Life Lessons Learned from Parks and Recreation’s Perfect Series Finale

I had imagined that when the series finale ends I will be an emotional wreck and will lock myself in my room for a week and keep on crying; crying for the loss of my on-screen family and my mentor/spirit animal Leslie Knope. Yes I cried. Very loudly and for quite a long while. But not because I lost my life’s best sitcom, but because the finale left on such high notes, teaching me and the rest of its fans some crucially important lessons about love, friendship, family, and work. Lessons about LIFE! This one will surely go down in history as one of the most perfect and “punishingly intricate” finales of all time. :’)

Parks and Recreation Family

So without further ado, here are the lessons that I learned from the perfection that this series finale was. 

Lesson # 1: Luxury Isn’t Everything. Give Back to the Community. Do Something For the Greater Good.
Lesson Taught By: Donna Meagle 

We all Parks & Rec fans know that Donna was the very definition of the word “classy”. She and Tom Haverford introduced us with the term “Treat Yo’ Self” which was solely about (obviously) treating yourself, spending your money on things that make you happy no matter what the price. Whether it be visiting a spendy restaurant, going to the spa, getting yourself expensive handbags, buying a Rolex or going on a road-trip and whatnot, it was all about YOU. The only rule was that there were no rules.

But in the finale we’re shown a different side to Donna. In the year 2023 she has it all. A great job, a beautiful home, a loving husband. She has achieved everything she has ever wanted to achieve (started a doorknockers earring trend, came in 9th in Italy’s Got Talent, served on a NASCAR pit crew). But instead of spending her money on a trip to the Amazon (the jungle – not the online store), Donna used that money to establish an educational after-school program called “Teach Yo’ Self” funded by the foundation that April works for. In her own words to her husband, “I want a new kind of adventure, and I want to take it with you.”

It doesn’t matter how much wealth you have, please do take out some portion of that money and give it out to the deserving (again, no matter how little of a contribution you make, it still matters a lot). Lavishly spending on yourself will definitely give you short-lived pleasure, but you will never understand the true meaning of life until you invest that money in the good of other people.

Lesson # 2: Never Try Too Hard to Make Your Life Perfect. The Perfection Comes from the Little Imperfections.
Lesson Taught By: April Ludgate Dwyer and Leslie Knope

In the year 2022 Andy and April are still our lovingly crazy and adorably idiotic couple, but we get a glimpse of some discontent between them. A discontent rising from Andy’s wish to have kids (“I want to put a babe in you, babe) and April’s hesitance towards this wish (“Yes, I would love all the awesome stuff my body would go through. I mean if it all meant was puking and getting weird stretch marks and veins everywhere, then sign me up. But at the end we’ve brought a child into the world. That’s disgusting.”) Hahaha God, I love these two.

On a serious note, the real reason behind April’s hesitation was revealed in the Halloween dinner with Leslie and Ben, where Andy’s sadness was at an all-time peak. I have never seen him so gloomy in the entire show, and that long-face while sliding/slouching down on the couch after hearing Ben and Leslie’s kids are not at home was truly heartbreaking. I mean I could literally hear my heart break into a million little pieces. April later confides in Leslie that she’s scared to have kids because she fears that her children won’t turn out to be perfect; that they may turn out to be “lame and weird”. On which Leslie gives this beautiful reply, “It’s not about trying to make your life perfect. Nobody’s lives are perfect.”

In our efforts to mold our lives into perfection, we forget what truly makes us happy and start to compromise on taking chances. Real happiness is derived from the little imperfections life gives us. Trying to control your life is like stretching an elastic rubber-band; at one point where it can’t take anymore, it’ll snap.

Andy and April

April realizes this and takes a chance. And in year 2023 (on Halloween) little Mr. Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack-o-Lantern Dwyer is brought into the world :’D Jack for short :’)

Lesson # 3: Lose the Fear of Failure. Consider it Your Guide on the Journey Towards Success.
Lesson Taught By: Tom Haverford

We know that Tom wasn’t a stranger to failure. All his past business ideas and investments always turned out to be drastic failures, but his restaurant business “Tom’s Bistro” was one idea we were sure of making it big one day. In the year 2019, Tom was presented the opportunity to expand “Tom’s Bistro” all across America. All the financial forecasts confirmed his imminent success. But soon after his business expansion decision we’re shown that he failed. Again. He’s “broke, destitute, and worst of all, swaggerless.”

But it should never be forgotten that failure is the best teacher on learning about success.

“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” – C.S. Lewis

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling

If you may observe that these and hundreds of other people who learned from failure were eventually proven to be the pinnacle of success for their generation.

