I love Parks and Recreation. I love it for its comedy, character development, optimism and relate-ability. I’ve recently realized another reason why I love Parks and Recreation. I love how it handles transition.
There are many episodes and characters who go through various relationship, career, familial and living changes. Those episodes and quotes have always seem to come when I need it to the most.
I watched this episode when I had just started trying to take up running and I was trying to jam pack my schedule. (Not so) coincidentally, I had gone through a nasty breakup a few months prior and was still recovering. This quote, humorous as it was, shed some light on how I was dealing with my emotions.
I remember having Parks and Rec playing on the TV as I prepped food for the kids I was nannying, feeling down about my love life, my career and the uncertainty of my future. I stopped what I was doing when I heard conversation resonated with me because I had noticed that when I wasn’t working or exercising I constantly had a screen in front of me. Again, this shed light on how I was dealing with my emotions.
I had gone out on a couple of dates with this very sweet man, but I hadn’t clicked with him since the first date. I didn’t know how to explain this to people but as nice as he was, I just didn’t want to go out with him again. I watched this episode and it helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in listening to my gut.
This is one of my all time favorite lines from Parks and Recreation. While Andy’s dilemma is caused by his own absentmindedness (and is resolved easily), the statement encompasses young adulthood so well. Sometimes I feel like I’m just playing around and not really working due to having two part time jobs. Other times I feel run into the ground due to working two part time jobs. I’m an adult with two part time jobs, hello.
There are so many life changes among the characters in Parks and Recreation. But I’ve realized the one character that has the most development with facing transition, and the most attention to that issue, and the one that I resonate the most with in times of transition is….
Overachiever, Leslie Knope.
In the beginning of the show, Leslie is optimistic, dreams big and works hard, but she has a difficult time letting things go. She is hung up on a guy from a one night stand from seven years prior. Her house is a hoarder’s nest. Then, as the seasons progress, she gets better and better with dealing with change. She acknowledges that she has to work through break-ups, saying, “You know, I was only with Mark for one night and then I was hung up on him for six years. I dated Dave for three months so if I continue this pattern, I wont be over him for…five hundred years” It gets to the point in her character development where she finds out she is pregnant with triplets and she stays totally calm, stating that, “…I realized something. Everything that we have been through, The Harvest Festival, the Election, the Recall, the merger, Ann leaving, Larry changing his name for some stupid reason, all of it has just been preparation for this.” But the thing I really love about Leslie Knope is that while she grows in her willingness to tackle change, she is never perfect in that endeavor.
She is recalled from city council and she says(as pictured above), “I’ve gone through the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, internet commenting, cat adoption, African dance, cat returning to the adoption place, watching all the episodes of Murphy Brown, and not giving a flying fart.” Then quickly decides to attempt to run for office again(which she is advised against and eventually concedes). Ann tells her that she is moving away and Leslie still grapples with that change through the final season, which leads to a 3 year long fight with Ron.
I love all of this about Leslie Knope because I get it. I also suck at transition and dealing with change. This is due to several factors. One, I legitimately have a processing disorder and while I’m generally high-functioning and it doesn’t bother me, sometimes it still gets in the way. Two, I’m a planner. Change throws off the plan and I DON’T LIKE IT. Three, I personally have struggled with spiritual insecurities involving my relationship with God and when I go through a big, difficult change, those insecurities are highlighted. The point is, change and transition are exceptionally difficult for me.
For instance, I was in a contract position with a theatre company in NYC and in February they were not able to renew my contract. Instead of moping and freaking out about my future, I set to work and job hunted. I was certainly disappointed, but I wasn’t freaked out about the job loss. This was such a far cry from a few years prior and I was really happy to see growth. “Finally!”, I thought to myself, “I think I can handle when things change. Good thing too, I did choose a career in the arts”. That conception of myself was challenged in early May.
In the interest of not burning any personal or professional bridges I won’t get into exactly what happened to me in early May, but there were some very hard-hitting changes to my life that occurred in the span of a week. I took it all really hard. In the midst of all the other stuff I was dealing with, there was a part of me that was very frustrated by my response. I thought I had gotten better. I thought I had accepted that change is a part of life, especially for a twenty-five year old who wanted a career in the arts. I was not doing well.
I have comfort TV shows, and one of them is Parks and Recreation. Naturally after one of these hard-hitting changes, I was watching it with Grace, and in this particular episode Ann told Leslie she was moving. After Anne broke this news to Leslie, Leslie enters a meeting and declares, “I’m sorry I’m late, I was being ambushed by treachery!!”* Grace turned to me and said playfully, “Is that how you feel?” I laughed and said, “Yeah! Yeah it is!” I watched episode after episode from various seasons of Parks and Rec during my comfort-binge and that’s when I started to recognize Leslie’s up-and-down struggle with accepting change. It was oddly comforting.
Actually, it wasn’t odd at all. It was comforting to be reminded that you can accept that change is a part of a life, and still have a natural reaction to it. It was comforting to remember that I’m never going to be perfect at going through transition. Some transitions, (good or bad) will be easier than others. Others are going to be quite horrible. So while I may not (and probably never will) perfectly tackle change in my life, I have discovered the best ways to face it, much like Leslie.
I know that I need to process things slowly, and to not suppress my feelings. I know I need to take time to breathe. I have scriptures and prayers that speak truth into uncertainty. Friends and family provide support, insight, advice, hugs and love. Pick-me ups don’t help the long term but the occasional quick-fix for a blue mood isn’t something to look down on. Crying is acceptable. Endorphins are my friend. Every day is a new day.
I know that none of this is groundbreaking or new information. But sometimes I forget. Sometimes I need to remind myself how to face change. So I’m reminding myself now.
I will be Okay.
I will get through these changes.
In the words of Leslie Knope,
“In times of stress or moments of transition, it can feel like the whole world is closing in around you. When that happens, close your eyes, take a deep breath, listen to the people who love you when they give you advice and remember what really matters. And if you have the ability to go to Paris, by all means, go to Paris.”
Also, I may need to be talked out of flying to Europe. Help.
NOTE: The two episodes that resonated the most with me during this time were “Second Chunce” (Season 6) and “Dopplegangers” (Season 6)
*Again, in the interest of not burning any bridges, let me clarify my identification with this quote(“I was busy being ambushed by treachery”). I did not feel like I had been betrayed, in the same way that Leslie was not betrayed. The changes that were presented to me were unexpected and bore a lot of weight, just like the changes that Leslie was facing. The feeling of “being ambushed by treachery” was due to unexpected (ambushed) difficult (treachery) changes.
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