life lessons from the characters of parks and rec

Every once in awhile, a show comes along that impacts audiences long after its airtime has ended. For me, Parks and Rec is one of those shows. Having recently re-watched the entire series on netflix, I found myself learning more from the show this time around than when it originally aired. Mostly because in 2009 I was a naive high school student with no idea what was waiting for me in the real world and no clue you could actually take something away from entertainment. Here are the most powerful life lessons I learned from each character.

Leslie: How can I summarize all I’ve learned from this great character? She’s strong, driven, and hands-down the best friend anyone could ask for. Even when she falls in love and gets married, she never loses her sense of independence. Also, when she becomes a city councilwoman, it doesn’t all go smoothly like she thought it would. But does that stop her? No! She continues to push through the challenges and allows her career to evolve while she keeps growing as a person.

Ron: Ron makes this show, I think we can all agree on that. He’s hilariously blunt, always voicing what all of us introverts feel whenever we have to have real conversations with real people. But my favorite thing about him is what an independent thinker he is. Just when I think I can predict what this character’s next move will be, he totally switches it up and surprises me. He’s so much more than a boring archetype. Huge nod to the writers on that.

Ann: Ann, Ann, Ann. Did I really get anything from Ann? I guess the best thing I learned from her was how to be a good best friend. Leslie can be a bit much sometimes, but Ann is (almost) always willing to go the extra mile... or five... that Leslie asks to make her happy. And even when they do occasionally fight, they always come back around.

Chris: I mean, this one is so obvious. Have you ever watched a more positive character anywhere, ever, in your whole life?! Chris is LITRALLY the most unstoppable force of positivity that’s ever been written. I love how he was always so encouraging to his co-workers and, although he did go through some personal ups and downs(Dr. Richard Nygard, anyone?), he eventually learns to find a balance with health and happiness in the end.

Ben: Okay, Ben is like, the dreeeeam partner, am I right? He’s always so supportive of Leslie while still working on his own career and dreams. Plus, can we talk about his strong display of feminist values in the last season?! Excuse me while I fall over from swooning so hard. Ben showed me how everyone deserves to be loved. He loves Leslie for all the things that make her, her. Even the things that seem to be negative about her somehow magically turn into positives through his eyes. We all deserve someone who loves us like that.

April: April was one of my favorites the first time I watched the series, and to be honest she still was the second time around, too. She starts out as this sarcastic dark teenager who doesn’t care about anything and we really see her come into her own throughout the show. And like Leslie, she’s another character who didn’t just fall into a happy life. We really see her struggling to find out what she wants to do with her life, searching for her purpose and oftentimes getting frustrated by not being able to find it right away. As a twenty-something who’s going through that exact struggle right now, it was so refreshing to see a character I could really relate to. Plus, her sense of humor is so unique.

Andy: Hands-down the most lovable character of this entire cast. First off, let’s talk about Andy as a boyfriend/husband. With Ann, he came off as an annoying, lazy couch potato, but with April, he seemed like a totally loving, dedicated husband. Same guy. Just goes to show how important it is to find someone you’re compatible with, who really loves and embraces who you are. Also, he’s such a loyal, fun-loving friend, it’s hard not to cheer for him in any situation.

Tom: While Tom can be annoying and whiney, he’s also the best businessman in the entire office. He’s Innovative, forward-thinking, and actually has really great entrepreneurial skills. And, he never gave up. How many businesses of his failed before he finally found success? But he always kept pushing, and with the help of his friends to nudge him along when he got down on himself, his strong vision and refusal to give up on being his own boss ultimately led him to mega success.

Donna: I want Donna to be my real-life BFF. She values herself the way everyone should, never compromises on what she deserves, and pushes to get the life she wants under her own accord. She never relies on anyone else, but is also very giving to her friends and to her eventual husband. Also, her and Tom’s “Treat Yourself” day is kind of the best thing ever.

Jerry/Gary/Larry/Terry: There’s nothing to learn from him. JK, he’s actually super sweet and so inclusive throughout the whole series. And hey, that must pay off in some karmic sense, I mean LOOK AT HIS FAMILY. He’s happy until the end, because he finds the good in every situation and never hangs his head.

So there you have it. Just goes to show one silly light-hearted tv series can really help you learn a thing or two, if you let it.

Taylor Byers