jessica tholmer
January 04, 2016 7:16 am

What better way to start off a new year than with Leslie Knope? I spent most of 2015 watching a bunch of television shows I had missed out on, finally allowing myself to fully understand the current state of pop culture. No longer am I just making Friends and The Simpsons references, you guys. I can finally understand references to Friday Night LightsParenthood, and Parks and Rec. (Along with a slew of others.) Of all of the shows I watched last year, Parks really stands out as something special. Each character is so intricate and lovable, each plot line hilarious and heartwarming, each relationship so reassuring and comfortable. Parks and Rec helped me through a lot of things, and the leader of the pack is nothing short of inspiration.

Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do. What a way to start 2016 (and EINTKILF’s fourth year)!

EINTKILF Leslie Knope

1. Being neutral is overrated.
One of the things we all know and love about Leslie is her unbridled passion for everything she loves (or does not love). There is nothing that Leslie is “meh” about (except kind of turtles?) and it is such a nice reminder for those of us who relate. I am not much of a Leslie (like 5-10%) but I do always appreciate the fact that she has an opinion on everything.

Also for the record, pockets are too small in most cases.

2. First dates are the worst.
One of my favorite episodes of Parks is “Practice Date,” the episode where Ann takes Leslie on a fake date so she can practice for her date with Dave. Not only is the episode such a great example of the perfection that is Ann and Leslie’s friendship, but it is a hilarious and accurate take on dating. Though I personally think (and by god, hope) that I am better at dating than Leslie Knope, I definitely hate first dates more than most things in the world including job interviews. First dates blow, and Leslie’s attempt at making small talk, picking out an outfit, and then drunkenly going over to Dave’s house after her practice date is just wonderful.

Dates are awful, you guys.

3. Libraries are terrible (not really)
Look, I totally disagree with this but it is one of my favorite running jokes on the show. Because who hates libraries?

4. Overachieving is complicated
Along with her optimism, passion, and ambition, Leslie is a huge overachiever—part of the reason all of her friends love her but are intimidated by her commitment to her friendships. Episodes like “Article Two” prove that being Leslie’s friend is kind of like running a competitive marathon—you have to be prepared and you will likely never win. Ben and Ann bidding for the same waffle maker on eBay just goes to show that Leslie’s people will do anything for her, but they will literally never top Leslie herself.

5. Priorities are important.

And she has certainly got that right. Work is always, always last.

6. Everything does not always work out the way you planned , and that’s OK
Though Leslie Knope is the vision of success (in my opinion), her life was not always a smooth course. Though Leslie initially wins a seat on Pawnee’s city council, after she attempts to merge Eagleton and Pawnee, she angers a lot of people and is eventually successfully removed from her position.

Though Leslie has her moments of downheartedness after the recall is announced, she eventually picks herself back up (well, her friends pick her back up) and realizes that she has not peaked quite yet. Everything does not always work out in life, and dreams can change, and they should change, and that’s okay. If you don’t know exactly what you want to do, you have time to change your mind over and over again until you’re happy.

7. What true love looks like.

I know we have all loved a million television relationships over the course of our lives. I am no different than any of you. I loved Jim and Pam, and Ross and Rachel, and Chandler and Monica, and Eric and Donna, and Carly and Sonny, and Sami and Lucas, and I even ship people on shows I don’t watch like Once Upon a Time and stuff. TV love is something really special.

But Ben and Leslie, man. I don’t know what it is that hits me so particularly. I don’t know if it is because Ben Wyatt is 100% my type, if it is because I envy Leslie’s self-assuredness, if it is because Ben and Leslie’s relationship is never the priority of the show, making it even more special. Whatever it is, Ben and Leslie just sock me right in the cold heart. They are a real cupid’s arrow in my life. I love their relationship so, so very much.

There is nothing sweeter than Leslie and Ben’s engagement, or their wedding, or that moment when Ann calls Leslie out on being too pushy so she finally tells Ben how she feels but makes sure to ask him how he feels as well because she doesn’t want to push too hard anymore. (Hi, that’s me, that’s where I’m Leslie. I’m a steamroller.) Ben is the perfect complement to Leslie’s everything and oh mylanta, I want to find that in my life.

Ben never asks Leslie to apologize for who she is, he only loves her more for it. The dream, kids.

8. How to be the best friend.
And even sweeter than Ben and Leslie are Leslie and Ann. Their friendship is driven by the best things, even though their personalities are so different. Ann is always Leslie’s priority. Leslie makes sure than Ann knows how she feels about her at all times of the day. They love and support one another through everything, they are harsh on each other in only the most necessary ways, and they honestly define true friendship love.

Beyond Ann, Leslie is obviously an incredible friend to everyone in her life. She loves and cares for April as if she is her family, she gives Andy all of the opportunities he needs to be the person he becomes, she lets Tom be fully Tom without questions, and ugh, if her friendship with Ron doesn’t make you cry on a regular basis, I just don’t even know who you are. I hope my friends think I am ONE QUARTER of the friend that Leslie is.

9. Be yourself.
And know that yourself is awesome. Leslie is well aware of how incredible she is, even though she relies on her friends to pick her up in dire situations. Mostly, Leslie’s confidence is admirable. Everyone needs a Leslie in their life to inspire them to live their life to their own personal fullest. She is the best, she knows she’s the best, and she treats everyone around her with the respect they deserve.
10. Loyalty is everything.
Above all else, Leslie’s loyalty is her highest priority, even if she doesn’t realize it. Leslie will back up anyone she loves with a fierceness that is impossible to match. She puts everyone before herself and still manages that whole self-care thing. She is only briefly mad at April for wanting to leave the government and almost immediately helps her discover exactly what she wants to do instead. Leslie steps out of the way when Mark has feelings for Ann, even though they have history as well. Leslie created “Galentine’s Day” in order to celebrate the love of the women in her life instead of the commercialized holiday of Valentine’s Day. Though he is the long butt of a lot of Parks and Rec jokes, Jerry becomes the Interim Mayor of Pawnee and eventually serves numerous mayoral terms before he dies peacefully on his 100th birthday. At the insistence of Leslie, Jerry’s mayoral celebration is a real tear-jerker—even though Leslie is not excluded from the mistreatment of Jerry—his storyline conclusion proves that she has always loved him as much as the rest of her friends.

Her love and loyalty is inspiring to me, fictional or not. I love Leslie Knope. I love her. She genuinely makes me want to be a better person. To 2016—the year of being your own Leslie Knope.

GIFs via here, here, here, here, and here. Featured image via NBC.

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