screw it,’ and it eventually paid off. When you love something, you fight for it. As Ron Swanson said, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” Leslie can proudly say she whole-assed a whole bunch of things.

“I like to tell people get on board and buckle up, because my ride’s gonna be a big one. If you get motion sickness, put your head between your knees, because Leslie Knope’s stopping for no one.”

Time Is Money; Money Is Power; Power is Pizza; Pizza is Knowledge

This is probably my favorite thing April has ever said on the entire series. First of all, the fact that she’s running this meeting is just great character development. I love character development. But no matter how ridiculous it sounds when it comes out, she usually has a point. In Pawnee in particular, there are a lot of randoms who have nothing better to do but complain, like that woman who is always too concerned about her dog and brings up her pooch problems at town meetings. These are the folks April and co. have to deal with and they don’t have time to sit around listening to droll residents all day. Also, pizza. Pizza is always a good choice.

Have Dating Standards

Ok, this might actually be one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from the show. When Tom said this, he spoke to my soul on a deep level. The fact that Ann didn’t know who Ginuwine was (Ginuwine – is Ginuwine) was astonishing, and honestly, I, like Tom, don’t think I could ever date someone who didn’t know who he was. Speaking of Ann, in her days of going through guy after guy, she often had a tendency to change into the people she was dating. Like Julia Roberts in Runway Bride – she didn’t even know what type of egg she liked. It’s important to have simple standards for your ideal mate, because when you figure out what you want – like Ann wanted a kid – you will most likely get what you’re looking for.

There’s Always Paris

paris parks

I kind of want this in a tattoo form but not, because it’s too long. Leslie always has a lot on her plate, but somehow she manages it all. She has time to make binders on how to be a garbage woman but also finds time to make a scrapbook about her “Thoughts on Sam Waterston“. So when something extremely stressful comes her way, like being recalled from city council, it’s important to just take a break from it all. We know Leslie loves her job, but it’s important to take a break once in a while. We get so caught up in the millions of things on our to do lists each day that we don’t actually take a chance to breathe and be present and let go of whatever is bothering us. Your trip to Paris doesn’t have to be Paris. Paris can be your favorite park or cafe or a place an hour away to the middle of nowhere. If you have the ability to get away, even for just a brief moment, do it.

Be a Good Person

When Leslie realizes her job is at stake because of her romantic relationship with Ben (and the fact that they bribed the maintenance guy during Lil Sebastian’s funeral to keep quiet), Leslie thinks it’s all over for her. But Ron, in his vast font of knowledge, reminds her that despite the fact she did a frowned upon/illegal thing, it doesn’t make her a bad person. I think this show overall has taught us that there is good in this world, and you can be part of bringing that to real life. Parks never puts anyone down, it inspires and encourages us to be better. We’re human. We make mistakes. But it’s what happens after the fact that shows our true character.

Inspire Yourself

Speaking of being inspirational, while Leslie Knope herself is a great inspiration to us all, she also remind us that often times, the best person to encourage you is yourself. I don’t think Leslie would be half the leader she is today if she never thought she could do it. Yeah, she has to remind herself at times she can reach her goals (“Hey Leslie. It’s Leslie. Hang in there. I love you. Bye.”) Sure, you can have people like Ben around you believing in you and not writing concession speeches, but when Leslie walked out on the stage and gave the speech (as seen above a few paragraphs), she was ultimately the one to give the impassioned statement. No one fed her lines, she went with her gut and her gut made her win.

Feminism Isn’t Just For Women

I am a goddess. a glorious female warrior, queen of all i survey. enemies of fairness and equality, hear my womanly roar. Also men’s rights is nothing.

Johnny Karate’s Rules for Success

I mean, I think that’s pretty self explanatory.

The Only Constant Is Change

Unfortunately, doppelganger Ron has a point. Returning for one of the final episodes, Eagleton Ron shows up like he usually does, out of nowhere, and gives sage advice, like a traveling Yoda who is easier to understand. As we say goodbye to the gang tonight, the gang says goodbye to each other. Ben and Leslie and Andy and April are moving to D.C., Tom’s getting married to Lucy, Donna’s enjoying married life with Joe and moving to Seattle, Ron has his construction company and family to tend to, and Chris and Ann are already off being domestic in Michigan. Oh and Garry’s the mayor (CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT). Despite the fact a lot has happened for the Parks department in the past seven/10 years, it was bound to change sometime. Leslie was always bigger than Pawnee, and while her dreams seemed far away in season one, we realize that it’s time for her to actually achieve those goals. She turned a pit into a playground and now it’s her turn to bring that same goal-oriented talent to D.C. And this show, no matter how much we love it, was bound to have its final episode whether we liked it or not. But we’ll find another show to like and love. Maybe not as much and not in the same way, but we will. We’ll move on. We’ll move up. And we’ll miss you in the saddest fashion.

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