Like any good Parks & Rec fan, I watched every episode at least 100 times. No, that’s not an exaggeration, ask my husband. However despite being able to quote almost every show, the entertaining and PHENOMENAL cast/script, was not why I watched it. I would hope by the obvious title that you can infer that I’m speaking about the famous, Leslie Knope. This ‘brilliant, talented, beautiful musk ox’ is every ambitious girl’s icon. So many young woman either can relate to her directly or through the eyes of her best friend, Ann. So much so, I believe, that it has been impacted our generation’s women... I mean for heaven’s sake, you can by shirts, mugs, and embroidered pillows with Leslie Knope quotes (which disclaimer: I may or may not own one or more of those items).
But you know, there was something about Leslie that really brought it home for me. It wasn’t the obvious. Yes, she was ambitious, driven, and awesome but there was something else, something that really made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this world of powerful womanhood: She was scared sometimes. She wasn’t always an insanely successful boss-lady. In fact when she was offered the job for the National Parks Service she was scared out of her mind. Not only because she had to leave Pawnee, but because she didn’t know if she could do it. This powerful, brilliant lady questioned if she was going to be enough and I get it.
And you know what else, she fell apart and she didn’t apologize for it. Leslie worked so hard for those townspeople and they shat all over her and you know what? It sucked. It sucked hard. As I lay crying in my pajama’s one night with a glass of wine in my hand I think to myself… I get it.
I get it. I get how much that sucks, I get how scared that feeling is in the pit of your stomach when you really want something and at the same time wonder if you’re good enough. I get being scared to take chances even though it’s what you’ve been working so hard toward and I get being shat all over for caring. I can’t tell you how many jobs I’ve worked where I went above and beyond and I didn’t get the slightest appreciation, in fact, I was the bad guy. No one ever tells you, but when you’re a powerful woman you’re bound to ruffle a few feathers.
Part of it was me. I always put a bit too much pressure on myself to be successful. Since I was 10, I’ve been telling people that I’m going to take over the world (and I fully intend on it). But I’m 27 now and I haven’t taken over the world yet. I’m barely at the starting position let alone at the end of the race and I just keep putting a lot of pressure on myself to run faster and harder in a race that I feel no one is noticing.
When we look at the media, we see these successful female entrepreneurs taking over the world. They look calm, confident, and fit like they did it overnight while running on a treadmill in their classy black trousers with their messy hair falling just perfectly. We never really get to see them as people, with all the fear, vulnerability, and long nights. We never get to see them as moms who have to juggle a career, family, marriage, and general well being. Not to mention, all the trials that goes into just being a women in a world built for men. And sure, Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington are speaking out now, but Leslie Knope was the first. She represented all those women, big shots and ‘little’ shots that made the world go round. She made me feel like it was going to be ok. Yeah, it sucks sometimes but you have to get up and keep pushing and you’ll get there. I’ll get there.
So as I sit here, with a potential dream job in my very favorite city feeling absolutely scared out of my mind, I ask myself: What would Leslie do? Well, she would call up her husband and best friend, get a drink, make a pros and cons list, throw the list away, allow herself to be scared and a mess, then go for it. So I guess that’s what I’ll do. Cheers to you, Leslie.