And this is exactly what Tom learned when he took his experience with failures and wrote a book about it; “Failure: An American Success Story”. In the book he has described seven types of successful people based on the personality traits of his friends. You could be An Andy (Loving, Exuberant, Open-Hearted), An April (Individualistic, Intense, Intimidating), A Ben (Level-headed, Tactical, Calm Under Pressure), A Leslie (Leader, Tireless, Optimistic), A Ron (Self-reliant, Uncompromising, Inner-directed), A Donna (Mysterious, Adventurous, Confident), or a Tom (Brilliant, Trend-setting, Icon). And he has also explained the personality traits of one type of person you should never become, A Garry. Garry is taken as an example of a person who does everything wrong, a personality that is the headquarters of bad decisions (although it’s completely unfair to Garry) -_-

Anyway, Tom’s ability to learn from his own mistakes eventually put him on the right track. Becoming an author of a best-seller (2 million copies sold) was something we all weren’t expecting at all. It was a very refreshing surprise and made us all learn an important lesson on financial success.

Lesson # 4: Never Let Criticism Demoralize You. Being Nice to People and Remaining Optimistic Will Go A Long Way.
Lesson Taught By: Garry Gergich

Garry was the Toby Flenderson of Parks and Recreation. The office punching bag. I always got a little offended when all these people treated him so badly; always making fun of him, taunting him, ridiculing him and criticizing him. And Garry excepted all this negativity with open arms and a smile on his face :’)  He cared for all of them and loved them just the same and never even showed a hint of a frown.

And his positive attitude towards life finally paid off.

He was appointed as the interim mayor of Pawnee in 2017 (by our very own Leslie Knope), but as fate would have it, for the next 10 consecutive elections he was officially elected as the mayor of Pawnee, Indiana! Haha, people finally realized his value :’) But the most touching part of his story was that he was accompanied by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grand children on his 100th birthday, after which he died peacefully in his sleep :’) He lived a fulfilled and happy life!

People will always try to demoralize you, they will always think of ways in which they can hurt you, but being nice to everyone regardless of their behavior towards you will reward you in tenfold. An optimistic outlook towards life will reveal opportunities of happiness for you that you never had even thought of, not even in your wildest dreams.

Lesson # 5: Never Settle For Anything Less Than What You Truly Love
Lesson Taught By: Ron Swanson

If I start writing on the enigmatic personality of Ron, this post is gonna run longer than this show’s Wikipedia page. He is everything a man should be. He taught us countless lessons on leadership, business and life, and another important lesson was taught by him in this finale. Ron’s company (Very Good Building and Development Co.) is doing great financially, but despite the company’s success he suddenly decides to resign from his position as chairman. Money was never an issue for Ron (he sold some of his gold to buy 51% of the shares of Lagavulin Distillery). But he is shown to be at unrest. We find out the reason why when he decides to visit his best friend – oh sorry – his former workplace proximity associate, Leslie at her home. He tells her that his days sitting around in the office feels like a waste and wants to turn his attention to something that will make him feel useful. But he doesn’t know what he’s looking for. But Leslie knows that he’s the kind of person who would be happy in a job which is close to nature; a job where he is able to do something substantial yet fulfilling.

It is very important that you should never settle for anything that makes you feel like a waste, where you don’t enjoy your work, a place that doesn’t help you realize your real potential. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Amen to that.

We see that after some time Leslie invites Ron over to a meeting in the Pawnee National Park where she offers him the position to become the park’s superintendent. As Leslie put it, “Your job would be to walk around the land alone, you’d live in the same town you’ve always lived in, you’d work outside, you’d talk to bears. Next argument?”

Now this is a kind of life that all of us had imagined for Ron :’) Out in the wild, near mother nature. A place where he is the happiest (that gleeful look on his face while riding in the yacht was priceless) :’)

Ron Swanson

If you want to feel that same sense of fulfillment, DO NOT SETTLE until you find a job that gives you absolute contentment. It will be hard. The journey towards self-actualization isn’t easy and there are no short-cuts. It took Ron so many years to finally reach that stage, so don’t give up in your search for happiness.

Lesson # 6: Believe in Your Spouse/Partner, Come What May.
Lesson Taught By: Ben Wyatt 

In the year 2025, Leslie is working at the U.S. Department of the Interior and is offered an opportunity to run for governor of Indiana (it should be noted that becoming a governor was in Leslie’s Kindergarten Dream Journal). On the other hand, Ben (now a congressman) is also offered the same opportunity by Jen. He himself is a great candidate for the job (after all he created Cones of Dunshire: Winds of Tremorrah – the ninth-highest selling multiplayer figurine-based strategy fantasy sequel game in history). 😀

But we know that Leslie and Ben are the sort of couple who support each other, through thick and thin. They won’t try to convince the other to give up this opportunity just to excel his/her own career. They both try their best to figure out who would be the better candidate (through a pros and cons list in which both of them hold the same pros and cons). This doesn’t seem useful at all so they look towards asking for help from their friends.

