For the past two years, my life has been guided by a television show. Not only has NBC’s Parks & Recreation provided me with a chance to laugh when I’m sad, it has laid out some pretty solid directions for living a fuller life. Crazy or not, I turn to Parks when I’m lonely or worried about work, when I’m unlucky in love… I turn to Parks, and I’m never disappointed. Crazy or not, it’s a good show full of good people, and it’s helped me be better.
A few weeks ago, I informed my AmeriCorps supervisor that I would not be reapplying for a second year. I followed my gut and the will of the universe and decided I would not stay in Oberlin another year. It was not an easy decision, but it’s one many of my friends have faced or will be facing soon, so I thought I would share a little of my thought process. It may not help you. I’m still not sure it really helped me, but here goes: I turned to Parks.
When Leslie Knope (also known as my spirit animal) is faced with a difficult decision, she whips out the tried-and-true pros & cons list. “You know what I would do?” she asks Ben Wyatt when he is trying to decide whether or not he will stay in Pawnee. “Make a pros & cons list.” Following the advice of that spunky woman who has yet to steer me wrong, I scribbled out a list not 60 seconds before the meeting with my supervisor about my future plans.
As you can see, my thoughts never quite crystallized with an answer. Each pro opened a new con, whether I was thinking of staying or leaving. The thrill of the unknown unraveled to panic. The comfort of home was wrapped in the suffocation of standing still. The pressure to leave and the compulsion to stay battled it out in those 60 seconds. I thought about jobs, apartments, lovers, transportation, reputations, and adventure. As I walked up the stairs, my hands gripped the railing, and I thought of everything that would keep me here. Job security, future projects, a community I love, friends, mentors, former lovers. It’s only been six years, but my roots grow deep, and my roots grow fast. As I knocked on the door, I put one hand on the door knob and thought about all the things that wait for me in the great big world. A fresh start, new streets to bike, new foods to try, new friends, new lovers, the open road and a playlist full of potential…
Before I fully understood what was happening, our meeting was over. The question was posed. The answer was given. I would not be returning. I was leaving Oberlin.
Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in work and play that I forget I ever decided to leave. Remembering brings tears to my eyes. I love this town with all my heart, but I’ve been in love before, and I’ve learned that sometimes letting go is the best thing you can do. Leslie Knope may never leave Pawnee, but she always follows her gut. I’m only twenty-four years old. Oberlin may feel like a forever home to me now, but the timing’s all off. It’s too early for roots as deep as this, so we’re doing an emergency transplant. There’s something out there waiting for me. There’s someone out there waiting for me. Pros and cons aside, this is what I’m meant to do.