Over four years have passed since the ray of sunshine and the sweetheart of television, Parks and Rec, ended.
As devastating as it may have been to leave the city of Pawnee and come back to the reality that, more often than not, politicians are not as impassioned and genuinely empathetic as those in the show, that realization is not what I reminisce on now in 2019. No, instead, I find myself wondering how telling the relationships in the show actually were for my would-be friendships and heartbreaks in the future.
The show, which is arguably one of the most character driven comedies I have ever seen in this newer generation of sitcoms, cultivates a space for characters to grow, fail, love, and endlessly and fiercely support one another. The energy within the small set of the Parks and Rec department office is almost tangible.
And my favorite connection, which some people now refer to as a slight obsession, is the relationship between Ann and Leslie. The Galentine’s celebrating, costume coordinating, crisis dealing best friends were what I imagined sisters to be like. But as I grew up and went through friendships in high school, college, and grad school, I realized that that closeness I saw on the screen wasn’t meant to be reserved for family alone. And there was a reason Leslie and Ann found each other so late in life.
The two women were always there to reassure the other, craft elaborate plans to cheer their person up, and help each other succeed even with their loftiest dreams. And now at twenty-four years old, I found my person.
I needed a teammate, not a competitor.
The friends I had growing up were sometimes out of convenience (I’m looking at you awkward high school lab partners), but most of the time I thought we existed to push each other.
So, when I got my first job and internship, my high school best friend then ran for office in the honors society. We sat up late talking about our new roles, and it was abundantly clear that we weren’t talking to share excitement. We were waiting for the other person to finish so we could then detail all of the ways we were working twice as hard. Or so we thought. We were young, arrogant, and impatient.
My now best friend feels like an extension to my success. She never takes credit for it or assumes her struggle to accomplish a similar thing is more pressing than mine. We collaborate instead of compare.
Our pasts aren’t brought up as leverage.
In ex friendships, I remember this unnerving feeling of fear and insecurity always. Maybe it stemmed from my own subconscious, but I would like to think I have become more self-aware. But I cannot express how many times my past mistakes, terrible romantic relationships, or drunken emotional nights were used as a punchline to a joke no one asked to hear. My best friend could leave me last minute on plans. She could impulsively decide to not follow through with trips or social events she set up. She could cry over the same boy or stressor and demand I come to her aide. And when I spoke up, the smallest thing I had done in the past would get thrown around as justification for her own motives.
It’s hard to think that our foundation was so greatly imbalanced.
I would tell myself, “This is what we are meant to do”
I would repeat, “We sacrifice for each other. We are ride or dies.”
But that mantra grew increasingly problematic when I spent each day wondering how far I would need to go to prove my allegiance to a person that seemingly didn’t care to maintain the same level of security with me.
When I see my now best friend, I have no fear or anxiety. I look at her with complete trust. My tears and screams and frustrations are embraced. And never will she bring up the experiences I go through with malice.
Now, I have a community and person who consistently complements my quirks.
Reflecting back, I see how desperate we, as social creatures, are for belonging and sincere connection. I can walk into my home and recognize how my identity is reflected in my chaotically arranged bookshelves and the dumpster fire that is the mountain of clothes thrown on my floor. When I go into work each day, I know I made a choice to be a part of that culture.
But, friendships are sometimes impossible to measure just how well we belong in them.
And maybe we aren’t ever supposed to know.
But all I know is that we chose each other. We fought against toxic habits.
And we love and like each other.