But before they approach them, Leslie tells Ben to leave their fate to a coin-flip saying “Whoever runs is gonna do a great job, and whoever doesn’t run is gonna be right alongside the other one, offering advice and support and whatever they need.” On which Ben is left startled that Leslie – “the queen of planning and binders and pro and con lists” – wants to leave this to chance. Leslie then gives this sweet, sweet reply, “Yes, because whatever’s next, you and I are in it together.” :’)

Let me tell you that I was teary eyed in the entire episode but now came the scene that LITERALLY made me break out in wailing sobs. Before Leslie can tell the gang about the run-for-governor opportunity for both her and Ben and tell them about the coin-toss, Ben cuts her off and declares that Leslie is running for governor of Indiana. :’) Without a shadow of a doubt :’) With pride gleaming in his eyes :’)

Ben and Leslie

Ben had realized that it was Leslie’s childhood dream, but even then she was leaving it to chance just because her love for Ben was bigger than the love for her dreams. That’s why he couldn’t let a coin-toss take that dream away from her. THIS is what a marriage is about. Believing in the love of your life without second-guessing. The key to a perfect relationship is trust, and Ben proved that he is the kind of husband who will go leaps and bounds to support his wife, who will be selfless, who will believe in her dreams and have complete trust in her decisions.

Lesson # 7: Your Friends Are Your Family. 
Lesson # 8: Work Hard At Work Worth Doing
Lesson # 9: Everything That Leslie Does is a Life Lesson
Lessons Taught By: Leslie Knope

What did all these stories have in common? Yes, Leslie Knope. The woman who changed everyone’s lives. Who spent every waking moment of her life trying to make the world a better place for her friends, loved ones and every civilian of this sweet town of Pawnee. All the forward-flashes of every characters story was triggered by Leslie’s touch (sometimes a light touch on the arm, a gentle squeeze of a hand, or simply a loving hug).

Her love for her friends always reached such obsessive levels, but it was never tiresome to watch. Her affection towards the people she cared about never failed to touch my heart. Her facial expressions during the scene where “everyone is in the same room at the same time” and her reaction to seeing Ann (“You rainbow infused space unicorn. You sassy mannequin come to life. You opalescent tree shark.”) after so long was hilariously adorable. Obviously it made me cry and laugh at the same time :’D Parks and Recreation Gang

So please, always treat your friends as Leslie treated hers. Like your own family. They are the people who will be there for you when the world is against you. When you need a shoulder to cry on. They will be the ones who will cry with you. The one’s who will laugh with you (sometimes at you). The one’s who will never betray you. The one’s who will never hurt you.

From the beginning of the finale to the final moment, Leslie was seen just doing one thing. Helping people. And that was one of the things she did best :’) Public service was Leslie’s passion, her dream, her ambition; just because it gave her the opportunity to help the people around her. Public service isn’t an easy job; people will hate you, scowl at you, abuse you and they will tirelessly try to put barriers in your path; but all of this was worth it because Leslie got to do what she loves with the people she loves the most.

Leslie’s final toast to the Parks Team was equally moving and inspirational. These words are not only for the people in the public sector. They are for the people in the private and non-profit sector. For all those people who get to touch other people’s lives, who have the chance to make some positive change in the society. These are the words we all must believe in:

“When we worked here together, we fought, scratched, and clawed to make people’s lives a tiny bit better. That’s what (public) service is all about – small, incremental change every day. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing.” And I would add that what makes work worth doing is getting to do it with people that you love.”

This brings me to my final point. Leslie Knope wasn’t just a TV character for me. She was the only mentor I’ve ever had in my life. Every week for the past 5 years I used to wait for a new episode just waiting to witness what new lesson I’ll learn this time. I saw a lot of myself in Leslie, that’s why I call her my spirit animal. She taught me that it’s okay to be a perfectionist, she taught me how to be super-enthusiastic with the work you do, how to put others before yourself. I learnt about loving people despite their imperfections, how to be yourself and not give a damn of what people say, how to make the best of every situation and always follow your passion. About never, ever giving up. She pulled me up from the lowest, darkest points in my life. She gave me hope. She gave me courage.

Leslie Knope

Thank you Michael Schur and Greg Daniels for bestowing this world with the gracious presence of Leslie Knope and her gang. Parks and Recreation will always and forever hold the highest rank in my heart, because it didn’t just give me laughs, it gave me another family.

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4 thoughts on “Life Lessons Learned from Parks and Recreation’s Perfect Series Finale

  1. TK April 14, 2015 / 4:09 PM

    Leslie Knope is my soul sister! I am still depressed that this show has ended. I miss Leslie and the gang!

    Liked by 1 person

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