Remember in the 1990s when the song, “I wanna be like Mike!” was popular? My brother and I had the cassette single, which we played on the boom box on repeat for a summer. As children, we never stopped to wonder why we wouldn’t want to be a rich, famous athlete with his own Bugs Bunny cartoon movie and line of eponymous tennis shoes.
Fast forward twenty years, and two years since my favorite television show of all time went off the air: Parks and Rec. The lead character, Leslie Knope, plays a determined, feisty city government worker who both loves her friends and coworkers, and also has no problem overriding their thoughts and feelings to do what she thinks is best. She is also insanely competitive, and the most thoughtful gift-giver in the history of television.
I wanna be like Leslie. I identify with some of her charming and all of her annoying characteristics.
On my desk, I have a Leslie Knope doll and a candle. The shrine made more sense at my previous job working in government, but it has helped me make friends in my new corporate cubicle farm too. In my first week, several people stopped by to chat about their favorite episodes and commiserate how our Knope-Wyatts would be doing today in DC. (Not well.)
There are days when I am discouraged and I look to that little shrine and sincerely wonder, “What would Leslie do?” (The answer surely involves binders, Joe Biden, Lil’ Sebastian, and waffles with extra whipped cream.) But seriously, Leslie Knope’s unending good attitude is something I admire most about the character. There are a handful of episodes where she is knocked on her butt, sometimes literally, and she still finds a way to make the situation fun.
A few life lessons we can all learn from Leslie Barbara Knope:
- Give it your all. Having a hard day at work? Lock yourself in a conference room and read the materials again. Ask more questions.
- Don’t let what others think about you rain on your day. “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring really loudly about me.”
- Be a good friend. “Uteruses before duderuses.”
- Be proud of where you are from … even if you were technically born in Eagleton.
- Love hard.
And when these don’t work, I go back and watch the Tammy II episodes and laugh until I pee. Or, the episode where she takes Tom to the strip club and tells him if she were an exotic dancer, her name would be “Equality.”
I hope all you beautiful tropical land fishes are having a good week,